5 Million Reasons to Care About Youth Not in Education or Jobs

This is a cross post from an
Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education Blog post

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) has been shining a spotlight on the challenges faced by disconnected youth and the programming models focused on their challenges for the past several years. These are youth roughly 16 to 24 years of age, who are not engaged in education and not employed. They may be living at home or be homeless. They may be in or may have emancipated from the foster care system. They may be high school non-completers or those who have completed some college courses or received credentials. They may live in urban, rural or suburban communities. They may be in or released from justice-involved facilities. They may be single, married, and/or parents.

With this post, OCTAE kicks off a blog series examining what we know about disconnected youth, promising programming models, and the data used to track progress in reconnecting youth with education, training, employment, community, and their families.

We use the term “disconnected” youth, as this is the term used in the statutes and authorities that allow OCTAE to support disconnected youth. These “disconnected” youth have also been called “opportunity” youth.

Youth Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)

If you are like me, you like good news more than bad news. That is why many of us in the youth development and education fields were ecstatic to learn that there are almost 300,000 fewer youth who are disconnected than there were in 2010. That is great news.

Not such great news is that these gains vary a lot—and we would argue, too much—depending on where youth live and their race, gender, ethnicity, and home language. Of equal concern is that there are still more than 5 million disconnected youth in our country.

The new data from the Survey of Adult Skills can inform us about youth in the United States who are Not in Employment, Education, or Training, or NEET youth, as the OECD calls these youth.[1]

The U.S. National Supplement of the Survey of Adult Skills, released on March 10, 2016, reported on an enhanced sample in the U.S. that oversampled the unemployed, young adults (ages 16-34), and older adults (ages 66-74).[2] These data allow us to examine the education and work status of youth, their educational and family backgrounds, skill use at work and in everyday life, and proficiency of directly-assessed foundation skills (literacy, numeracy, and digital problem solving).

As the Survey of Adult Skills data have shown, in the U.S. economy, skills matter – almost as much as a credential. The question then becomes: what skills do NEET youth possess? Do they have the foundation skills they need to re-connect and get ahead?

The U.S. National Supplement found that nearly 5% of 16-24 year olds were in NEET status, that is, not engaged in employment, education or training in the 12 months before responding to the Survey. Many of these NEET youth have very low skills. A quarter of NEET youth perform below Level 2 in literacy, and 45% perform as low in numeracy.

The literacy and numeracy domains of the Survey are reported in five levels; skills below Level 2 are considered “low-skilled” according to the OECD, which means that one’s skills are so basic they may prevent an individual from advancing or being able to take advantage of training opportunities that could lead to advancement.[3]

By contrast, youth (age 16-24) who are engaged in education and/or employment tend to score higher in both domains. Less than 16% of youth who are enrolled in formal education and/or are employed score below Level 2 in literacy, and less than 33% score below Level 2 in numeracy.

We need to better understand who the NEET youth are so that we can provide them with opportunities to raise their skills.

These findings trigger many additional critical questions. How many youth, for instance, are young parents? How many are English language learners? How many have a disability? How many are poor or low income? How many are living on their own? Many more analyses can and must be done. Fortunately, the data are here (note: the U.S. National Supplement data is to be released summer 2016) that facilitate further learning.

I think we are at an important point in time. We know that some of our work is paying off. Having nearly 300,000 fewer disconnected youth in six years is no small feat. We also need to acknowledge, though, that what we are doing is almost like tinkering around the edges. We need a strategy that works for over 5 million youth. We need to supplement what we do with a strategy that is at scale by design. That strategy must have a prevention component to it, as well as components that re-connect youth and involve them as leaders in the effort.

Watch for future posts that will spotlight more data and positive programming models.

[1] See the OECD report on NEET youth at https://data.oecd.org/youthinac/youth-not-in-education-or-employment-neet.htm.

[2] The enhanced sample will also include individuals who were incarcerated. Findings from those data will be released later in 2016. Data from incarcerated individuals are not included in the data cited here.

[3] (OECD, 2013). Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says.

Strengthening the Link Between Upskill America and WIOA

This is a cross-post from an Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) blog post.

Last month, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of Upskill America. There was a lot to celebrate. The employers who made commitments last year at the Upskill America Summit created training for approximately 200,000 frontline workers that could lead to higher-skill jobs. Over 10,000 workers have earned degrees and credentials, and nearly 5,000 workers have already been promoted into higher-paying positions. Over the same period, 532,150 frontline workers participated in adult education programs funded by Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to strengthen their math, reading, writing, or English skills.

This is great progress. An analysis of recent data on frontline workers, however, shows we must do more. See a fact sheet created by OCTAE for the 2016 Upskill celebration, based on the updated Survey of Adult Skills data. The good news is that WIOA creates opportunities to further extend upskilling efforts for the benefit of America’s workforce.

Let’s look at the data first. There are between 20 and 24 million workers who lack foundation skills for getting ahead, with literacy proficiency below Level 2 on the Survey of Adult Skills. Who are they and where do they work?

A circle graph depicts the race and ethinicity of low-skilled frontline workers as listed in the text; a bar chart shows the first language of frontline workers is English (58.2%), Spanish (33.6%) and Other (8.2).

Low-skilled frontline workers have different backgrounds and have different language proficiencies and needs.

  • 60% hold one or more jobs in the following industries: retail, health, hospitality/food, manufacturing, and construction
  • 57% are men
  • 50% are younger than age 45
  • Nearly 80% are parents
  • 20% are Black
  • Nearly 40% are Hispanic
  • Nearly 70% have at least a high school diploma
  • 60% make less than $20,000 a year, which is much less than the median earnings for all workers with a high school diploma, not just lower-skilled workers.[1]

These workers have different backgrounds and bring diverse views to their work and workplaces, and a significant number of frontline workers are bilingual or multi-lingual.

It is very encouraging that many frontline workers have taken steps to improve their skills. Fifty percent participated in formal or non-formal education in the year leading up to the Survey and 10 percent participated in distance education. Employers were more likely to have paid for non-formal education and training, in 40 percent of the cases, than formal education, in only 10 percent.

If half of these frontline workers do participate in education and training, then half—or roughly between 10 and 12 million workers—do not. So how do we change that? And specifically, what can the public and private sectors do together to give more frontline workers access to education and training opportunities that will allow them to move up?

WIOA offers specific opportunities to expand access. As States are preparing to compete their WIOA Title II funding, for instance, partnerships between employers and eligible providers can apply for funding to support learning opportunities for frontline workers. Here you can find an example of how Alexandria City Public Schools are working with Dominion Services-Virginia Power to create a powerful upskilling program for work in the electrical and utility industry. But, WIOA can do much more for employers and their employees. See a guide compiled by the Department of Labor on how businesses can engage in the workforce development system.

Employers, WIOA service providers, and partners can collaborate to create that first job opportunity for many of our vulnerable subpopulations, particularly those individuals with significant barriers to employment including job seekers with disabilities, foster youth, returning citizens, and others. This type of upskill-backfill partnership creates a pipeline for firms and pathways for workers. There are no losers in this. Only winners.

[1] Median annual earnings for all workers with a high school diploma for all skill levels are approximately $30,000 based on 2012 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies data.

Posted by
Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)

“Why I Teach” — White, Gaasbeek & Iobst

Teachers Change Lives at:

#‎ThankATeacher | ‪#‎WhyITeach

Kristin White

Kristin White

Kristin White

I grew up in a small town that lacked a strong educational system. Due to our size and lack of funding, not much was offered in the way of extracurricular activities and programs. However, some of our teachers were nothing short of exceptional. I was fortunate enough to have one of those teachers during my elementary years. Because of her commitment and dedication to education, I grew tremendously as an individual.

After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s degree in special education, I moved back to that same small town to teach at the same elementary school that I attended. Being in this school, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor students and provide the stability and love that many of them do not experience at home.

More than anything, I want my students to know that I care. That’s why I teach.

Kristin White
James A. Long Elementary School
Palatka, FL

Seth Van Gaasbeek

Seth Van Gaasbeek

Seth Van Gaasbeek

Education was not always my field of study. I received a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and was enrolled in a Master’s program for school psychology. It was during one of my fieldwork sessions that I realized that teaching was my passion. I was observing in a second grade classroom, gathering data for one of my school psychology assignments. After two hours, I hadn’t collected any data because I was so engaged with the lesson. This is when I realized my calling was teaching children, not testing them as a school psychologist all day. Therefore, I returned to school to obtain my teaching certificates in elementary and special education so I could provide engaging, hands-on lessons that meet every student’s learning needs.

To me, teaching is understanding that each student is unique. It is designing lessons to accommodate students’ different learning styles to provide a quality education in the diverse classroom.

Seth Van Gaasbeek
Substitute Teacher
Circleville Elementary School / Pine Bush Central School District
Pine Bush, NY

SUNY New Paltz graduate. The program received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants

Chelsea Iobst

Chelsea Iobst

Chelsea Iobst

My college president always preached that what you give to others, one day they will give to someone else and if we can keep this chain going we have done our part. Teaching to me is giving knowledge to others in the hopes that one day they will give it to someone else. I teach so that my students will show kindness to a stranger with no expectation of anything in return. I teach so that one day my students will have more than tolerance for all types of people no matter their race, religion, or culture. For many of the kids at my school, new experiences outside of the school walls do not exist. They do not get to create memories or moments that can change the rest of their lives.

I am not just their teacher; I am their chance to see the world from within the walls of our classroom!

Chelsea Iobst
Alachua Elementary School
Alachua, Florida

Teachers Change Lives at:

#‎ThankATeacher | ‪#‎WhyITeach

“Why I Teach” — Gaudet, Paterra & Dorestant

Teachers Change Lives at:

#‎ThankATeacher | ‪#‎WhyITeach

Felipa Gaudet

Felipa Gaudet

Felipa Gaudet

I teach for the children—for the people they are and the people they will become. I teach in a vibrant; economically, ethnically, racially and linguistically diverse; Title I school because I believe in the power of education to transform lives. As a teacher, I am an advocate for my students and their families. I strive to understand their needs in the context of equity and diversity, as well as analyze and prepare the curriculum and our institution to meet those needs.

As a Montessori teacher in a public school, I am dedicated to enabling each child to discover who they are and what they love while critically examining the world around them. I design learning experiences so the students will make connections on a personal level, cooperate and communicate effectively with one another, and reflect upon ways to improve and celebrate their own actions, skills, talents and abilities.

Felipa Gaudet
Elementary I Teacher—Grades 1–3
George Washington Montessori School—Kingston City School District
Kingston, NY

Graduate from a SUNY New Paltz dual licensure program.
The program received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants

Matthew Paterra

Matthew Paterra

Matthew Paterra

I was a career changer. After earning my Master’s degree in Public Policy and International Affairs, I worked on large scale research projects for a few years. During that time, I came to the decision that I wanted to impact the lives of children directly. I took a professional and economic risk to return to school to earn my Master’s degree in Education with dual certification in secondary Special Education and Social Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

My student teaching experiences were at an urban Middle School in Pittsburgh, where I fell in love with my students and the job of teaching. Currently I am Special Education teacher at a High School in the Federal Way District, near Seattle. My training as a teacher provided me an opportunity to relocate across the country and have a job that brings great personal and professional satisfaction. I am passionate about improving the reading skills of the teenagers in my school.

Matthew Paterra
Decatur High School
Federal Way Public Schools
Federal Way, WA

Graduate from University of Pittsburgh program with a dual certification.
The program received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants

Stephanie Dorestant

Stephanie Dorestant

Stephanie Dorestant

I became a special education teacher initially because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help students in struggling communities who had learning hurdles overcome those barriers and be successful in the classroom. Now in my sixth year of teaching, I’ve realized that my teaching is about filling students with knowledge, exposure, and empowerment. The more I pour into them, the better prepared they are for the next challenges they will face in life. One single educator can impact so many lives.
I teach because I have been blessed to have had so many influential people pour excellence into my cup and I feel the responsibility to do the same for the next generation. My hope is that I can inspire a few to want to keep it going and give back when they have the opportunity to do so.

Stephanie Dorestant
Maynard Evans High School
Orlando, FL

Teachers Change Lives at:

#‎ThankATeacher | ‪#‎WhyITeach

“Why I Teach” — Carissa Barnes, Olivia Enders & Matthew Kirchmann

Teachers Change Lives at:

#‎ThankATeacher | ‪#‎WhyITeach

Carissa Barnes

Carissa Barnes

Carissa Barnes

During middle school service learning, I volunteered at a childcare center that provided service to families typically turned away from centers due to money or the needs of their children. I quickly realized my adoration for helping children “level the playing field”. This adoration, coupled with my passion for social equality, drove my decision to educate students with special needs. Watching students overcome the barriers presented by their exceptionalities is my daily affirmation. Every day, I witness exceptional students strive to take ownership of their lives and their education in the face of perceived limitations and a lack of societal awareness.

I firmly believe that my fundamental job as a special educator is not simply to help students navigate their school career or prepare for postsecondary outcomes but to help them claim/reclaim their lives. This charge serves as my humbling, call-to-action each day and is the reason why I teach.

Carissa Barnes
Special Education Resource Teacher
Stonegate Elementary School
Silver Spring, MD

Olivia Enders

Olivia Enders

Olivia Enders

My interest in education came from a deep appreciation of learning and the opportunities that education provides individuals. It also comes from the realization that not all students are provided with equitable access to these opportunities. As I started to volunteer more in public school systems through local Pittsburgh organizations, I realized that these barriers to quality education, though complex and often intimidating, are not insurmountable. I wanted to do something about those barriers, and felt that teaching was a career in which I could have a tangible impact, connecting students to education so that they could become the best versions of themselves.

I am currently a middle school learning support teacher at Peters Township Middle School [in Washington County]. My favorite aspect of my job is when I can celebrate the varied successes of my students, whether that be their acing a challenging math test, learning how to ask for help, finding deeper meaning in Shakespeare, or earning Hot Cheetos as part of a behavior plan. I find that taking time to appreciate both the large and small gains creates a dynamic atmosphere where learning is exciting for students, and I look forward to being a part of that atmosphere every day.

Olivia Enders
Special Education Teacher
Peters Township Middle School
Peters Township, PA

Graduate of the Secondary Dual Certification Special Education/English Education
Master of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certificate (MOSAIC) Program at the
University of Pittsburgh. The program received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants


Matthew Kirchmann

Matthew Kirchmann

Matthew Kirchmann

I have been asked many times the question, “Why do you teach”? There are many reasons why I teach but the most honest response is, to have the ability to improve the future of society. Children today have the ability to make the world a better place, as they become functioning citizens in society. I know that I have been given a very important role in my life and can ultimately improve the quality of life for not only the children I teach, but also for members of society.

As a Special Education teacher in a high poverty area in the South Bronx, I truly understand the struggles that families face each and every day. I am given the responsibility to alleviate some of the stresses by providing quality special education services to those in need.

I dream to see my students sore to their greatest potential and that is the true answer to the question, “why do I teach?”

Matthew Kirchmann
Special Education Teacher
PS 314—Fairmont Neighborhood School
Bronx, NY

Teachers Change Lives at:

#‎ThankATeacher | ‪#‎WhyITeach


“Why I Teach” — Jamie DiCarlo, Stephanie Rosa & Heather Marzullo

Teachers Change Lives at:

#‎ThankATeacher | ‪#‎WhyITeach


Jamie DiCarlo

Jamie DiCarlo

Jamie DiCarlo

Why do I teach? That is a question I am often asked, especially when people find out that I teach students with autism spectrum disorders. I will tell you one thing, it is not because “I am a special person” or “I have a lot of patience” like most people say when I tell them my profession. It is because every child has the right to learn. I love reaching the kids that nobody else can reach and seeing them become positive members of the school community.

That is why I teach, students need to know that there is someone there for them no matter what, to advocate for those without a voice, support them when they feel as though no one else can, and to love them unconditionally. I teach for my students, to make their world a better place, even if it is just for the school day.

Jamie DiCarlo
Special Education Teacher
Seminole Elementary
Tampa, FL

See Jamie on ED’s Facebook and Instagram pages.‬


Stephanie Rosa

Stephanie Rosa

Stephanie Rosa

In second grade I had big goals to go to Harvard to become a dolphin trainer and an Olympic swimmer. Even though I didn’t make it close to Harvard or the Olympics, I realized that having goals is extremely important, so I knew that becoming a teacher would allow me to motivate other children of all races, religions, and backgrounds. Now, I work on a military base where students are constantly moving from base to base and have hectic lives.

I love when each student walks in and sees me and my smile and can relax, feel comfortable, and have a stable environment. It is an amazing feeling when they smile and tell me about their future goals and new adventures. I love being their biggest cheerleader and will always help them achieve whatever goal they set, even if it is becoming valedictorian of Harvard!

Stephanie Rosa
1st Year Teacher | Fourth Grade Special Education
Major George Welch Elementary School
Dover, DE

Graduate of a SUNY Fredonia program that received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants


See Stephanie on ED’s Facebook and Instagram pages.‬

Heather Marzullo

Heather Marzullo, 6th grade ELA/MCL, HW Smith School, Syracuse, NY

Heather Marzullo

Helping students realize their potential and see what they can be… that’s the most rewarding thing in the world. Showing children their value and making them see what I see when I look at them-that’s why I teach. Getting a child that has never wanted to pick up a book become so immersed in the plot—that’s why I teach. Every day I want to give my kids what they need in order to thrive and if I do my job—then they can do theirs. Educating our future creates sustainability and ensures that values that matter like respect and having empathy are carried on.

I feel extremely fortunate that so many parents share their most precious gifts with me, and it is my hope that I can send them out into this world motivated to not only gain educational success but also to understand that nice matters.

Heather Marzullo
6th grade ELA/MCL
H.W. Smith School
Syracuse, NY

Graduate of a SUNY Cortland program that received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants

Teachers Change Lives at:

#‎ThankATeacher | ‪#‎WhyITeach

Open Discussion on the Role of Education Technologies in Early Childhood STEM Education

This is a cross-post of a Blog from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). Please submit your comments there.

On April 21st, the U.S. Department of Education came together with the White House and numerous public and private partners to announce our shared commitment to improving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education in early learning (Preschool–3rd Grade). Early engagement in STEM is critical for our youngest learners because opportunity gaps in STEM can begin prior to preschool—and they can continue grow as students progress through school. There are a host of ways that the public and private sectors can partner to better address this STEM opportunity gap in early learning, such as integrating STEM with the arts and literacy, and using education technologies including screen media (e.g., television, computers, videogames, tablets). We believe that the use of technology can be an important tool for closing these gaps when used intentionally and appropriately in conjunction with other forms of pedagogy.

The U.S. Department of Education would like to initiate a discussion with the early learning and STEM communities on how best to engage and support parents, caregivers, educators, researchers and developers on how to eliminate opportunity gaps in early childhood STEM education, especially by leveraging education technologies. This conversation will inform federal policy decisions in the coming months.

Call to Action:

We ask early childhood educators and researchers, in particular, to help address these fundamental questions:

  1. Recommendations for screen media use in early childhood vary. It is difficult for educators, parents and caregivers to make informed decisions about which content is effective and how and when to use it. For example, how can educators, parents and caregivers best determine what content is age-appropriate?
  2. How can we make it easier for educators, parents and caregivers to select applications that are high quality and proven effective? What research gaps do we need to address to inform these types of decisions?
  3. How do we effectively support professional development (PD) for educators to facilitate the effective use of education technologies to close STEM opportunity gaps in early learning settings? How can education technologies help provide effective PD?
  4. How can we help media developers address the needs of diverse students and those with special needs to increase student engagement, and to promote social emotional learning?
  5. How can we bridge the opportunity gaps between STEM education, literacy, and the arts? What, if any, is the role of technology and screen media in these efforts?

Please submit your comments and questions in the open forum of OESE’s original Blog (no comments accepted on this OSERS cross-post) by 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday, May 13, 2016.  We seek open and robust discussion of these issues so that we can improve education outcomes for all young children and provide effective guidance for parents, caregivers, and educators.

Recommended Reading (in chronological order):

Note: These resource materials are provided for the user’s convenience. The inclusion of these materials is not intended to reflect its importance, nor is it intended to endorse any views expressed, or products or services offered. These materials may contain the views and recommendations of various subject matter experts as well as hypertext links, contact addresses and websites to information created and maintained by other public and private organizations. The opinions expressed in any of these materials do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of any outside information included in these materials.

Go to OESE’s original Blog post to submit your comments.

Posted by
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

“When You Look, Make Sure You See”

This is a repost of a recent ED Homeroom Blog.

Dwayne, Julian, Martina and Jared Ballen. Dwayne Ballen was a featured speaker in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services’ recent Google Hangout on Inclusion in Early Learning Programs. (Photo courtesy of the Ballen family.)

Dwayne, Julian, Martina and Jared Ballen. Dwayne Ballen was a featured speaker in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services’ recent Google Hangout on Inclusion in Early Learning Programs.
(Photo courtesy of the Ballen family.)

A few years ago my sons Julian and Jared attended tennis camp at the University of North Carolina. During the camp’s awards ceremony, tennis coach Sam Paul announced that counselors and campers unanimously agreed Julian clearly won the category for best attitude.

Coach Paul quickly realized during the camp that Julian, who has autism, was not at the same athletic level as other campers, many of whom were younger and more skilled.At the same time, he had something valuable to contribute.

Coach Paul took the time to not just “look “but “see” Julian, and what he witnessed, he later told me, left an impact. No matter the task facing Julian, it was always carried out with a smile and cheerful readiness. He also noticed the positive effect Julian’s presence had on other youngsters.

A number of the campers began to take attitude cues from Julian. In a couple of instances, a potential tantrum was replaced with a more reflective, and productive reaction. It was the Julian effect in full flower.

What Coach Paul engaged in that week was inclusion. He had no professional training for it, nor was he necessarily pre-disposed to do so. He simply wanted Julian to have the same experience as the other children attending camp. Inclusion should be practiced throughout society and not just confined to those areas where special programs and trained professionals are in place.

My brother Michael provided another clear example of inclusion during our family’s 2013 Thanksgiving gathering at his house. During a post-meal trivia game, Michael announced that he wanted Julian as his partner. The subject of the afternoon was Disney trivia. Michael was acutely aware of Julian’s passion for all things Disney, especially the animated movies and theme parks.

Julian, full of excitement and a staggering amount of Disney knowledge, was the star as he and my brother destroyed a team comprised of five other family members. Michael, a municipal police department official, found a way to bring his nephew out of the corner and to the table of engagement. All it took was recognition and desire. That is inclusion.

My wonderful wife, Martina, and I have always believed that inclusion is a full family endeavor that takes all forms. Julian does the same amount of chores his brother Jared does. If one takes out the trash then the other is expected to roll out the recycle bin. Julian is expected to clear his dinner placement and put the dishes in the washer. He has responsibilities that fit with his capabilities, just like his brother. This too, is inclusion.

I’m hopeful that we all consider opportunities to practice inclusion in everyday life. It begins with the simple idea of, “When you look, make sure you see.” It’s also important to understand that inclusion is not just a one-way street. Those being included often have something to teach us about ourselves and the human community. I’m sure Coach Paul would wholeheartedly agree.

Dwayne Ballen is the author of ‘Journey With Julian’, an autism advocate and speaker, and a network television sportscaster with the CBS Sports Network. Dwayne Ballen was a featured speaker in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services’ recent Google Hangout on Inclusion in Early Learning Programs.

Education: A Key Service in WIOA

This is a cross-post from the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education’s Blog site.

Thanks to all who joined the webinar on March 1, we were thrilled to host over 600 participants. Below are the archives and resources shared during the webinar.

Infographics shared during the discussion:

Logo displays One Team; One Vision; One Conversation

Logo from 2016 WIOA National Convening

Find other resources from the WIOA National Convening, including PowerPoints, the participant list, etc., here.

Two excerpts from the transcripts highlight the rich discussion that took place during the webinar:

Serving Individuals with Barriers to Employment

Michael Yudin: …it shouldn’t matter what the barrier is. The individual, whether they speak English as their primary language or not—whether they have a disability or not—and many of the folks that come into our workforce development system do have multiple barriers, but the whole point of this is to create this seamless high-quality and accessible system that meets the needs of the individuals and they very well may have multiple needs. They should be able to come to a one stop system and get the supports whether it’s English language instruction, whether it’s vocational rehabilitation, whether it’s other kinds of supports or services.

Johan Uvin: … I really appreciated Michael’s points, you know, so that we don’t fall into the trap of compartmentalizing people based on whatever their significant barrier is, but that we would really take this opportunity to work together between the various programs and say, well do we have data that show for example what the incidence of disabilities is in the English learner population, in the foster youth population, and whatever it may be, and that we then come together at the federal, state and local levels to really figure out a strategy that would leverage the various assets that the programs bring.

Janet LaBreck: … And I think that’s right. I think that is really important to understand also the partnership piece and that’s why I think that this piece of legislation is so important to all of us because this gives us that opportunity to really leverage the expertise that each one of us as core partners brings to the table to support the community’s needs. I think that the more we do that and the more effective we are at putting those strategies together, the more successful our consumers will be.

Serving Youth, Especially Disconnected Youth

Janet LaBreck:… We have all had experience with these populations and I know that in particular for the VR community we have a national technical assistance center for youth to deal specifically with this so that we are engaging the National Technical Assistance Center to help with supporting and providing resources and information that really does address these issues so that information can be provided. We can do outreach. We can provide support at the community level for families, for individuals, for school systems who—where youth may have already become disconnected. We also have another technical assistance center also that deals with transition and the purpose of that Transition Center is to also deal with those individuals who have not certainly become disconnected as of yet but who may in fact be at risk for becoming disconnected. And to provide those supports to educators and certainly I think the professional community, their families and the VR community itself to really be able to provide supports and information based on research and evidence-based practices that are going to align with providing services and supports to those individuals who may be at risk for becoming disconnected.

Portia Wu:…I wanted to add to that. With the emphasis in WIOA in the youth formula programs funded through the Department of Labor, there’s a real shift to focusing on disconnected youth saying states have to put 75% of their formula funds to that work and with 20% of that—20% of youth funds going towards work based experiences. So that, combined with the measuring credentials—measuring skills gained—I think that all of this is really going to encourage the partnerships which we’ve been talking about on this call, both from our side funded from the Department of Labor, as well as our education partners, to really think together about how do we get disconnected youths connected with those industry specific oriented training programs that can lead to skilled jobs? So I think that’s another one of the great opportunities and we look forward to partnering with all of you on that.

Johan Uvin: …I think also, Portia, the work in the apprenticeship space—I think that is also getting a little bit of a boost through WIOA and through some new investments that Congress has authorized… And also within title II, you know, I’m not sure if folks are aware that every year between 700,000 and 750,000 disconnected youth younger than 25 reconnect with education through title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Up until this point in time, we didn’t have much to offer beyond the educational experience for them. Now with the integrated education and training provisions with the new activities that are allowed such as workforce preparation activities, we can actually do a lot more. We can also go to our partners in title I, III or IV and say, what can we do here?

Mark Mitsui: As well as the combined partners.

Johan Uvin: Yes, we can say, … what can we put together here that has an industry focus, gives people a real credential and good skills, and expands the opportunities that did not exist before for this subpopulation?

Special Education Announcement Provides a Lesson in Social Justice

This is a cross-post from ED’s Homeroom Blog

After last week’s announcement of a new effort to address widespread disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities, we asked two educators to react to the news, drawing on their own experiences as special education teachers.

Lisa Coates

As a special educator for 17 years, I have long been witness to what civil rights data collections are showing now is pervasive—there is a disproportionately high representation of students of color identified for special education. Additionally, special education students of color face higher risk rates of disciplinary referrals for suspensions, alternative school assignments, and expulsions, which correlate to lower graduation rates.

There’s an irony as education for students with special needs was born out of the civil rights movement. Too often other variables such as language, poverty, assessment practices, and lack of professional development and cultural competence support for teachers have played too big a role, resulting in unnecessary services or students learning in inappropriately restrictive environments.

I remember early in my career proctoring an educational assessment as part of an initial eligibility for a student’s consideration into specialized education. The referral came from a general education teacher who said, “He just isn’t getting the content.” While administering the test, I saw a test filled with cultural biases, and the result was a boy being assigned to a self-contained class unnecessarily. Fortunately that student’s case manager advocated and the case was made for a less restrictive environment. Too many kids don’t have such an advocate.

As the demographics of our nation’s schools become more racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse, we must closely inspect disproportionality to ensure we create equitable learning communities. There are practices that may reduce disproportionality, including pre-referral interventions, family engagement, instructional practices for collaboration in the general curriculum, and professional development, to improve student outcomes.

Josalyn Tresvant

For years there have been documented situations where minority students have experienced inadequate services, low-quality curriculum, and isolation from their nondisabled peers. I taught minority students in both inclusionary and pullout settings at a high-needs school. At one point I serviced 40 students in grades K–5. What drove me was the fact these students and their parents were expecting me do right by those students so they could be successful beyond elementary school. To not do right by them meant they would potentially fall victim to even more dire circumstances related to poverty.

In grades 4–5, I co-taught with the classroom teacher, co-planning and making sure our lessons included strategies to make sure all students in that class were successful. This kept students in the classroom and pushed them to succeed. The results were not only evident in their IEP progress but also on their standardized test data. The most compelling evidence was in their classroom discourse. The level of engagement they had with their peers regarding what they were learning was powerful and the sense of self-confidence they exuded was infectious. We also spent a lot of time educating parents of their rights and how to advocate for their child. We wanted to them to feel empowered and informed on how to access resources or voice concerns about their child’s plan. Reducing disparities for special education students can mean the difference between lifelong success or failure.

Lisa Coates is a veteran special education teacher in Virginia and was a 2010 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow.

Josalyn Tresvant McGhee taught special education in Memphis, Tennessee, for six years and is a current Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow.