Engaging in STEM Where We Live

Some public housing authorities (PHAs) are at the forefront of communities that are adopting place-based STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) initiatives, involving family members from preschoolers to adults, and creating opportunities to learn that are life-wide and lifelong.

Increasing exposure to and engagement in STEM learning outside of formal classroom settings is increasingly viewed as key to turning on more young people to STEM studies, and to addressing the equity gaps between high- and low-resourced families, schools, and communities. Recently the Department of Education released a Dear Colleague Letter to help state and local education agencies and their partners better understand how to use Federal funds to support innovative STEM education strategies to address equity goals.

The PHAs featured here, representing over 31,091 residents, with an average household income of $11,109, are part of communities participating in the SEED (STEM, Energy and Economic Development) initiative, supported in part by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Education (ED), and Energy (DOE). See a previous blog on the SEED sites.  In a three month period last fall, these PHAs have documented 138 STEM-related activities and training that have reached over 1,200 residents.

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2016 National Education Technology Plan Released

Thumbnail image of NETP coverOn December 10, 2015 the U.S. Department of Education announced the release of the 2016 National Education Technology Plan and new Future Ready commitments to support personalized professional learning for district leaders and educators working to improve teaching and student learning through the effective use of technology. As educators, advocates, parents, and policymakers, we must work to ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology and personalized professional learning opportunities for educators and district leaders. The 2016 National Education Technology Plan, Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education, articulates a vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible.

The plan recognizes the role that informal learning spaces play in closing the digital use divide and achieving equity, including spaces such as libraries, maker spaces, museums, clubs, workplaces, adult education programs, national parks, and online learning environments such as games, simulations, and educational apps.

OCTAE celebrates the 2016 Plan and the added energy it brings to our ongoing priorities, including:

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Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth

We all share the goal of improving education, employment, and other key outcomes for youth, especially those who are disconnected from work, school, or other social supports.  Today, the U.S. Department of Education is pleased to join with the interagency Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) initiative in announcing nine pilots to improve outcomes for this underserved population.  These pilots give state, local, and tribal governments an opportunity to test innovative new strategies to improve such outcomes for low-income disconnected youth ages 14 to 24, including youth who are in foster care, homeless, young parents, involved in the justice system, unemployed, or who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of school.

The idea is simple: P3 gives communities greater flexibility to use the federal dollars they already have more effectively, and they agree to be more accountable for concrete outcomes.  This first set of pilots will test flexibility with federal youth-serving funds in diverse environments across America, including urban, rural, and tribal communities.  Pilot sites include:

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Broward County, Florida
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles, California
  • The State of Oklahoma
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Southeastern Kentucky, including Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, and Perry Counties
  • Ysleta del Sur Pueblo

Pilots will implement solutions that include, for example, helping low-income moms acquire the skills to become better parents while gaining valuable job experience through childcare internships, helping foster youth successfully transition from high school to college or employment, and intervening with the highest-risk youth before they drop out of high school.  In the coming weeks, Federal agencies and these sites will finalize performance agreements that will support the pilot’s work and outline the outcomes these solutions will be measured against.

Led by the Department of Education, P3 brings together six federal agencies including the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Justice as well as the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Institute for Museum and Library Services to help communities address common barriers.  For example, practitioners and advocates on the front lines of service delivery have let agencies know that better outcomes are hindered sometimes by programmatic and administrative obstacles, such as fragmented data systems and program stovepipes resulting in poor coordination.  P3 pilots can tackle these challenges more effectively by blending together certain federal funds that they already receive from the participating agencies and by acquiring new waivers and flexibility under federal statutes, regulations, and other requirements.

The P3 model emphasizes evidence and learning, both within communities and at a national level.  The P3 competition asked sites to match existing evidence of what works with community challenges identified through a needs assessment and to demonstrate how they will use reliable data to guide decision-making and be accountable for better outcomes.  All nine pilots responded to the competition’s incentive to rigorously evaluate the impact of at least one component of their on-site approach.  Federal agencies will also conduct a national cross-site evaluation of how pilots implement the P3 model, their strategies, challenges, and outcomes. Findings will help strengthen how agencies and the field address disconnected youth needs in the future.

The zip code a young person is born in should never determine his or her outcomes in life. To help prepare for the second P3 competition, which will be held this winter, the Department of Education has released a Notice of Proposed Priorities on behalf of participating agencies to seek ideas from the field on strengthening this important initiative and empowering communities to think big about reconnecting youth.

Supporting Literacy Tutors

 

UPDATE 3/24/2015  See an archived introductory webinar on this Tutor Ready resource.

 

This effort is part of the ongoing commitment to encourage collaboration between adult education and public libraries, as documented in the OCTAE-IMLS Dear Colleague Letter. 

Volunteer tutors are an important part of the adult literacy solution. Last year alone, ProLiteracy, a national member organization of volunteer literacy providers, reported 99,415 volunteer tutors serving 245,173 learners.

Volunteers work with youth and adult learners one-on-one and in small groups, providing the critical learning elements of personalization, extra practice and feedback, as well as motivational support and guidance.  From English conversation groups to algebra explanations to phonics practice, tutors fulfill a unique role in our nation’s efforts to boost adult literacy.

However, as volunteers, they may not have access to all the professional learning and support that they need or want. Additionally, when training is delivered before tutors and learners are matched, the training may not be contextualized to a learner’s particular strengths, interests, and challenges.

There is a new resource that offers online learning support for literacy tutors called Tutor Ready Learning PlansTutor Ready Four Quadrant

Tutor Ready puts tips and techniques into a just-in-time format organized around the four essential components of reading: alphabetics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Within each component, content is presented in a quick index of questions commonly asked by tutors such as, “How can I help my learner perceive the different sounds that make up a word?” Explanations and sample lessons are drawn from a robust body of research, including Teaching Adults to Read and Improving Adult Literacy Instruction. Tutors can jump to an immediately relevant question, or go through the content in a more linear and comprehensive fashion. The tips are enriched by a collection of over 60 video and audio clips of experienced tutors working with adult learners to demonstrate the techniques.

Tutor Ready is freely available and accessible so tutors can log in to their own learning plan anytime or anywhere, and the Plans can be used before, during, and after a tutoring session.

Literacy programs can use Tutor Ready in their pre- and in-service tutor training efforts and as supplemental support for their tutors to use on their own. The Tutor Ready Learning Plans complement freely available online courses that provide more in-depth coverage of the research and instructional practices and award certificates of completion.

Tutor Ready learning plans were created by LINCS’ Region 4 Professional Development Center with the support of the OCTAE, in partnership with the Literacy, Language and Technology Research group at Portland State University. Tutor Ready is built on the Learner Web platform that was created by Portland State University in part with the support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Tutors and learners in the San Jose and Santa Clara City, CA and Boulder, CO public libraries pilot tested the materials, and the California programs provided videos of the techniques in action. Dissemination partners include the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the American Library Association Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, and ProLiteracy.

 

Libraries and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

This article is cross-posted on the UpNext! blog hosted by IMLS and the Department of Labor blog.

Guest authors: Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, U.S. Department of Labor

Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education, and

Susan Hildreth, Director of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services

 

Our agencies have long recognized the role of libraries to help meet the workforce training and job search needs of the American public.  At the height of the recession, more than 30 million people reported using library computers for workforce related needs and 3.7 million of them reported finding work.  Today, 96 percent of libraries surveyed offer online job and employment resources and 78 percent offer programs to help people apply for jobs.

In July, the President signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) which strengthens and aligns Federal employment, education, and training servicesOverwhelmingly approved by both the House and the Senate, the legislation is the result of a bipartisan agreement that recognizes the vital role the workforce system plays in providing the services and resources job seekers need to access the kinds of skills training, career information, and education that are required for today’s job market. The Act aligns with and complements the President’s Vision for Job-Driven Workforce Development, as it prepares workers for 21st century jobs and ensures American businesses have skilled workers to be competitive in global economy.

We are pleased that WIOA includes several exciting changes that better align federal resources and call for local community-based partnerships to increase access to services.  WIOA explicitly identifies public libraries as potential partners of the American Job Center network, and acknowledges libraries’ ability to provide an expansive array of job search services. It also recognizes libraries as important providers of federally supported training and employment for adult education and literacy. WIOA instructs state and local workforce development boards to boost “digital literacy skills” at American Job Centers – a task perfectly suited to public libraries!

We are delighted that the role public libraries play in workforce development is being acknowledged. Every day, people in communities across the United States use libraries to access the Web for career development—boosting their skills through online learning, improving their English literacy and digital literacy, and finding work. Public libraries can do even more with better collaboration with state and local workforce boards.

We thank American Job Centers, the nation’s employment skills training programs, and public libraries for all they do to serve our nation’s job seekers and contribute to the country’s economic vitality.   Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, we will deliver better coordinated services so that students and jobseekers acquire the skills needed in a competitive 21st century economy.

See other collaborative efforts:

 

Dear Colleague Letter Promotes Library-Adult Education Partnerships

This post is cross-posted from the Institute for Museum and Library ServicesUp Next Blog.

The recent results of the international “Survey of Adult Skills” estimated that 36 million Americans are low-skilled in literacy, and 3 million are eager to gain additional education and training but are hampered by barriers such as transportation, child care, and work schedules. The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) are working together to encourage effective collaborations between libraries and federally funded adult education programs to help more Americans take advantage of the educational, employment, financial, health, social and civic resources that are available online.

IMLS Director Susan Hildreth and OCTAE Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin while attending the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

IMLS Director Susan Hildreth and OCTAE Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin while attending the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

According to Pew Research Internet Project data, over 15 percent of Americans, including senior citizens, adults with less than a high school education, and people living in households earning less than $30,000 per year, are not using the Internet at all. And, while 74 percent of whites and 62 percent of African Americans have high-speed Internet access at home, only about half of Hispanics (56 percent) do.

Already, the nation’s more than 17,000 public libraries are providing computer access or free wireless Internet to America’s families. According to the report, “Opportunity for All,” over 77 million people, or nearly one-third of the U.S. population ages 14 and older, used a public library computer or wireless Internet in 2009. Of the library users in households living below the poverty line of $22,000 per year for a family of four, 44 percent visit a public library in order to get online. In fact, education was cited by 42 percent of responders as the main reason patrons used library computers and 24 percent of those users reported taking online courses or working on online assignments. In addition, employment and career –related activities were cited by 40 percent of responders as the reason they went to the library, 76 percent of whom were looking for jobs.

In light of this situation, IMLS and OCTAE recently announced a joint Dear colleague letter released on June 24, 2014 by IMLS Director Susan Hildreth and OCTAE Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin. Susan and Johan recognize the important role libraries and adult education programs play in helping build digital literacy among adults. Joint activities include: increasing awareness about resources and training (see http://LINCS.ed.gov); developing literacy tutorials and guides; and collaborating with various associations and nonprofits to identify and disseminate examples of partnership activities the public adult education system and libraries are taking at the state and local levels.

According to Director Susan Hildreth, “Libraries have a long history with literacy programs and reaching residents. We hope this program will help connect youth and adults more seamlessly to learning opportunities online and at their local adult education and community college programs.” Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin said, “Libraries and adult education programs are natural partners; together we can strengthen the on-ramps to digital literacy and learning. Their joint goal is to enhance skills, employability, and quality of life for all American, and especially for those youth and adults with low skills.”

For more information see OECD (2013). Time for the U.S. to Reskill?: What the Survey of Adult Skills Says, OECD Skills Studies, OECD Publishing

– See more at: http://blog.imls.gov