OCTAE Connection - Issue 229 - April 27, 2015

OCTAE Newsletter

April 27, 2015

White House Upskill Summit: Administration Announcing Commitments To Empower Workers With Education and Training

During his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama launched a new upskill initiative, calling on businesses to help all workers, even those lacking a higher education, acquire better, higher-paying jobs. In support of this initiative, on Friday, April 24, the White House hosted the Upskill Summit which connected 150 employers, labor leaders, foundations, non-profits, educators and tech innovators from across America who are committing to take action in the next year to empower front-line workers to realize their full potential. To learn more about the new commitments being made by public and private partners in response to the president’s call to action, please click here

Urban Institute Releases Evaluation Report of Accelerating Opportunity Initiative Efforts to Support Adult Students in Community Colleges

A report on an independent evaluation conducted by the Urban Institute on the second year of the Accelerating Opportunity (AO) program, The Second Year of Accelerating Opportunity: Implementation Findings From the States and Colleges, was recently released. AO is a Jobs for the Future initiative that is designed to transform “how states work with their adult education programs and community/technical colleges to provide training for the millions of adult learners who fall below basic literacy levels.” Entities providing educational and career services to adult learners are encouraged to read the full report.

The report discusses the successes of community colleges with AO students in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana. It documents the progress these four states have made in developing and recruiting students for career pathways while integrating basic skill development and occupational training. The report also highlights the colleges’ successes in building strong partnerships to both strengthen programs and support students. According to findings, community colleges in the four states have “demonstrated considerable improvement in their capacity to help adult students who fall below basic literacy levels (to) improve their educational and employment needs.” 

Following are some of the key highlights from the evaluation study:

  • Team teaching allowed instructors to teach basic academic skills while simultaneously providing job training. 
  • AO college staff recognized the importance of “career navigators” as vital resources in supporting AO students. Navigators helped to link students to academic, financial, personal, and other support services both on and off campus.
  • To date, nearly one-third of participating students have been placed in some form of work-based learning, such as internships, apprenticeships, or clinical nursing positions.

In sum, the evaluation found that the AO model helped students with low basic skills catch up, earn postsecondary credentials, and get a job with family-sustaining wages. 

Readers may also be interested in a companion report to the evaluation, which presents findings from a comprehensive student survey of AO students and their program experiences. The report,   Accelerating Opportunity: A Portrait of Students and Their Program Experiences From the 2014 Student Survey, is based on responses from 444 students participating in the AO evaluation in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana. Results showed that students are enthusiastic about pursuing further education beyond the initial AO pathway, “Almost 90 percent … felt the program adequately prepared them, or prepared them very well, for work in their field of training or for further education.”

Initiatives in Community College Developmental Education (Part II)

This column continues the review of recent community college developmental education initiatives begun in the April 9 issue of OCTAE Connection and found here. It highlights three community college innovations.

1.      The Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP)—The City University of New York’s (CUNY’s) program for developmental education students, launched in 2007, is a comprehensive, multi-year program designed to help low income students taking developmental courses graduate in three years.  It consists of career services, tutoring, and comprehensive academic advising that addresses multiple potential barriers to student success.  

ASAP was recently evaluated by MDRC in the study Doubling Graduation Rates: Three-Year Effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students, which followed nearly 900 low-income students at three of CUNY’s six community colleges.  Students in this study needed to take either one or two developmental courses and were randomly assigned either to participate in ASAP or to a control group who would receive typical college services.  Evaluated over a three-year period, ASAP was found to be well implemented with students using a wide variety of its services.  This intervention was found to have substantially improved students’ academic outcomes over three years, including almost doubling graduation rates.  At the end of the three year period, 40 percent of the ASAP enrollees had received a degree, compared with only 22 percent of the control group.

The metric used to evaluate the effectiveness of ASAP—specifically, whether the investment in the program produced more graduates within three years per dollar than the usual college services—makes the case that the program is cost effective.  Calculations show that ASAP invested an additional $16,284 in the average program group member, resulting in an 18.3 percentage point increase in degree completion within three years.

2.      Ideas for Practice: A Collaborative Look to the Classroom

This article describes the initiation and implementation of a collaborative, inquiry-based, and site-specific group effort to enable teacher participants to explore the needs of atypical learners in developmental English classes in an urban community college. Implementing current action researched-based models and concentrating on a case-study format, the group’s matured to support more effective accommodation of atypical learners in the classroom.  

3.      Using Formative Assessment and Metacognition to Improve Student Achievement

This article illustrates a multistep enhanced formative assessment program (EFAP) featuring self-regulated learning (SRL) for high school mathematics students. According to this study, over the course of the three-years evaluated, EFAP-SRL students enrolled in associate degree developmental mathematics courses consistently earned higher pass rates both in the course and on the mathematics portion of the ACT.  Perhaps more significantly, there is some evidence that program students transferred this learning into subsequent college-level mathematics courses.

As described in these three programs, at least two characteristics of developmental education seem to be well established.  One, as Secretary Duncan has pointed out, it must be revised to meet the needs of students,  “[W]e can no longer use the traditional approach to developmental education which has been a long sequence of remedial classes that do not count toward a degree and that few students complete.” Two, developmental education at the community college level is best understood as one component of a comprehensive approach to improve the outcomes of postsecondary education.  There is an emerging consensus that no individual program or initiative is a “magic bullet” for improving outcomes for disadvantaged students.  Viewed in this perspective, coherent, evidence-based developmental education initiatives are integral to the success of postsecondary education for many students who have struggled academically in elementary and secondary education.