OCTAE Connection - Issue 236 - August 19, 2015

OCTAE Newsletter

August 19, 2015

Department Announces Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Students

On July 31, 2015, Secretary Duncan announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program during a visit to the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, Maryland. The correctional facility has a partnership with nearby Goucher College.  The college is part of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, based at Bard College in New York. According to the announcement the program is designed “to test new models to allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs, support their families, and turn their lives around.” Notification of the pilot program was published in the Federal Register, on August 3, 2015. Postsecondary educational institutions are encouraged to review the full Federal Register notice to learn more about applying for this program. Stakeholders in correctional education are encouraged to follow the work of this pilot and the programs of study for potential application to their own work with correctional students. 

The announcement indicates that the program is part of the administration's commitment to “create a fairer, more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on communities.”  Incarcerated individuals in this pilot program can access Pell Grants to pursue postsecondary education and training, if they meet Title IV eligibility requirements and are eligible for release (particularly within the next five years). As given in the announcement, the program’s goal is to increase inmates’ access “to high-quality educational opportunities and help these individuals successfully transition out of prison and back into the classroom or the workforce.” Incarcerated students participating in this program who receive Pell Grants will be subject to attendance restrictions; their grants can only be used to pay for tuition, fees, books, and supplies required by an inmate’s education program. A final stipulation is that incarcerated students receiving the grants will be ineligible to receive other types of federal student aid. 

As stated in the press release, “high-quality correctional education — including postsecondary correctional education — has been shown to measurably reduce re-incarceration rates. [And] by reducing recidivism, correctional education can ultimately save taxpayers money and create safer communities.” According to a U.S. Department of Justice-funded 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, as given in the release: 

“….Incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who didn't participate in any correctional education programs. …[And] it was estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three year re-incarceration costs. 

The Second Chance Pell Pilot Program is intended to build upon previous administration efforts, such as the "My Brother's Keeper Task Force."  A report from this task force, as reported in the announcement, recommended enforcing the rights of incarcerated youths, including their access to a quality education and the elimination of unnecessary barriers to their reentry.  Additionally, late last year, the Departments of Education and Justice released a Correctional Education Guidance Package.  This guidance was designed to improve education programs in juvenile justice facilities, and clarify existing rules around Pell Grant eligibility for youths housed in juvenile justice facilities and individuals held in local and county jails. The pilot program is expected to use this guidance to build and expand access to high-quality postsecondary educational opportunities and support the successful reentry of adults.Back to Top

New Research Brief Released: Educational Technology in Corrections 2015

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) recently released Educational Technology in Corrections 2015. This new report details the current status of educational technologies in corrections, existing and emerging approaches to providing such services in facilities, and the successes and challenges of early implementers. The report states that it is designed to inform federal, state, and local corrections officials, and correctional education administrators, of ways to “securely and cost effectively provide advanced technologies in corrections facilities to help strengthen and expand educational and reentry services.”  

Educational Technology in Corrections 2015 is an initial response to the 2014 RAND report, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education.  The new OCTAE report builds upon findings from this earlier report, which laid out the challenges and opportunities that technology presents for correctional education. OCTAE has entered this educational arena with enormous respect for the legitimate security concerns of correctional staff.  But it also has entered with an optimism that advances in electronic communications and educational technology can be safely used to extend higher-quality teaching and learning resources to correctional teachers and students. 

Correctional settings create significant barriers for educators, incarcerated students, and program partners that must be accommodated in order to provide an effective teaching and learning environment. The introduction of advanced technologies makes these barriers even more apparent. While other education systems have expanded their use of technology, correctional education has lagged behind. The major reason: security concerns. 

This report describes the barriers to integrating technology in correctional education — including state and local policies that prohibit incarcerated individuals from accessing the Internet — and provides examples of ways some states and localities have overcome these barriers. Insights from the report suggest that strengthening correctional education services and using advanced technologies helps correctional education programs reduce recidivism rates and ease the reentry process. 

The report details ways in which correctional institutions are cautiously adopting advanced technologies to “help prepare students to join our globally networked society; provide students with access to online assessments; expand the professional development resources available to instructors; support an education continuum for incarcerated individuals; and, expand the reach of correctional education services.” 

The report, produced under contract by RTI International, concludes with recommendations for state corrections agencies, facilities, and their education partners to consider as they look for ways to strengthen and expand their correctional education services. The recommendations focus on learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity.Back to Top

U.S. Department of Education Releases Two Vision Documents to Support Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

On August, 17, 2015, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) released vision documents as part of the department’s continuing efforts to assist states and local areas in implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The two documents describe a framework to support implementation activities and recommend actions states should undertake to make an effective transition to the WIOA and to help realize the vision for the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) and for vocational rehabilitation. Adult education and family literacy and rehabilitation services are core programs under the act. See the following for more information:

Request for Comments on WIOA Unified and Combined State Plan Requirements

The U.S. departments of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development are soliciting comments concerning a collection of data that will be used for unified and combined state plans under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The Required Elements for Submission of the Unified or Combined State Plan and Plan Modifications under WIOA is a consolidated information collection that would implement sections 102 and 103 of WIOA (P.L. 113-128). WIOA requires that, no later than March 3, 2016, each state, at a minimum, must submit a unified state plan as a condition of receiving funds for core programs subject to the unified state plan requirements. As an alternative, states may submit a combined state plan as a condition of receiving funds under certain named programs subject to the combined state plan provisions. 

The unified or combined state plan requirements are designed to improve service integration and ensure that the publicly funded workforce system provides a range of employment, education, training, and related services. The requirements also aim to help all jobseekers secure good jobs while providing businesses with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. To that end, the unified or combined state plan would describe how the state will develop and implement a unified, integrated service delivery system rather than discuss the state’s approach to operating each program individually. For more information on workforce innovation and opportunity see 29 U.S.C. §§ 3112 and 3113. 

A copy of the proposed Information Collection Request with applicable supporting documentation may be accessed at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for Docket ID number ETA-2015-0006 or by going directly here. The comment period is open for 60 days and closes on October 5, 2015. The department only considers comments that comply with the processes outlined in the Federal Register. Technical assistance materials will be available at http://wioa.workforce3one.org.Back to Top

New Employability Skills Framework

The College and Career Readiness and Success Center (CCRS Center), in partnership with the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center) and RTI International, recently released a professional learning module entitled “Integrating Employability Skills: A Framework for All Educators.” Provided below is information to bring stakeholders unfamiliar with the Employability Skills Framework up to speed. 

The framework was developed as part of the Support for States Employability Standards in Career and Technical Education and Adult Education project, an OCTAE initiative. The framework development was guided by a group of career and technical education (CTE), adult education, workforce development, and business organizations. 

These skills, which may be taught through the education and workforce development systems, fall into three broad categories: applied knowledge, effective relationships, and workplace skills. 

The first category, applied knowledge, encompasses both academic and technical knowledge, and applications in the workplace. The second category, effective relationships, includes the interpersonal skills required to maintain positive and productive relationships with supervisors, coworkers, and team members. The third category, workplace skills, encompasses the practical skills required to be productive in any type of job, including time management, clear communication, and critical thinking.  To learn more about the Employability Skills Framework, please visit its homepage. 

This new framework recognizes the importance of nonacademic skills in the workforce, which students may not have the opportunity to learn outside of classes before they graduate and are ready to enter the job market. This framework seeks to integrate these skills into traditional CTE classes and education programs so that students will be prepared for the workforce regardless of backgrounds.

Integrating Employability Skills: A Framework for Employers and Educators

On Thursday, July 16, 2015, the College and Career Readiness and Success Center (CCRS Center), in partnership with the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center) and RTI International, released “Integrating Employability Skills: A Framework for All Educators.” This professional learning module — a collection of customizable, train-the-trainer materials — is designed to build knowledge and increase capacity to integrate and prioritize employability skills at the state and local levels. 

The module includes PowerPoint slides, handouts, a sample agenda, a workbook, tools for individuals or state work groups, and a facilitator’s guide designed to accomplish the following: 

  • Introduce participants to the Employability Skills Framework and its importance.
  • Connect employability skills with other education initiatives.
  • Provide tools and strategies to prioritize employability skills at all levels. 

According to the CCRS Center, this module can be used by educators at the secondary, postsecondary, and adult levels; state offices; regional comprehensive centers; and by the employers themselves. 

For more information about the module and to view the CCRS Center’s guidelines for use, please visit their website here. 

To learn more about the Employability Skills Framework itself, please visit its homepage.Back to Top

The Importance of Increasing Opportunities for Youths

Economic Cost of Youth Disadvantage and High Return Opportunities for Change (https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/mbkreport_final.pdf), a recent report of the executive office of the president, explains the administration’s position on the importance of closing opportunity gaps and lowering barriers to achievement for disadvantaged youths —especially youths of color. This position relates to both the economic well-being of these individuals, and the economic well-being of the United States.  The report examines the causes and consequences of the disadvantaged youth population and discusses the potential economic benefits of improving the lives of disadvantaged youths. 

The report affirms President Obama’s belief that all Americans should be empowered to make their own lives without being limited by the circumstances of their birth. But today there are persistent gaps in opportunity for millions of American youths related to barriers including the circumstances of their birth that prevent them from reaching their potential and from contributing fully to their communities and to our nation’s economy. 

In addition to the vast human costs these opportunity gaps and barriers to achievement pose for youths of color, they also stifle the American economy by lowering aggregate earnings, shrinking the labor market, and slowing economic growth.  Addressing these gaps and barriers, the report avers, would result in substantial nation economic gains. For example, closing educational gaps between working-age men of color and non-Hispanic white men from 25 through 64 years old could produce an estimated 1.8 percent increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Additionally, men of color would earn as much as $170 billion more annually.  This would increase the average weekly earnings among U.S. workers overall by 3.6 percent.  Furthermore, if our nation closed the gap in labor force participation between 16- to 54-year-old men of color and non-Hispanic white men of the same age, the total U.S. GDP would increase by 2 percent. 

In addition to describing the benefits that both these young individuals and the nation would accrue from leveling the playing field, the report finds continuing and persistent evidence that a lack of opportunity, as well as other barriers, thwart the progress of these youths.  The report describes disparities in education, in exposure to the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and in employment. 

Closing the gaps and mitigating the barriers require substantial investments in the lives of disadvantaged young people. The report points to programs that show promise of improving outcomes for these youths — programs that it says can generate benefits that are more than three times their costs. 

The report concludes that the consequences of the disparities provide compelling evidence that our nation — in its own self-interest as well as the self-interest of the disadvantaged youth — must work to improve opportunities for all youths but particularly for young men of color.Back to Top