OVAE Connection - Issue 179 - January 9, 2014

OVAE Connection

                              OVAE Connection - Issue 179 - January 16, 2014

                              OVAE Connection Community College Section

Department Seeks New Ideas for Administering Student Financial Aid Programs

As a part of its Experimental Sites Initiative the he Department is seeking proposals for ideas for experiments to test new ways of administering student financial assistance programs (see https://federalregister.gov/a/2013-29213). Institutions of Higher Education with student financial assistance programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act are encouraged to propose ideas. Suggestions should aim to achieve improved quality and lowered costs for higher education, and have enhanced or continued programmatic and fiscal integrity within the Title IV programs. ED is especially interested in improving student persistence and academic success, and in reducing both the average time required to attain a degree and the average total amount of student loans.  Suggestions should be submitted in an email attachment, by no later than Jan. 31, 2014, to experimentalsites@ed.gov.

Based on the suggestions received, experiments and accompanying evaluation plans will be designed, approved, and then announced in a second Federal Register notice. That notice will also describe implementation plans for the experiments and evaluation activities and extend an invitation to participate in them. Additional details may be found here.


College Knowledge Challenge Results in College Going Map for High School Students

The College Knowledge Challenge , a grant competition funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently awarded $2.5 million to 20 for- and non-profit organizations for the Facebook applications they developed that make the college-going process clearer, more collaborative, and easy to navigate for low-income and first generation students.

Department Requests Information for Development of Postsecondary Institution Ratings System

In an effort to develop a postsecondary institution ratings system that advances the accountability of postsecondary institutions and provides enhanced transparency and consumer information, the Department is asking for responses to a variety of questions. Topics cover: data elements, metrics, and data collection; and access, affordability of access, outcomes based on the data; weighting and scoring; development of comparison groups; presentation of ratings information; and existing ratings systems. Respondents are also encouraged to provide information that, while not answering any particular question, may be helpful to the Department’s efforts by, for example, being based on their experiences.  

To submit information and learn more, visit the Dec. 17, 2013 Federal Register.

Comments will be accepted through Jan. 31, 2014. Electronic responses should be sent to: http://www.regulations.gov.

Critical Employment Skills Access Available Through Public Housing Assistance

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently awarded almost $57 million in grants through the Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS) to aid families who receive housing assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV). The goal of the awards is to facilitate their access to education, job training, and employment, thus promoting family self-sufficiency through the attainment of the skills needed to compete for family sustaining employment. The program will also help public housing authorities throughout the nation hire or retain more than 1,000 service coordinators. These coordinators work directly with families by connecting them to the specific support services that meet their individual employment needs. Adult education providers and community college staff in these regions are encouraged to reach out to these locally funded programs to coordinate referrals and leverage resources with HCV-FSS partners.

Services provided include: education and job training and placement opportunities, childcare, counseling, transportation, and computer and financial literacy services. The HCV-FSS program also encourages innovative strategies that link HCV assistance with other resources to enable participating families to find employment, increase their earned income, reduce or eliminate their need for rental or welfare assistance, and make progress toward achieving economic independence and housing self-sufficiency.

Citizen Schools Helps Close the Opportunity Gap Between High- and Low-Income Students

Citizen Schools is an innovative program that partners educators with public middle schools in low-income communities across the country in order to extend the learning day and offer more opportunities for students. The program’s activities were developed in response to statistics indicating that U.S. students from upper-income families spend 300 more hours per year with adults than do 3 million U.S. students from lower-income families. The former also benefit from nearly $8,000 more in enrichment experiences, such as camps, music lessons, internships, and tutoring. Citizen Schools refers to this differential combination as an “opportunity gap.” Attempting to close this gap, the organization is dedicated to “…helping all children discover and achieve their dreams.” Eighty-five percent of the current cadre of students is eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, 95 percent identify themselves as either Latino or African-American, and over one-third speak a primary language other than English at home.

Citizen Schools “second shift” of citizen teachers (including AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows and technology professionals) provides after-school programs in seven urban areas—Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Houston, New York City, Newark, and Oakland—to expand the learning day by three hours and introduce students to careers and job skills. During this additional time, students receive academic assistance and mentoring. The AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows have been trained to facilitate apprenticeships with the professionals, provide structured academic support in mathematics and reading, instill team-building principles, and provide exposure to local colleges and businesses.

Students select two apprenticeships each semester, each meeting weekly for 90 minutes. In these apprenticeships, students explore new fields and career opportunities alongside community volunteers through hands-on, project-based learning. The students may work with these volunteers (supported by a Teaching Fellow or teaching associate) to program smartphone applications, film and edit documentary films, engineer solar cars, design marketing campaigns or other products. Each apprenticeship culminates in a public celebration of learning and civic engagement known as a WOW!.

Citizen Schools’ combination of activities is designed to build student academic and 21st century skills; provide students with access to successful community members, resources, and experiences; and inform student beliefs about connections between hard work, education, and success.

Program leaders—understanding that Citizen Schools cannot currently reach all the students who might benefit from it are striving to prove what works and disseminate those results in an effort to transform education. To that end, a longitudinal evaluation of the program was completed in 2010, and two more sophisticated evaluations are currently under way, one of which is focused on STEM. The longitudinal study found that participants had higher rates of school attendance through high school, were more likely to achieve proficiency on assessments required for high school graduation, and were 20 percent more likely to graduate from high school on time.

Citizen Schools now serves three times as many students as it did six years ago and has increased the number of states involved from three to seven, building management, leadership, and sustainability capacity in those seven states. During the next four years Citizen Schools aims to serve over 10,000 students in eight to 10 cities and demonstrate through its next evaluation that its Expanded Learning Time model can result in student learning gains that are statistically significant through a cost-effective process based largely on the re-direction of existing resources, and a modest addition to current funds. Funding for Citizen Schools comes from both public sources such as the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program and funds school districts make available and from private philanthropic and corporate sources.