OVAE Connection - Issue 142 - March 21, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                                                    March 21, 2013 - Issue 142

OVAE Has a New Blog!

OVAE’s new blog will provide you with up-to-date information about events and OVAE presentations, highlights from our visits to the field, and more. Visit the blog online here. Or, sign up for the  RSS feed to get updates via your favorite RSS reader.

OMB Update on a Cross-Agency Priority Goal: Job Training

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently released its first quarterly update on the pursuit of 14 cross-agency priority goals from President Obama’s FY 2013 budget. One of those goals is job training, intended to “ensure our country has one of the most skilled workforces in the world by preparing 2 million workers with skills training by 2015 and improving the coordination and delivery of job training services.” According to the update, an interagency working group comprising federal agencies that operate job training programs has been established. The working group’s first objective is improving the collection, reporting, and sharing of performance information and data across job training programs. This should ultimately contribute to better alignment of job training programs and assist job training providers to design, and job seekers to select, better programs. The working group will also survey federal agencies to compile a list of all job training programs.

The report also identified accomplishments of several agencies including three sets of awards made by the Department of Labor:

  1. $500 million for the second of four rounds of grants to leading community colleges in all 50 states made under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Act that support partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train workers with the skills employers need.
  2. $183 million in H-1B Technical Skills Training grants to support public-private partnerships that match skills training with business needs.
  3. $147 million in grants under the Workforce Innovation Fund to assess the effectiveness of various job training strategies and increase knowledge about effective workforce development.

In addition, the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor launched an initiative to encourage states to adopt a career pathways approach to their job training efforts by aligning federal and state resources, coordinating the delivery of job training services and social service supports, and building linkages to local and regional employers.

Is Developmental Educational Overprescribed?

A recent article from Education Week, “Many Students Don’t Need Remediation, Studies Say,” highlighted the growing call to use alternative measures of assessing college readiness in addition to standardized placement exams, such as ACT’s Compass and the College Board’s Accuplacer, which often misidentify as in need of remedial education. Studies from the National Bureau of Economic Research and from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education confirm that a large portion of the college students who are referred for remediation may not need it. The studies also suggest that to determine a student’s readiness for college-level work a more comprehensive profiling tool is needed. Thomas Brock, commissioner of the National Center for Education Research in the Institute for Education Sciences at the Department of Education, explained the stakes involved in such misidentification: “At many institutions, it’s a majority of students coming in and being placed into developmental ed.—and this is where it starts to bleed into the financial-aid agenda, because they’re using up valuable semesters of financial aid, which, of course, are not endless.”

High rates of participation in developmental education, and the associated costs to students and higher education systems, have been used to push for greater accountability from the nation’s K–12 education system, including the development of college and career readiness standards, such as the Common Core State Standards. In addition, education researchers, administrators, and policymakers have begun focusing attention on the ways students’ levels of academic preparedness for college-level coursework are determined on campus.

A recent study by researchers at Teachers and Queens colleges, Improving the Targeting of Treatment: Evidence from College Remediation, used administrative data, including high school transcripts, remedial test scores, and college grades for tens of thousands of students in two large and distinct community college systems to determine whether as many students were as unprepared for college-level work as the placement exams indicated. The ED Week article states that “20 percent of students placed in remedial math and 25 percent of those placed in remedial reading were ‘severely misidentified,’ meaning that not only could they have passed the entry college course in that subject, but they could have done so with a grade of B or better.”

This research suggests that broader measures of student academic strengths and weaknesses would increase placement accuracy. According to the study’s authors, the rate of severe misidentification of student abilities was up to 30 percent lower when placement decisions relied on high school transcript data—including student GPA, courses taken and credits earned, honors classes taken, total math and English credits, and grades received. A similar study from Harvard University and the RAND Corporation, The Effectiveness of an Intervention to Address Misplacement in Developmental Education,” found that 30 percent of students assigned to developmental education in a large community college system in Texas were actually considered "college ready" based on their ACT, SAT, and Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) scores.

Texas has already taken steps to address the misidentification issue. The state legislature required that all state colleges use a new, state-developed placement exam that will yield more diagnostic information beginning this fall. The results will be used to develop more targeted interventions to get students up to college-level coursework as quickly as possible. Other institutions, such as Long Beach City College, have also begun to use detailed high school transcript data to assess college readiness more accurately. Officials hope this will save many students time and money that would have otherwise been spent on non-credit remedial courses.  

Hold the Date! Community College Webinar - April 10

The second event in OVAE’s 2013 community college webinar series will be held on Wednesday, April 10 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. EDT. It will bring together experts and local practitioners to discuss promising community college correctional and re-entry education models. Fred Patrick from the Vera Institute for Justice will discuss the Vera-led Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project. Brian Walsh from Peninsula College will present this public community college’s efforts to provide technology-enabled, integrated basic education and skills training to inmates at Clallam Bay Corrections Center in Washington state. The webinar will also highlight the partnership between Hostos Community College and the Center for Employment Opportunities to provide accelerated basic education and occupational training opportunities to ex-offenders in New York City. Registration information for this webinar will be sent out in the coming weeks.

Aspen Prize for Community Excellence Winners Named

Walla Walla Community College in Washington and Santa Barbara City College in California are co-winners of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. More information on the Aspen Prize and a complete list of finalist institutions can be found at http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/aspen-prize/about.