December 21, 2015 - OCTAE Connection

OCTAE Newsletter

December 21, 2015

Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education Holds First Annual Improved Reentry Education Grantee Conference

From December 3 – 4, the Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL) in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), hosted the Improved Reentry Education (IRE) Annual Grantee Conference at the U.S. Department of Education Lyndon Baines Johnson building, in Washington, D.C., under an ED/OCTAE funded contract with Jobs for the Future (JFF). 

This meeting came during an unprecedented year in which steps were taken by the Obama administration to make the nation’s criminal justice system “fairer and more effective and to address the vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration that traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities…[by] highlighting the reentry process of formerly incarcerated individuals and announc[ing] new actions aimed at helping Americans who’ve paid their debt to society rehabilitate and reintegrate back into their communities.”

Under this contract, JFF will provide direct technical assistance to the nine selected IRE grantees; assist Department staff in monitoring IRE projects and assist grantees to develop evaluation plans including unique processes for data collection and analysis; facilitate conferences; and establish online communities of practice. 

This conference provided grantees with an understanding of the Department’s processes and protocols for administering their IRE grants, the Department and federal priorities related to reentry education, and the technical assistance approach and priorities. It also provided an opportunity to network with peer grantees, subject matter experts, the technical assistance team, and federal staff. 

Keynote speakers included Johan E. Uvin, OCTAE’s assistant secretary, and Eric M. Seleznow, deputy assistant secretary for the Employment and Training Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor. Grantees also heard from seven members of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council during a panel session that included Lul Tesfai, U.S. Department of Education; Sarah Bard, U.S. Small Business Administration; Jacqui R. Freeman, U.S. Department of Labor; Mary Griffin, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Linda Mellgren, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Jessica Neptune, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and, Amy Solomon, U.S. Department of Justice.  Grantees had the opportunity to ask questions of the council members. 

Please access the White House fact sheet, to learn more about the administration’s new actions to promote rehabilitation and reintegration for the formerly incarcerated. To learn more about the IRE grant and the nine selected sites, please visit the ED/OCTAE blog.

Learn More About ED's Dual-Enrollment Experiment

As part of the Obama administration's commitment to expanding opportunities for students to access and succeed in postsecondary education, in October the Department of Education announced an experiment focused on dual high school-college enrollment. The experiment will enable high school students enrolled in dual enrollment programs to access federal Pell Grants at participating institutions. Students who have attended a dual-enrollment program are more likely to apply to, enroll in, and succeed in college. These students not only benefit from the academic experience of learning at a college level but also often are better able to picture themselves in college, pursuing a postsecondary degree. To help students succeed in these programs, ED is seeking “postsecondary institutions, in partnership with public secondary schools or local education agencies, to apply to participate in the dual-enrollment experiment.” 

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. EST, the office of Federal Student Aid will host a webinar for postsecondary institutions interested in learning more about the goals, requirements, and process for participating in this experiment. To register for this webinar, please click here. 

To be considered for participation in the experiment, postsecondary institutions must submit a letter of interest to the Department of Education, following the procedures outlined in the Federal Register notice, no later than Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, for priority consideration. We invite all postsecondary institutions to apply to expand access and provide support for students. 

STEM Preparedness: ACT Releases New STEM College Readiness Benchmark

Earlier this year, ACT released The Condition of STEM 2015, a report on the STEM preparedness of the graduating class of 2015. ACT uses its own definition of STEM and STEM-related fields (see page 30 of the report), which it developed and implemented in its 2013 Condition of STEM report. STEM fields are classified into four key areas: science, computer science and mathematics, medical and health, and engineering and technology. 

Among the good news revealed in the report is that approximately half of the 1.9 million graduates who took the ACT in 2014 expressed an interest in STEM fields, with more expressing an interest in computer science and mathematics (fewer expressed an interest in medical and health fields than has recently been the case). Less encouraging was the finding that this interest does not necessarily equate with aptitude.  

To ascertain aptitude for pursuing STEM courses of study in college, for the first time this year ACT introduced its new STEM College Readiness Benchmark. This new benchmark differs from the current ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in math and science in that it is based on more rigorous entry-level criteria. Based on the STEM College Readiness Benchmark, rates of attainment were very low, with only 20 percent of high school graduates taking the ACT deemed ready to succeed in first-year STEM college courses. Readiness is defined as either a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher or a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher in rigorous freshman courses like calculus, biology, chemistry, or physics. 

This new benchmark is an important indicator of future education success. ACT research found that students with STEM majors who met the ACT STEM Benchmark had a better chance of earning a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher and were substantially more likely to complete a STEM major. Specifically, students meeting the STEM Benchmark have a 49 percent chance of attainting a STEM degree in six years, compared to only 17 percent of those who fall below this benchmark. 

These findings suggest problems for the STEM pipeline. The low percentage of high school graduates prepared to succeed in STEM fields who are also interested in teaching suggest that the demand for highly qualified STEM teachers at the secondary level will continue. Even though the number of ACT-tested students was higher in 2015 than in 2014, the number of 2015 graduates interested in teaching mathematics and science was lower than in 2014. ACT finds this alarming, as meeting the demand for well-prepared teachers in STEM areas is critical to the future of the nation.  .