May 10, 2016 - Issue 248 - OCTAE Connection

OCTAE Newsletter

May 10, 2016

Minority-Serving Community Colleges Community of Practice Virtual Convening

Are you interested in learning how other minority-serving community colleges deal with certain issues or challenges? Are you looking for innovative student-success strategies? Do you want to connect with professionals who work in the same kind of institution as you? Building upon OCTAE’s efforts to aid minority-serving community colleges in forming communities of practice, we are pleased to present a virtual convening on May 19, 2016. This event is a series of seven sessions, broadcast via WebEx, that you can join throughout the day as your schedule permits. Sessions will explain more about the communities of practice initiative, including how to join, give listeners an opportunity to hear from the lead institutions, and also offer a sample of the content that will be eventually featured in our online group for minority serving community colleges and affiliates at

Session times (EDT) and topics are as follows:

  • 9–9:50 a.m. Welcome and Overview of the Communities of Practice
  • 10–10:50 a.m. Registered Apprenticeship Community College Consortium

(U.S. Department of Labor)

  • 11–11:50 a.m. White House Initiatives
  • 1–1:50 p.m. Equity in Career, Technical, and Adult Education
  • 2–2:50 p.m. The Role of Faculty in Supporting Men of Color at Community Colleges (Dr. Luke Wood and Dr. Marissa Vasquez Urias, San Diego State University)
  • 3–4:50 p.m. Minority-Serving Community Colleges Communities of Practice Lead Institutions

Registration spots are limited, so please register early at

The case-sensitive password for registration is “DeptOfE.”

After the event, the session slides and other materials will be posted in our LINCS minority-serving community colleges group.  

For questions or comments, please contact Erin Berg, community college program specialist, at

Mapping Upward: Technical Assistance for Community Colleges on Stackable Credentials

The Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) and its partners, Social Policy Research Associates and Abt Associates, are pleased to announce an initiative designed to support community colleges in their efforts to embed stackable, industry-recognized credentials within technical associate degree programs. Mapping Upward is a new project supported by OCTAE’s Division of Academic and Technical Education that will provide no-cost technical assistance (TA) to up to five sector-focused networks of community and technical colleges. Over the course of a year, selected networks, comprised of two to four institutions, will receive customized virtual and face-to-face TA from subject matter experts and a dedicated TA coach. These professionals will guide the network and its colleges through needs assessment, goal setting, and action planning. The TA will advance efforts in stackable-credential design, including employer engagement, industry certification alignment, faculty collaboration, awarding of credits, and credit transfer agreements. 

We encourage your institution and our partner colleges to apply to participate in this unique technical assistance and peer-learning activity. The application form is now available on the Mapping Upward project website, along with an overview of technical assistance services, network composition, and selection criteria. Application forms are due May 18, 2016.

For questions or comments, please email

The Interstate Passport:A New Framework for Student Transfer

The Interstate Passport, a 2015 grantee of ED’s First in the World (FITW) program for postsecondary students at risk of not completing, will be implemented by participating institutions this summer. The program, a new learning-outcomes-based framework for postsecondary credit transfer that can lead to improved graduation rates, shortened time to degree, and tuition savings for students, is based at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. The new framework focuses on lower-division general education, the common denominator among most institutions—concentrating on it as a whole, not on individual courses. This allows for a cross-border “match” of outcomes-integrated general education to ease the block transfer of credits. Students who earn a “passport” at one participating institution and transfer to another will have their learning achievement recognized. They will not be required to repeat courses or other learning experiences at a passport-receiving institution to meet lower-division general education requirements in nine areas (oral communication, written communication, quantitative literacy, natural sciences, human cultures, critical thinking, creative expression, human society and the individual, teamwork and value systems).  

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, 33 percent of all students transfer at least once before graduation, and 27 percent of those students cross state lines.[1] Transfer students who earn a bachelor’s degree take 1.2 years longer to do so.[2] And only 58 percent of transfers are able to bring all or almost of all of their credits with them.[3] The Interstate Passport offers an elegant solution to these obstacles by preparing students to succeed on the pathway to completion.   

How the Interstate Passport Works

The framework was developed by faculty from both two- and four-year institutions in seven states (CA, HI, ND, OR, SD, UT, WY).  Each participating institution constructs its passport block—a list of courses and/or learning experiences by which its students achieve passport learning outcomes (PLOs). Students who do so will be awarded a passport and notified of this achievement. For many students, this will stand as an early milestone on their way to a degree. For those who transfer, it will ensure that they do not waste time repeating learning they have already achieved at their former institution, even if the courses or credits required in their new passport institution’s block are different. Faculty also benefit by knowing that they can change the curriculum in the courses in their institution’s block without triggering an articulation review as long as the PLOs are still addressed.  Faculty at institutions in six other states (AR, ID, IN, KY, OH, VA) are currently testing the process of constructing their passport blocks.  

Performance Tracking for Quality Assurance

With FITW funds, several new quality-assurance components are being added to the Interstate Passport’s operations. Through the Passport-Verify service provided by the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), institutions can query a database to find out if a transfer student has earned a passport, and when and where, so that student learning is immediately recognized. Passport-receiving institutions will regularly submit student data on academic progress to NSC. 

Join the Interstate Passport Network

Any regionally accredited public and private not-for-profit institution can apply to become a member of the network after July 1. The passport can motivate students to complete a degree faster and help institutions improve performance metrics. See more information.

[1] Hossler, et al. (2012). Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Pre-Degree Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions (Signature Report No. 2), National Student Clearinghouse and Project on Academic Success.

[2] U.S. Department of Education (2010). Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study.

[3] Attewell and Monaghan. (2014). “The Community College Route to the Bachelor’s Degree,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, American Education Research Journal. 

The Long Shadow: Socioeconomic Origins, Education, and the Workplace

For more than 50 years, the relationships among socioeconomic origins, success in school, and success in the workplace have commanded the attention of policymakers and scholars.  Many of the scholarly analyses of these relationships have been from macroeconomic and macro-sociological perspectives and, additionally, have lacked a longitudinal perspective.  This approach has limited the ability of scholars to understand the interrelating contexts.  A major achievement in correcting this deficiency has come with the publication of The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood by Karl Alexander, (the late) Doris Entwisle, and Linda Olson. 

The Long Shadow is best understood as an attempt to answer two questions:  (1) How do the social contexts of family, neighborhood, and school in the early years relate to life outcomes for urban youths? and (2) Why do some of these low-socioeconomic status (SES) youths rise above disadvantage to succeed at work and in life, while others do not? 

Beginning in 1982, the authors began tracking 790 Baltimore children from a variety of backgrounds as they entered first grade.  The final interviews were conducted when members of the study panel were 28 to 29 years of age.  The authors were able to identify hidden pockets of white poverty, thereby realizing that they could study the effects of both race and income on the transition to adulthood.  Their findings revealed a much more complex picture than is often found in economic and sociological literature on these topics. 

At first glance, the outcomes for low-SES white and black men did not appear all that different.  But as the authors deepened their analysis, they discovered that the “long shadow” for blacks in the study was not only the disadvantage associated with their families, neighborhoods, and schools, but also of race.  This was not attributable, as much of the contemporary literature argues, to differences in school success, but rather to a lack of access to high-wage employment in what remains of Baltimore’s old industrial economy— as electricians, plumbers, and similar trades.  About 45 to 50 percent of whites work in these higher paying trades, while only 15 percent of blacks do, thereby affording whites roughly double the salaries that black men can earn.  White men get these jobs through family and friend connections, leading the authors to point out, “Schooling plays a larger role in perpetuating socioeconomic privilege across generations for even modestly high-SES youth, but white working-class privilege is sustained across generations by a very different set of forces.” 

This fact has wider implications in the black community: 

  • White females are more likely than black women to benefit financially from marriage or to live in stable live-in partnerships. 
  • Low-income women in the study panel earned less than white men, but white women had nearly equal household income as white men because white women and men tend to live in stable partnerships together. 
  • Black women, like their white counterparts, had low individual earnings, but were less likely than white women to live in stable family unions and, therefore, less likely to live in two-income households.  As a result, these black women and their children are the poorest of the poor.   

As the authors are careful to point out, this is a study of Baltimore during a particular period in its history.  Nevertheless, the authors are convinced that the picture they have sketched of Baltimore is “probably broadly characteristic of conditions that prevailed in many of the economically stressed cities of the East Coast and Midwest at the turn of the twenty-first century.” 

In summarizing their findings, the authors contend that “What ultimately determines well-being in adulthood is how young people negotiate the transition to adulthood, which is rooted in resources present all the way back to first grade (and before). We see that children are launched into stable trajectories very early in life, for many reasons.” 

The Long Shadow has received wide recognition as a path-breaking study containing essential knowledge for all policymakers and scholars trying to understand and make public policy regarding the urban disadvantaged.  Readers should be note that the analysis is heavily statistical.

Beware of High School Diploma Scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a warning about fake diploma sites that sell worthless high school diplomas. These “diploma mills” falsely claim their diplomas can be used to enroll in college, apply for a job, get a promotion, or enlist in the military. Don’t believe them.

Here are signs of a high school diploma scam:

  • The company wants you to pay for just a diploma. Real education programs may charge for classes or testing, but they usually do not charge just for a diploma.
  • You can earn the diploma from home immediately. If you can earn the diploma without taking any classes or tests, it’s likely a scam.
  • The company claims to be affiliated with the federal government. Individual states—not the federal government —regulate high school diploma programs. 

Want more information? Read the FTC’s High School Diploma Scams page. It will help you tell the difference between legitimate education programs and diploma scams. The website encourages students to reach out to community colleges as good sources for what high school equivalency options are accepted in their state and for programs that are available to help them prepare for high school equivalency exams.  

Recent Trends in Broadband Access, Affordability, and Usage:

OCTAE has long championed increased access to the Internet for teachers, students, and classrooms. Internet access increases the rigor and relevance of classroom teaching and homework; makes learning anytime, anywhere a possibility for all; and provides families with connections to information, civic opportunities, health information, consumer savings, and more. OCTAE has worked diligently to disseminate information on the status of universal Internet access via the websites ConnectED, ConnectHome, and EveryoneOn. 

With that in mind, this article presents brief summaries of two recent reports and a federal program announcement on some of the leading trends and challenges in providing broadband service that affect stakeholders, policymakers, users, and learners. OCTAE applauds these efforts for all learners, especially low-income adults. We encourage students, teachers, and providers of adult education to review the resources provided here to learn more about how they might benefit through increased access to the Internet. 

The Economic Commission of the States recently published an education trends report, Broadband Access and Implications for Efforts to Address Equity Gaps in Postsecondary Attainment. Written as a resource for state-level policymakers, the report highlights the challenges that many communities, households and individuals face when trying to access the Internet. These include insufficient access to industry-standard broadband speeds and barriers limiting adoption or use where the required broadband infrastructure is in place. It also presents a set of key questions for higher-education policy makers seeking to expand the use of online distance education as a means of increasing education access and supporting student success. 

Another recent report from the Pew Research Center, Lifelong Learning and Technology, discusses Internet use via a survey measuring whether the United States “is a nation of ongoing learners.” According to findings, digital technology plays a notable role in knowledge pursuits, yet these learning activities are occurring in traditional places—home, work, conferences or community institutions, such as government agencies or libraries.  This is the case even though place-based learning remains vital to many. As a result, those whose education and income levels do not allow them to access the Internet whenever and wherever needed are negatively impacted.  

The report found that the “survey clearly shows that information technology plays a role for many ... Still, those who already have high levels of education and easy access to technology are the most likely to take advantage of the internet. For significant minorities of Americans with less education and lower incomes, the internet is more on the periphery of their learning activities. Fewer of the people in those groups are professional or personal learners, and fewer of them use the internet for these purposes. Overall, the internet does not seem to exert as strong a pull toward adult learning among those who are poorer or less educated as it does for those in other groups.” 

Finally, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced the modernization and reform of its Lifeline program that helps low-income consumers afford access to broadband Internet access. Since 1985, Lifeline has helped make telephone service affordable for low-income Americans.   According to the FCC, new program guidelines will, among other reforms, support stand-alone broadband service, as well as bundled voice and data service packages for the first time. In short, new service standards for supported services will meet modern needs for more Americans.