“Research, convenings and resources to help non-traditional students succeed”? Issue 250 OCTAE Connection - July 21, 2016

OCTAE Newsletter

July 21, 2016

College and Career Readiness: First-Generation College Students

First-generation college students are academically far behind their peers for college readiness in key academic areas, according to The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2015: First-Generation Students (ACT and Council for Opportunity of Education [COE], June 2016).  This report, which describes student achievement in English, reading, mathematics, and science for high school graduates, focuses on the outcomes of the more than 350,000 first-generation high school graduates who took the ACT test in 2015. Fifty-two percent of these first-generation students met none of the four ACT college-ready benchmarks, compared with 31 percent of all test takers.  Among the highest achievers, only 10 percent of first-generation ACT test takers achieved the college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects, as contrasted with 28 percent of all test takers. 

The difference between first-generation test takers and all test takers in meeting the benchmarks for each of the four subjects is, on average, about 20 percentage points.  Both groups are most proficient in English, followed by reading, mathematics, and science in that order.  Since 2011, the percentage of first-generation test takers meeting all four benchmarks has remained unchanged.  This result, however, masks the fact that the performance of first-generation college students declined in English, reading, and mathematics between 2011 and 2015.

  • In English, 46 percent of first-generation test takers met the readiness benchmark in 2011, while in 2015 that percentage had declined to 41 percent.
  • In reading, the success rate was 32 percent in 2011, but only 25 percent in 2015.
  • In mathematics, over this same time period the success rate for first-generation test takers dropped from 25 to 21 percent.
  • Only in science did first-generation students improve their readiness rate, from 12 to 18 percent.

Not surprisingly, the report finds that course-taking patterns for high school students have a major effect on meeting the college readiness benchmarks. ACT has consistently found that students who take the recommended core curriculum of four years of English and three years each of mathematics, social studies, and science show substantially higher levels of college readiness than students who do not complete the core curriculum.

The deficiencies in college readiness on the part of first-generation college students are not simply a matter of deficiencies in academic preparation.  “Beyond academics, an added obstacle for many first-generation students is a lack of resources and direction to navigate the college-planning process,” according to COE president Maureen Hoyler. “These students don’t have the built-in benefit of college-educated parents to help them plan for college….”  Moreover, in addition to prior grades, psychosocial and behavioral factors accounted for nearly the same percentage of variation as ACT [academic] assessments in determining college readiness, according to an ACT longitudinal study of 8th-grade test takers.  This finding, according to the report, “underscores the need for a more holistic approach to measuring college readiness.”

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Accelerating Opportunity Initiative: New Evaluation Report Released

Aspen Workforce Strategies Initiative (WSI), in collaboration with the Urban Institute, recently released a new evaluation report, Implementation of Accelerating Opportunity: Final Implementation Findings with Lessons for the Field. The Accelerating Opportunity (AO) initiative is intended to expand economic opportunities for adult students with low basic skills through earning valued occupational credentials, obtaining well-paying jobs, and sustaining rewarding careers.

Accelerating Opportunity, begun in 2011, was designed as an integrated approach to encourage states to enroll students in credit-bearing career and technical education courses at local community colleges, while simultaneously helping them improve their basic education skills. According to the report, the “AO model focused on students who scored between the 6th- and 12th-grade level in basic skill areas but who expressed interest in earning technical credentials. In particular, AO was designed for adult education students who lacked high school diplomas or the equivalent.”

This final implementation report presents findings over the first three years of the initiative—in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana—and provides an in-depth description of the process and lessons that emerged. The report identifies several specific elements for successful implementation, including the following:

  • Receiving state leadership and support;
  • Removing policy barriers;
  • Considering college institutional factors;
  • Utilizing partnerships both from within and outside the colleges; and
  • Providing both academic and social student supports.

The report findings may be of particular interest to state policymakers, colleges, and others planning for the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) — which provides new opportunities for integrated career pathway development within states and colleges. For more information, interested parties are encouraged to read the full report.  

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National Skills Coalition Releases New Report on Model Immigrant Skill-Building Programs

The National Skills Coalition (NSC) recently released a new report, Upskilling the New American Workforce: Demand-Driven Programs that Foster Immigrant Worker Success & Policies that Can Take Them to Scale, showcasing seven program models from New York, Minnesota, Oregon, and California. The examples provided illustrate a variety of effective approaches to serving immigrant jobseekers and adult English language learners. As such, the report serves as a practical resource for policymakers and others seeking to scale up innovative models.

Immigrants represent about 17 percent of the U.S. workforce. Some 54 percent of U.S. jobs are “middle-skill jobs” – “those that require more than a high school diploma, but not a four-year degree” – while only 44 percent of workers overall and even fewer immigrant workers  are trained to that level. About 10 percent of the working-age population has limited English proficiency. Given this backdrop, the report meets an immediate need for information about model programs that help workers fill the workplace talent requirements.

Each of the programs showcased assists immigrants in acquiring the foundational and technical skills needed for middle-skill employment that provides family-sustaining wages. Examples vary from newly launched initiatives to decades-long established models, and come from nonprofit community-based organizations, worker centers, community colleges, and other education and workforce providers with deep experience in serving immigrant communities.

These include the following:

  • An electronics assembly training program that prepares immigrants and refugees to work in the aeronautics industry;
  • A green janitorial and energy management program that combines vocational English for Speakers of Other Languages (VESL) with job skills to equip immigrant janitors to work in LEED-certified buildings; and
  • A VESL program targeted at immigrant day laborers.

Those interested in launching similar programs in their own communities will find useful lessons in the report, including about the following:

  • The importance of demand-driven, evidence-based training programs that use tested models to prepare individuals for jobs that local employers need;
  • The availability of financial and other resources via key federal policies and programs,  such as SNAP Employment and Training (see a related story in this newsletter edition), the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and Community Development Block Grants to support education and training programs; and
  • The opportunity to capitalize on visionary state policies, such as Minnesota’s FastTRAC program and California’s Adult Education Block Grant program, to serve immigrant workers.

To learn more about these new models, interested parties are encouraged to read the full report. To keep up with the latest news from the NSC, readers may wish to access the coalition’s blog. 

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    Second Annual Convening Scheduled for Minority Serving Community Colleges

    Save the dates! OCTAE is excited to be planning the second annual gathering of minority serving community colleges. We will welcome leaders, staff, faculty, and students from colleges around the country at the Department of Education for a two-day event, Nov. 1–2, 2016, in Washington, D.C. This year’s focus will be on career and technical education at minority serving community colleges, and will continue the communities of practice building begun last year. Some additional topics of interest will be equity in CTE and higher education, innovations in supporting low-income and at-risk students, best practices in developmental education, tips for accessing federal resources, developments in STEM education, and more. A call for presentation proposals and a registration site will be coming in September. Make sure you are subscribed to the OCTAE Connection newsletter and are a member of our Minority Serving Community Colleges and Affiliates LINCS Community of Practice group for timely updates.

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    SNAP to Skills

    Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants’ need for the education and training required to become economically self-sufficient is growing increasingly urgent. The vast majority of jobs in the future will require at least some education beyond high school, yet many SNAP participants have not reached this level of educational attainment. Without the skills to meet rapidly changing labor market demand, the chances of these SNAP participants for getting a good job and reducing their need for SNAP are extremely low. In fact, longer-term participants (those receiving benefits for 37 out of the past 48 months) are more likely to have less than a high school diploma as compared to their higher-educated peers.

    According to a new policy brief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Why Now is the Time for States to Build Their SNAP E&T Program (April 2016),

    The SNAP Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) program, a skills and job training program for SNAP participants administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), is a key resource States and their partners can utilize to help SNAP participants meet this urgent need for skills and better jobs.  SNAP E&T has historically been under-utilized, but a renewed focus on the program amid greater urgency for job training for SNAP participants has created new momentum for States seeking to build bigger, better, and stronger E&T programs.

    Funding is provided for SNAP E&T through a mix of federal grants. States receive annual formula grants to implement and operate the program; however, states, institutions, and other organizations may also receive a 50-percent federal reimbursement of non-federal investments in education and training expenses for SNAP participants. These training programs must be included in a state’s annual SNAP E&T plan that is submitted to FNS.

    The policy brief also outlines the immediate opportunity of the SNAP E&T program and shares some tips and best practices to get you started. This brief is the first in a series on best practices in SNAP E&T, developed under the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s technical assistance project, SNAP to Skills. Subsequent briefs and other resources about the program will be posted on the SNAP to Skills website. Find out more about your state’s SNAP E&T program. To receive monthly SNAP E&T updates, sign up for the SNAP E&T Review.

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    New From the Federal Trade Commission: Fotonovela on Debt Relief Scam Targeting Latinos

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a new Spanish-language graphic novel, or fotonovela, aimed at raising awareness about debt relief scams targeting Latino communities. 

    Maria and Rafael Learn the Signs of a Debt Relief Scam is a story about a couple who are thrilled that their daughter just graduated college. But soon after the festivities wind down, reality sets in and Rafael starts worrying. They have to start paying back the money they owe for the education, but he’s been out of work for months. What’s he going to do? Maria thinks she might have the solution: A company she heard about on the radio promises it can lower the couple’s student loan payments and help them get rid of their credit card debt. But it could be a scam.

    To read this fotonovela online in English – and to see how this story and others in the series plays out – visit consumer.ftc.gov/fotonovela. We encourage you to share the link with your networks. To order free copies in Spanish, visit bulkorder.ftc.gov. To see other consumer products from the FTC, refer to the OCTAE blog post Free Consumer Protection Tools for Educators and Students.  


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