Issue 523 October 20, 2016 OCTAE Connection

OCTAE Newsletter

October 20, 2016

National Advancing Equity in Adult, Community College, and Career and Technical Education Symposium, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016

REMINDER: Don’t miss your opportunity to participate in the National Advancing Equity in Adult, Community College, and Career and Technical Education Symposium! Space is limited, so register today for ED’s first convening of external stakeholders around equity in adult, community college, and career and technical education. Registration Deadline: Oct. 21, 2016 at 

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Administration of the Ability to Benefit Provisions under the Higher Education Act

Recently, the Higher Education Act (HEA) was amended to restore the ability to benefit (ATB) provisions, thus allowing individuals without a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent to access Title IV financial aid as long as they are enrolled in an eligible career pathway consistent with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

On Thursday, Oct. 27, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. ET, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will hold a webinar on administering the ATB provisions under the HEA. The webinar will share guidance from ED and present strategies for developing and strengthening local career pathway programs. Additionally, postsecondary institutions will share lessons learned and promising practices from ATB program implementation.

To join this webinar, visit

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CLASP to Hold a Public Forum, Reconnecting Justice: Pathways to Effective Reentry Through Education and Training Oct. 28, 2016, Noon–3 p.m. ET

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) will hold a public forum, Reconnecting Justice: Pathways to Effective Reentry Through Education and Training, on Oct. 28, 2016, from noon–3 p.m. ET. The forum will explore the intersection between criminal justice reform and postsecondary education and employment, with a keynote address by Nicholas Turner, president of the Vera Institute of Justice. Panel experts, including Sean Addie, OCTAE’s director of correctional education, will discuss policy trends in correctional education and training with re-entry opportunities that promote economic success.  

Research shows that incarcerated individuals are disproportionately people of color, as well as adults with low education attainment. Over 600,000 people are released from prison each year, and two-thirds of those prisoners will be rearrested within three years.  Studies show that access to correctional education can significantly reduce recidivism rates. Investments in education and training opportunities for incarcerated individuals and connections to continued education and employment opportunities once they re-enter their communities are essential. Providing these opportunities, according to CLASP, is not only cost-effective for states and communities, but also for these individuals and their families—combining education and employment leads to economic self-sufficiency and improved life outcomes.  

Please see the announcement for a full list of speakers and other relevant information regarding the forum, and to register to attend in person. For those who cannot attend in person, the event will be webcast live.

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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Food and Nutrition Service

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a number of new resources. All entities providing services to adult learners, particularly low-skilled, low-income workers are encouraged to access and spread the word about the resources provided here. 

FNS has recently developed the first first-ever SNAP E&T (Employment and Training) Academy. The academy will use a “train the trainer” model to create new leadership capacity to build the next generation of SNAP E&T programs. It will provide an opportunity for a select number of individuals to gain technical expertise on SNAP E&T that prepares them to work within their state or across multiple states building job-driven SNAP E&T programs. FNS plans to select up to 35 participants for the eight-month engagement. It will draw on applicants from state and local government, along with advocacy, research and other organizations that have a significant stake in issues related to education and training strategies for SNAP participants. For more information about the academy, please visit the FNS blog.  A call for applications for interested participants will be posted on the SNAP to Skills website later this month.

FNS has officially launched a new digital platform for the SNAP to Skills Project (S2S), the SNAP to Skills website. This new resource serves as a one-stop-shop for information and news about SNAP E&T, including SNAP E&T tools and resources, policy briefs, and stories from successful SNAP E&T programs. S2S is designed to give states the technical assistance, tools and resources they need to build more effective and job-driven SNAP E&T programs.

Visit the SNAP to Skills Website for ongoing information and to sign up for the SNAP E&T Review to receive regular updates. Also, see the FNS USDA Blog for additional information.

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New Evidence on the Efficacy of Selective Tracking of High-Achieving Minority Students

Do minority students benefit significantly from demanding academic courses?  Do some students lose out when high-achievers are separated out for special classes?  David Card (University of California, Berkeley) and Laura Giuliano (University of Miami) addressed these questions in their recent paper, “Can Tracking Raise the Test Scores of High-Ability Minority Students?” ( The authors looked at the effects of a tracking program that offers separate “gifted/high achiever” (GHA) classrooms for fourth and fifth graders wherever there is at least one gifted student in a school-wide cohort.  As gifted students are in short supply in most schools, other students have to be “recruited” to fill the remainder of the seats.  For this purpose, high-achieving students, as ranked by their scores on the previous year’s statewide tests, fill the remaining seats in the “gifted” classroom.

The study found that high-achieving minority students made significant gains in GHA classes, and there was no evidence of spillovers, good or bad, on those students who remain in non-gifted classrooms.  Both the high-achieving students and the traditional students in this study were taught by many of the same teachers and used the same textbooks, but the pace and intensity of coverage of the subjects varied.

The findings of the study were based on the achievement of third, fourth, and fifth graders in 140 elementary schools between 2008 and 2011 in gifted and traditional classrooms.  The results showed that participation in a fourth-grade GHA class had significant positive effects on the test scores of high-achieving black and Hispanic students, who gained 0.5 standard deviation units in fourth-grade reading and mathematics scores, whereas the effects for white students were small and insignificant.  Additionally, the study found no evidence of either positive or negative spillover effects on other students in the same school or in others schools, including those who barely missed the cutoff for getting into GHA classes.

To understand why minority students in GHA classes made impressive gains on test scores, while high-achieving whites did not make similar gains, the study looked at a number of possible factors.  Perhaps surprisingly, only about 10 percent of the gains could be attributed to the quality of teachers and the general positive peer effects within GHA classrooms.  Other factors obviously made a difference, likely including higher teacher expectations regarding achievement and the lack of negative peer pressure in GHA classes.  Regarding this second factor, the study conjectures that negative peer pressure regarding learning is more typical in traditional classrooms, causing minority high-achievers to be more likely to underperform in such settings.

In conclusion, the study suggests that “a comprehensive training program that establishes a separate classroom in every school for the top performing students has the potential to significantly boost the performance of higher achieving minority students—even in the poorest neighborhoods of a large urban school district.” 

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