OVAE Connection - Issue 153 - June 6, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                                 June 6, 2013 -  Issue 153

WIA Incentive Grant Award Eligibility Announced

The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA), in collaboration with ED, announced the 15 states that are eligible to apply for a share of over $10 million in incentive grant awards, as authorized under section 503 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). Eligible states are: Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and West Virginia. To receive funds, a state must submit its application for an incentive grant award to DOLETA by July 8, 2013. Eligible states are encouraged to review the official electronic version of the Federal Register notice at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-05-24/pdf/2013-12425.pdf* 

 The funds, made available by ED from appropriations for the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), are available for use through June 30, 2015, to support innovative workforce development and education activities, authorized under Title IB (Workforce Investment Systems) or Title II (AEFLA) of WIA, or under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV). Each qualifying state must have exceeded its Program Year 2011 performance levels for WIA, Title IB and Title II. Performance-related goals that were used to determine a state's eligibility status include: employment after training and related services, retention in employment, and improvements in literacy levels.

*Note: Since the Federal Register notice was issued, a correction in the list of eligible states was announced and Mississippi was substituted for Missouri. 

Concerns About College and Career Readiness

The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) released last month two reports–What Does It Really Mean to Be College Ready? The English Literacy of First Year Community College Students and What Does It Really Mean to Be College Ready? The Mathematics Required of First Year Community College Students. The reports focus on community colleges, since they represent the largest sector of the U.S. higher education system, enrolling nearly half of all undergraduate students. Community colleges also provide most of the postsecondary occupational training in the U.S. According to NCEE, therefore, “being ready to be successful in the first year of a typical community college program is tantamount to being ready for both college and work.” 

In conducting this study, NCEE randomly selected one community college from each of seven states and focused on the most popular and diverse programs in those colleges—accounting, automotive technology, biotech/electrical technology, business, criminal justice, early childhood education, information technology/computer programming, nursing, and the general education track. The reports offer an analysis of the mathematics and English literacy skills demanded of the typical first-year student in a range of required community college introductory courses in the nine programs that were focused upon, based on data from textbooks, tests, and student work. 

In the case of mathematics, the study concludes that “a substantial part of the high school mathematics we teach is mathematics that most students do not need, some of what is needed in the first year of community college is not taught in our schools, and the mathematics that is most needed by our community college students is actually elementary and middle school mathematics that is not learned well enough by many to enable them to succeed in community college.” While the typical high school math curriculum offers a sequence of courses leading to calculus (e.g., geometry, Algebra II, pre-calculus and calculus), the content of most first-year community college math courses is most often Algebra I plus some topics from Algebra II and geometry. Moreover, many popular community college programs that lead to well-paying careers require math that is not included in most mainstream high school math curricula, such as statistics, probability, and mathematical modeling. 

In the case of English literacy, the report notes that “only modest reading and writing demands are placed on students in these courses. While texts assigned include content at about an 11th or 12th grade reading level, which is significantly more challenging than what they typically encounter in high school, the level of processing of those texts required by the assigned tasks is, at best, only modestly challenging in most courses.” Aside from English Composition, few classes require students to reflect meaningfully and to analyze what they read. When writing is required, the tasks are typically not challenging, and the expectations of instructors for grammatical accuracy, diction, clarity of expression, reasoning, and forming logical arguments tend to be quite low. 

Finally, the report sounds a caution against using these findings to demand that community colleges immediately raise their expectations for students in math and English literacy and require high schools to prepare students to meet them. While this is clearly the ultimate goal, “a very large fraction of high school graduates does not meet the very low expectations that community colleges currently have of them. …it is important, first, to enable our high school students to meet the current very low standards before we ratchet those standards up.” The report ends with this note, in addition to addressing the low standards in high schools for these critical disciplines, we must also address the striking misalignment between the math and English literacy skills taught in high school and those needed to succeed at community colleges and subsequently in careers.

                       A Special Notice on the Affordable Care Act to Help Those Who Are Uninsured

The Affordable Care Act has a primary goal of helping those who are uninsured and eligible to get affordable, quality health care. To do this, the Health Insurance Marketplace has been formed to help eligible Americans get information and buy health insurance when open enrollment begins on Oct. 1, 2013. Go to marketplace.cms.gov to find tools, information, and resources. They include a schedule of webinars about the Affordable Care Act, the Marketplace, and available exchanges. Please share this information with your constituencies.