Dropout Reengagement Moves Forward in Los Angeles

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The City of Los Angeles and the LA Unified School District as close working partners: who would have predicted this in the midst of bitter struggles over mayoral leadership of schools a few years ago? Yet, it’s this partnership, and more, that I witnessed this week on a visit to the Boyle Heights Tech Center In East LA. And perhaps ironically,  the focus of the partnership rests on the 100,000 out of school youth and young adults in the city- not, in this case, on management and governance of students in existing schools.

Many exciting pieces come together to support young people at the Boyle Heights center, none so innovative as the placement of an LAUSD counselor at this and twelve other centers around the city. At the close of the first school year of this partnership-in-action, outplaced counselors have met with 3,800 young people, 600 of those fully out of school, many of the rest well off track in credit accumulation for their age.

The City of LA’s Community Development Department (CDD), the local manager of federal workforce and community development funds, administers the thirteen YouthSource centers – running three directly, contracting for the rest.  The centers have routed 2,300 of the 3,800 out of school and off track youth into programs funded through the Workforce Investment Act.

CDD won a US Department of Labor Workforce Innovation Grant for the 13-site reengagement network. The grant permits the city to pay half the salaries of the LAUSD counselors, and also to expand services to many more dropouts.

The employee status of the LAUSD counselors ensures a critical link. Counselors, even those seated at the YouthSource centers, have on-line access to the LAUSD student information system.  Counselors can work with dropouts to assess their educational status, for instance, in terms of credits obtained.  With this information in hand, counselors can make far more informed referrals to a high school completion option.

Overall, with early reports are so promising, the LA approach to dropout reengagement bears close attention for results and operational tips. Already, other cities could adapt the LA partnership model to scale up reengagement services and supports.

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