Mayors Continue Emphasis on Public Safety, New Approaches Emerging

This year’s National League of Cities analysis of State of the City speeches reaffirms that while mayors across the country continue to see public safety as a top issue, they’re employing new tactics and approaching the entire arena from a different perspective.

(Getty Images)

In their 2016 State of the City speeches, several mayors laid out visions for continued progress in community policing, or what some call guardian policing. (Getty Images)

Alongside other core priorities for city government such as infrastructure and economic development, the nation’s mayors consistently emphasized ensuring and improving public safety, as seen in the National League of Cities’ State of the Cities 2016 report. Of note this year, several mayors focused on new or revised approaches getting underway in key areas such as community policing, diversion, reentry, and youth violence prevention.

Such approaches continue to illustrate the contributions that city governments can make to greater effectiveness and fairness in broad public safety and criminal justice efforts, in ways that complement actions by courts, county jail administrators and state corrections departments.

With police departments a primary means for cities to ensure safety – and in the context of continued tragic events and simmering or exposed tensions – several mayors laid out visions for continued progress in community policing, or what some call guardian policing. Some pointed to specific strategies to build or restore trust between police departments and residents, including Mayor John King of Covina, California, and Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, Massachusetts.  Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Andrew Ginther noted: “Bike patrols, walking crews, community liaison officers, school resource officers, social media outreach, our Diversity Recruiting Council, listening tours – these are just some of the many ways our police make every effort to engage with the communities they serve, keeping communication lines open and building trust and goodwill.”

Mayors highlighted investments in diversion and reentry programming that yield both short- and long-term payoffs, picking up on themes consistent with the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families’ (YEF Institute) resources in use by dozens of cities pursuing strategies to reduce arrest and incarceration for youth and young adults. For instance, pointing to adoption of an increasingly common tactic to reduce overuse of jails, Mayor John Tecklenburg of Charleston, South Carolina, explained that the police department “is now testing a new citation and release pilot program, designed to reduce the number of citizens incarcerated for minor offenses.”

Mayors in cities of vastly different sizes – including  Mayor Adrian Mapp of Plainfield, New Jersey; Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston; and Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. – focused on providing better supports and services upon reentry from prisons and jails, such as access to drug-free housing, job training programs and mental health services.

Mayor Ginther of Columbus explained that city’s comprehensive reentry approach, which spans services, supports, and jobs: “We will continue to invest in Restoration Academy, which offers a second chance to restored citizens who are ready to contribute to their communities and support their families. And this year, I am pleased to announce that we will offer two classes of Restoration Academy, with one class specifically for 18- to 23-year-olds. The City of Columbus alone has hired 40 graduates to date.”

Informed by NLC’s longstanding support for the California Gang Prevention Network and successor initiative the National Forum for Youth Violence Prevention, a number of cities continue to launch, expand and improve strategies to steer young people into productive pursuits and away from gangs and guns. Mayors in cities including Baltimore; Evanston, Illinois; Jersey City, New Jersey; Seattle; and Nashville, Tennessee, referred to city adoption of a variety of methods. These included fielding outreach workers, development of comprehensive violence prevention plans, and hospital-based violence intervention programs to reduce retribution. Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee summed up a common view when he said, “Our emphasis will be on youth development and preventing youth violence because we need to ensure that every young person can achieve their goals and build a successful future.”

This post is part of a series expanding on NLC’s 2016 State of the Cities report. Check back next week as we delve deeper into what mayors had to say about data and technology.

Andrew Moore About the Author: Andrew Moore is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Connections in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.

Jobs Programs Need Data, Not Just Dollars

As more cities across the nation are implementing youth employment programs, it’s much more than dollars and sense: data can directly impact the future of these programs.

(Getty Images)

By sharing what they know, local and state agencies can create reports that track the enrollment, persistence, and degree completion of youths benefiting from employment programs as well as the proportion that land family-sustaining jobs. (Getty Images)

Last month the president announced a $5.5 billion proposal to create summer and first-time jobs for youths and new apprenticeship opportunities, followed in March by the launch of a “Summer Opportunity Project” with specific commitments from federal agencies and the private sector. The White House’s emphasis on youth employment is strongly endorsed by local leaders who know from experience that summer jobs can check a lot of boxes for young people: helping them to stay out of trouble, learn financial management skills, “get banked,” and develop soft skills that are crucial to later success in the workforce.

Expanding youth employment is just one prescription for a larger ill afflicting many American communities, where an estimated 6.7 million young men and women have disengaged from both work and school —a number equivalent to the entire population of Tennessee and that costs taxpayers approximately $250 billion each year in lost revenue, earnings, and increased social services. Connecting these youths with paths back to school and the workforce is in everyone’s urgent self-interest. And so the Corporation for National and Community Service recently invested $6 million in a network of communities to figure out how best to do it.

Unfortunately, the data that can answer that question is locked away from decision-makers by the same agencies asking how best to prepare youths for the workforce.

To understand what a problem this is, consider how crucially summer jobs and reengagement programs rely on mayors, business executives, and civic groups to “connect the dots” and turn dollars into new opportunities for young people. For example:

  • Louisville’s SummerWorks program is formally led by the regional workforce board, Kentuckiana Works, but Mayor Greg Fischer was able to scale it from serving 200 to 2,100 youths annually by partnering with the local schools and convincing private industry to create summer positions and foot 80 percent of the bill.
  • Boston’s Opportunity Youth Collaborative is organized by the city’s Private Industry Council but executed by a partnership of 80 organizations that includes city, state, and national allies. Together they run a one-stop connection center for youths and provide occupational skills training and mentorship to create pathways into the workforce for historically underserved young Bostonians.

These collaborations are the rule, not the exception. Government education and workforce training programs are important, but it is local leaders that braid those funds together, augment them with philanthropic and private dollars, and embed them in neighborhoods.

Yet the leaders building these broad civic partnerships generally receive the least information about which strategies, services, and programs are effective. Each employer, nonprofit, workforce agency, and educator keeps a record of each youth they serve and knows one small part of the larger story. But none of these records answer the $250 billion question—whether these young people go on to success in college and the workforce. When pressed by funders to report their results, communities often resort to telephoning the youths they are still able to locate to generate estimates of their impact. This expensive and inexact process satisfies nobody and tells cities nothing new about how to spend their scarce youth employment dollars so as to do the most good.

There’s a better approach.

State education and workforce agencies, which already have academic transcripts and wage records on each of these youths, should partner closely with local leaders to ensure this information gets back to them in a form that allows them to use it quickly, securely, and inexpensively. Nineteen states already link high school and workforce records; 43 incorporate postsecondary records. By sharing what they know, local and state agencies can create reports that track the enrollment, persistence, and degree completion of youths benefiting from these programs, as well as the proportion that land family-sustaining jobs. None of this requires new data—it merely puts what states already collect to work to answer some key questions.

Congress can play a role as well by being explicit when it amends the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that educators can securely share student records with workforce investment boards for the limited purposes of evaluating and improving services for youths. We have an ethical responsibility to use the information our systems collect to help young people—as well as to protect their privacy.

Finally, policymakers at all levels should acknowledge the crucial role that evidence plays in improving outcomes for youths. States in particular must continue to invest in the capacity to measure what matters to their residents and provide a budgetary line item to support the kinds of collaboration with local decision-makers described above. The president is asking to direct a lot of money through states to local efforts to help youths get on track and stay there. It’s a good idea, but those states should come with data, not just dollars.

About the Authors: 

Andrew MooreAndrew Moore is a Senior Fellow in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.

 

Chris_Kingsley_2Chris Kingsley is the Associate Director of Local Policy and Advocacy in the Data Quality Campaign. Follow Chris on Twitter @emersonkingsley.

What President Obama’s New TechHire Initiative Can Do For Cities

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re the mayor of a big city or a small town – you understand that the economy is dynamic now, and you can’t just stand still; you can’t rest on your laurels.”

– President Barack Obama

"Photo by Jason Dixson Photography. www.jasondixson.com"At NLC’s Congressional City Conference on Monday, President Obama addressed an enthusiastic crowd of over 2,000 mayors and councilmembers from small towns and large cities. The President used this opportunity to announce a brand new initiative, TechHire. Watch the video of his announcement. (Jason Dixson/jasondixson.com)

The President’s TechHire initiative is intended to create a pipeline of tech workers for the 21st century economy, and help local leaders connect tech training programs to available jobs. As the President noted, “right now, America has more job openings than at any point since 2001… Over half a million of those jobs are technology jobs.”

The 20 communities that the White House is holding up as models – the list includes cities such as St. Louis, Louisville and San Antonio alongside high-tech havens such as San Francisco – have demand for tech jobs that appears to outstrip supply. But in many communities, employers may be overlooking talented applicants because they don’t have four-year degrees. As the president observed, a college degree is not necessary for many positions in the tech field. “Folks can get the skills they need for these jobs in newer, streamlined, faster training programs,” he said. These 20 TechHire communities will help employers link up and find and hire potential employees based on their skills and not just their résumés.

Cities already engaged in efforts to boost their rate of postsecondary credential attainment, including training programs, such as those participating in the Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnerships for Attainment initiative and Kresge Foundation-supported partnerships, can take advantage of a new competitive grant program under TechHire. The Obama Administration is launching a $100 million competition for innovative ideas to train and employ people who are underrepresented in tech.

TechHire aims to reach women and people of color, who are still underrepresented in this sector, as well as veterans and lower-income workers, who might have the aptitude for tech jobs but lack the opportunity to access them.

Overall, as concerns about a “skills gap” continue to abound – even without clear evidence of how quickly employers would grow their workforces if more skilled potential employees presented themselves for hiring – the Obama Administration is taking a bold step forward to offer employers what they’ve been asking for – more qualified workers who can fill the demand for tech jobs.

Andrew Moore About the Author: Andrew Moore is a Senior Fellow in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.

State of the Reengagement Network in 2014 and Beyond

Opening the 2014 Reengagement Plus convening in Portland, Oregon last week, I observed that the Reengagement Network deserves a moment of quiet celebration. Quiet because of recent tragic events in several communities directly affecting youth; celebratory because collectively, we have had a tremendous impact this year.

Diploma - blog(Getty Images)

In my opening remarks, I outlined how NLC’s Reengagement Network has grown in size and scope since its inception, identified key opportunities for the Network in 2015 and proposed priorities to deepen and broaden our impact. Here are a few highlights:

NLC’s Andrew O. Moore delivers the opening remarks at the 2014 Reengagement Plus conveningin Portland, Oregon.

NLC’s Andrew O. Moore delivers the opening remarks at the 2014 Reengagement Plus convening in Portland, Oregon.

  • Over 250 people from 38 cities in 22 states attended the 2014 Reengagement Plus convening. It doubled in size from last year!
  • This year’s reengagement census showed nearly 24,000 young people making initial contact with reengagement programs in the network, 11,500 students placed and 70 percent of those placed in programs completing or persisting for the full school year.
  • The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act now includes a requirement to spend 75 percent of youth training funds on out-of-school youth, and for the first time names reengagement as an allowable activity.
  • Next steps include adopting and pursuing a goal of spreading reengagement programs to every city and town in the nation – particularly pushing reengagement ahead in the Southwest and Southeast, where activity is currently limited. Supporting and strengthening statewide reengagement networks, such as those forming in Washington and Massachusetts is also a priority.

Read the Opening Remarks in their entirety…

Andrew Moore
About the Author:
Andrew Moore is a Senior Fellow in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families.  Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore. Learn more about 2014 Reengagement Plus on Twitter by searching the hashtag #ReengagePDX14.

Eight Ways Cities and Stakeholders are Encouraging Youth Employment

As the economic recovery continues at a modest pace, young people remain one of the last groups to benefit from slowly expanding job opportunities.

102343030Young people attend a job fair in Chicago. Getty images.

Statistics show that only one-third of U.S. teens work regular jobs, a level half that of 30 years ago and the lowest percentage recorded since recordkeeping began after World War II.

In the face of this trend, mayors and their business and workforce development partners continue to innovate at the local level. Despite continuing economic woes, there are many promising practices being implemented in cities, such as:

  • Philadelphia has enlisted a nonprofit intermediary organization to manage jobs programs and to blend and braid financial resources from a variety of sources.
  • Dubuque, Reno, and Omaha have partnered with local school districts and others to establish dropout reengagement centers. to ensure that young people have basic educational credentials as they enter the workforce.
  • With the support of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Board, Providence, R.I., and several other pilot sites have built financial literacy into job programs by educating young workers on how to manage their new income and save for their future.
  • Baltimore provides a one-stop, youth friendly point of access for referrals and training.
  • Cities across California are blending work and internship experience into secondary school designs.

Policymakers and funders are increasingly engaged in focused solution-seeking around youth employment. Three recent events demonstrate this renewed focus:

  • GenJoblessThe recent Generation Jobless conference sponsored by International House in New York City underscored the global nature of the youth employment challenge. Speakers including youth, representatives of cities and businesses, and journalists such as Fareed Zakaria outlined the causes and consequences of youth unemployment, and offered a number of possible responses.
  • The second annual gathering of teams from 21 Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund sites in the cold, clear air of Aspen, Colo. fostered a lively conversation about prospective roles of major employers in hiring youth. Check out the storify of the convening.
  • The Enough is Known for Action conference arranged by the Heller School-Center for Youth and Communities and co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor featured a call-to-action, problem-solving format as well as testimony about recent progress in multiple cities.

Andrew Moore
About the Author:
Andrew Moore is a Senior Fellow in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families.  Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.

Reno Tackles Reengagement

Reno, Nev., joins the growing number of cities across the country that are using reengagement centers to address the needs of young people who have left high school.

Washoe County Reengagement Center Photo credit: Washoe County School District

“Two staff members of the Reengagement Center provided my only support. Otherwise I was alone. Because of them, I’m graduating in June 2015 with my class.” These sad yet inspiring words came from Tara Ebbs, a beneficiary of one of the Washoe County, Nevada Reengagement Centers in Reno who is now enrolled at Washoe Innovations High School.

Blog EMILY 10-3-14-03Tara and her classmate Jose Funes – who says he wants to graduate to set an example for his younger brothers – offered soul-stirring talks at a recent meeting among some 20 Reno-area community partners. With the students’ words ringing in their ears, the partners helped Reengagement Center staff develop a sustainability strategy for the initiative launched four years ago under a federal High School Graduation Initiative (HSGI) grant.

Washoe County is among the growing number of sites in the NLC Reengagement Network working to address the particular needs of young people who leave school. Last year’s graduating cohort saw 608 students leave anytime during high school, and the district recorded more than 700 students leaving during the 2013-14 academic year. With these numbers in mind, Washoe County is embarking on efforts to offer re-tooled and better alternative high school settings, including a Big Picture Learning-model school and schools-within-schools at each of the local campuses.

In their first three full years of operation, with four to six operating sites and a staff of as many as seven, the Washoe Reengagement Centers have reconnected about one-third of the pool of students in the sprawling county who left school recently.

An impressive 74 percent of the students re-enrolled through the Centers have “stuck it out” in school for at least the balance of the school year, placing Washoe County on par with the national “stick rate” for reengagement centers. Largely returning to alternative settings, about 20 percent of the re-enrolled students immediately began earning credits at a rate similar to that of traditional high schools students.

In a possibly unique staffing configuration and operating focus for reengagement, three Reengagement Specialists hold primary responsibility for outreach to former students identified as having left school. Three Family Advocates in turn provide case management services to re-enrolling students and their families, in an effort to remove a wide range of barriers students may face and ensure stronger parental/guardian involvement.

Strategic options that Reno reengagement partners will explore – as in other cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago – include a higher-profile role for city government and other county government agencies, stepped-up or more formalized partnerships with nonprofit service providers with expertise serving the older teen population, and a substantially changed and rebalanced mix of funding sources. The community will also focus on how to keep one or more reengagement hubs going.

Look forward to hearing more from Washoe County as it plots its sustainability strategy – and from more success stories such as Tara and Jose.

Andrew MooreAbout the Author: Andrew Moore is a Senior Fellow in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.

Highlighting Advances in City Policy for Disconnected Youth

The annual member’s forum of the National Youth Employment Coalition serves as a hothouse of ideas for advancing young people through work and education, in the face of the ongoing youth jobs deficit and dropout crisis.

This year, three cities’ approaches to better policy and practice for disconnected youth stand out for their breadth and inventiveness. After ten years of policy attention to disconnected youth, perhaps this marks the beginning of a solid wave of broad citywide stage-setting and improved resource allocation and alignment. Which city will “catch the wave” next?

  • In San Diego, the regional Workforce Partnership has incorporated a focus on dropout reengagement in its current request for proposals for youth case management services funded under the Workforce Investment Act. As with the Los Angeles reengagement network of 16 reengagement centers, San Diego’s approach has a high potential for sustainability and for links to jobs, because it blends federal workforce funds with ongoing activities of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). For a target group of “youth who are at-severe risk of dropout or who have dropped out of school…the funded proposer will partner with SDUSD to expand their dropout recovery efforts and enhance supports provided to those students who are at severe risk of dropout due to chronic absences, credit deficiency, low reading and math skills and English language proficiency.”
  • In San Francisco, Mayor Edwin Lee commissioned the Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families led a 16-month effort to update the city’s policy framework and objectives for Transition-Age Youth (TAY). In a process thoroughly informed by youth voices and vetted by numerous other participating city agencies, the document sets out baseline conditions and establishes measurable objectives for improving transitions for the 8,000 transition-age youth in need of additional supports in the city. An appendix offers a glance back at the path-breaking 2007 recommendations of the Mayor’s Transitional Youth Task Force (one-third of whom are youth) and a sample letter from the mayor that other cities could readily adapt to launch the policy development process among city agencies.
  • In Boston, now undergoing its first mayoral transition in 20 years, advocates and service providers from three coalitions focused on disconnected/opportunity youth came together to develop recommendations for the incoming Walsh Administration.   The brief document highlights ways the new mayor can lead to connect the city’s 12,000 youth and young adults who are not progressing in school and who are not employed. Nontraditional yet plausible roles for Mayor Martin J. Walsh include leading on development of postsecondary and career pathways, expanding alternative education options and supports, and appointing a school superintendent who will maintain a focus on recovering out-of-school youth. Expanding employment options for high school students and disconnected youth makes the short list as well.

Andrew Moore
About the Author: Andrew Moore is a Senior Fellow in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.  Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.

Dropout Reengagement Extends Reach in 2013, Pursues New Heights in 2014

At its second national meeting in 2012, the NLC Dropout Reengagement Network set out a number of ambitious goals for itself. These included extending the outreach of the Network further; creating a sense of urgency around the need for reengagement; continuing peer learning; informing federal policy; providing students a voice; and demonstrating impact through narrative and numbers. One year has passed, and the Network can point to accomplishments on all these fronts! But before I dive into that good news, consider this vignette from Boston – the city that hosted our first Network convening two short years ago.

April Mae Smith dropped out of Madison High School in May, 2012. April briefly enrolled in the Re-Engagement Center (REC) to earn enough credits to become a senior that fall. But her heart wasn’t in it and she quickly dropped out, moved to Rhode Island to live with her boyfriend, started doing drugs, became pregnant and ended up homeless. Fortunately this interlude was relatively brief, and by fall 2012, April was looking for a way to turn things around so she could provide a better life for herself and her child. “I decided I wanted to graduate before my son was born,” says April, now 19. When April returned to school, she again turned to the REC. She delivered her son this June and about the same time, earned her diploma from the Boston Adult Technical Academy. Now she is enrolling in nursing school with assistance from REC staff. She credits the program with helping her get back on track. “The REC staff always told me if I needed help, to just ask,” April says. “I learned a lot more there than what I would have learned in the classroom. When I graduated, I was one of the top students.”

With that shining story of personal progress in mind, the Network’s 2013 convening in Los Angeles now opens — extending participation and purpose beyond reengagement to and through college, thanks to co-sponsoring partnerships with the National Youth Employment Coalition (NYEC) and Zero Dropouts. Once again, the number of self-financed participants in the convening has doubled, such that what was a Network is now on the verge of becoming a movement.

This is not just a year of accomplishments; this is a year of clarifying nationwide results and impact. Network members reached agreement around a few common measures, and voluntarily submitted data compiled by NLC interns and Matt Mendoza of the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC). We learned that centers in 14 cities made initial outreach to more than half of those on dropout lists.  More than 10,000 young people received referrals to education options from a reengagement center or program, and for 6,000 of those youth, centers received confirmation of enrollment. Of those enrolled, 73 percent completed a full additional year of school or graduated.

In addition to recruiting the national meeting co-sponsors, we looked for strategic outreach and leveraging opportunities. This led to reengagement discussions at high policy levels in the U.S. Department of Education and with members of the rapidly growing Gateway to College National Network. Education Week chose reengagement as the topic for a special pull-out section, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation provided just-in-time support for publication of the new NLC Municipal Action Guide on reengagement, released this week and already drawing media interest.

The Network continues to grow from the ground up, thanks in large part to ample practice sharing. Chicago launched three reengagement centers. Washington State’s Open Doors initiative grew from 3 to 22 programs. Washington, DC commissioned a feasibility study, and plans to launch its center in April, 2014. The California Assembly formed a Select Committee on Addressing Out of School, Unemployed Youth, and in Congress, Rep. Jared Polis’ office completed drafting of the first ever federal reengagement bill – suitable to serve as an amendment to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

As the Network and new partners gather in Los Angeles, opportunities abound to discuss where to go next. One focus area to carry over from last year and build upon: propelling former dropouts forward into options to gain postsecondary credentials. A perennial issue involves using the demand for reengagement to drive creation of many more high quality school completion options. And the “new GED” and GED alternatives waiting around the corner in 2014 surely pose challenges for the broader “ecosystem” of alternative education.

Yet the past three years show that this is a Network that constantly reaches for new heights. So with those heights in mind, I look forward to pursuing these questions:

• What shall the Network do to advance the federal policy ideas built into the draft Polis legislation?

• What other states could emulate Washington and spread reengagement programs via state policy and local determination? (Massachusetts, Oregon, California – are you in the house?)

• What city or district – or coalition of districts – in partnership with Community-Based Organizations, will reprogram resources to expand alternative schools rapidly?

• Who will follow Los Angeles’ inspiration with the Workforce Incentive Fund, to identify and use a federal funding source to expand reengagement locally?

• How will we sustain the census of reengagement programs, and continue to add precision to our counting of results?

* Are the more experienced members of the Network ready for an external evaluation of their effectiveness and impact?

• How will the 21 cities involved in the high-profile Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund tackle the need for reengagement capacity?

• What other philanthropies will join the CS Mott and Annie E. Casey Foundations to lend their support to advance reengagement nationwide?

Andrew Moore
About the Author: Andrew Moore is a Senior Fellow in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families.  Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.

Getting to One Million – and Beyond

Last week’s initial meeting of the Opportunity Youth Network, a group of funders, corporations, the National Council of Young Leaders, and national organizations including NLC, provided an opportunity to confront a pressing national challenge:  how to reconnect one million of  the nation’s seven million “opportunity youth” with education and employment over the next two years.  Opportunity youth, which NLC has typically referred to as disconnected youth, constitute those young adults ages 16-24 who are out of school and out of work.

When thinking about “getting to one million,” the math may seem daunting.  How can national, regional, and local efforts add up to one million in the span of two years when at present national program networks such as youth corps, YouthBuild, and Job Corps – all built up over three-plus decades — likely reconnect at most 100,000 youth and young adults per year. We’re talking about an order-of-magnitude shift here.

  • The first 100,000 youth – a 10 percent down payment on the goal — could reconnect through the momentum provided by plans to launch a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, a partnership initiative propelled by the secretaries of the Departments of Interior and Agriculture as well as leadership of the EPA and other federal agencies that support conservation and historic preservation.
  • The 20 cities that are part of the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund could take collective responsibility for reconnecting another 100,000 youth over the next two years.
  • Corporate partners involved with the Opportunity Youth Network, along with partners such as mayors, workforce boards, service corps, and community action agencies could target their resources to providing initial employment experiences for 50,000 – 100,000 youth per year.
  • A consortium of well-endowed universities could follow the inspiration of Tulane University President Scott Cowen to develop work and education pathways, perhaps in tandem with local community colleges, for another 50,000 youth.

With these four proposals, we’re at 300,000 – 350,000, well over the 25 percent mark.  But none of the above will be possible without a substantial re-allocation of resources. Now seeking ideas from colleagues and young people nationwide to keep the numbers aggregating to one million…or more. Provide your ideas in the comments section or email me at moore@nlc.org.

P.S. Behind the math rests the parallel challenge of defining “reconnection” in a way that is meaningful, rigorous, and achievable.  It’s not easy for anyone to sustain permanent labor market connections these days, much less young people just starting out.  So perhaps it will be sufficient to “count” paid work experiences lasting at least three to six months as evidence of reconnection.

Similarly, we need an education measurement, perhaps one that captures finishing a high school level credential or taking the first steps toward a postsecondary credential.  To smooth over the inevitable bumps of early adulthood, could reconnection also involve a new legion of mentors, trained to develop and sustain one-on-one supportive relationships?  I await the discussion, eagerly.

Andrew Moore

About the Author: Andrew Moore is a Senior Fellow in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families.  Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.

Dropout Reengagement Surges in Washington State

With a May 20 statewide meeting among representatives of 88 school districts, community colleges, community-based organization partners, and the City of Seattle, Washington State surged into new prominence in the national dropout reengagement field. In one way, Washington stands in a place of its own, since the passage of Washington House Bill 1418 and the establishment of the Open Doors Youth Reengagement system in state policy.

In a manner similar to the presence of multiple city- and district-wide reengagement programs in Colorado and New Jersey, Open Doors launched its first three local programs in 2012-13, and each is generating successes for local youth and lessons for other aspiring programs. May 20 meeting attendees gleaned those lessons and met in teams to consider the opportunity to join the statewide program network.

Notably, and somewhat distinct from dropout reengagement approaches in other states, Washington State’s Open Doors programs combine the dropout outreach and assessment functions with alternative education on site.  Open Doors programs must offer academic instruction, case management, counseling, resource and referral services, and the opportunity to enroll in college courses tuition-free if the program provider is a college.  Sue Furth, program coordinator, noted that financial motivation can match the drive for youth development: a state cost study found $250 million savings to public coffers, per 600 reengaged former dropouts.  With more than 30,000 students coded as dropped out over the past three years, statewide, the total savings from effective, scaled-up reengagement could become huge.

The three initial Open Doors Reengagement Programs differ in their sponsorship, consistent with the policy framework, which allows school districts to enter into interlocal agreements with a qualifying organization.

  • GRAVITY High School operated by Education Service District 113 represents a consortium model involving 25 school districts and more than 220 students in a large region southwest of Seattle.
  • The Kent School District operates iGRAD in partnership with Green River Community College, in the South Puget Sound area.  iGRAD offers three high school diploma options — students can earn a diploma from the Kent district, the state, or a GED — at its convenient location in a shopping mall.  Green River CC professors teach GED courses four days per week.  iGRAD offers classes in three different segments during the day — morning, afternoon, and evening, and also offers classes online.  Currently iGRAD serves 500 students, plans call for the program to double in size soon.
  • The Gateway to College program at Lake Washington Institute of Technology also qualified as one of the first three Open Doors programs, the only one directly operated by a technical college.  The Institute has developed interlocal agreements with 23 school districts to operate as what Washington State calls an accredited special purpose high school. Some 200 on-track students may enroll in the Institute directly.  Another 200 start in Gateway to College.  Regardless, students experience hands-on technical training, and dual credit earning opportunities. Gateway students receive more intensive case management. Students may earn one of three types of diplomas – a regular high school diploma, an adult high school diploma, or a diploma simultaneous with an Associate’s Degree (via Washington HB 1758).  To date, the Institute is seeing 60% fall-to-fall persistence.

The first three programs – which Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction hopes will soon be joined by others — also exemplify a comment that state superintendent Randy Dorn made at the meeting.  Noting that the statewide extended graduation rate (4-, 5-, and 6-year graduations) is 80%, “the next 5% will cost more, and will require a relationship.”