Next Generation Youth Policy Agenda

October 17, 2012

Bob Rath, Kathryn Rock and Ashley Laferriere from Our Piece of the Pie have put together the beginning of a next generation policy agenda for over-age, under-credited students. In the report Helping Over‐Age, Under‐Credited Youth Succeed: Making the Case for Innovative Education Strategies, the authors advance a set of solutions that respond to and build on the extraordinary opportunities in next generation learning and the extraordinary changes in policy in which we are expecting all schools, including alternative education, to prepare students for college:

 According to the report, recuperative education requires:

Contract and Charter Schools - These schools offer some of the best environments to foster innovation, due to flexible settings where education can be specifically geared towards the needs of particular students. Both types of schools have shown impressive results in engaging “at-risk” students across the nation.

Parent Engagement - Increasing parent involvement has been shown to be instrumental in student success. This technique is often employed in charter schools, meeting with great results.

Competency-Based Learning - This strategy allows students to progress upon mastery of a particular subject area, rather than when they complete a classroom time requirement. This method keeps students engaged by working on course material that is appropriately challenging and ensures that students fully grasp a concept before moving forward.

Blended and Extended Learning - Blended learning integrates technology and traditional classroom instruction to create a more personalized learning experience. In particular, technology-based educational programs can be a useful recuperative tool for OU youth in alternative settings. This technique is often paired with extended learning, since technology can be used away from school
and at any time of the day. Extended learning provides students with additional instruction time and can be especially beneficial for low-income youth.

The authors clearly state the role for state policy:

Adequate Funding While alternative programs and public schools of choice are typically the best place for struggling students to land, they are also most often grossly under-funded. These programs, which offer the innovative techniques and additional supports that OU youth need, must be equitably funded in order to provide the appropriate resources. Further, OU youth have additional needs which require more funding, much like special education or ELL students. A recuperative weight should be provided, to ensure that they receive the appropriate supports.

Compulsory Attendance Age Many struggling students simply see a GED as an easier option that a high school diploma, and drop out. However, many students end up dropping out of GED programs as well, relegating them to the myriad of issues that face a high school dropout. States must give students a reason to, instead, transfer to an alternative program. One approach to achieve this is to ensure that students must remain enrolled in school until the age of 18.

Post-Secondary Readiness Getting students through high school is only half of the battle; we must also prepare them for success in college and career. Schools must offer the appropriate focused preparation for post-secondary success, such as workforce development courses, which come with their own benefits for students, even while they are in high school.

Early Warning Data System Student-level data systems allow states to track each student’s individual progress, catching them and offering appropriate supports before they fall behind. This strategy will be crucial, long-term, to eliminating the future population of OU youth.

This is a great start to a dynamic policy agenda. In thinking about a next generation policy agenda for youth, we need to create guiding principles for school accountability so that the incentives are aligned to serve our must vulnerable students; we need clear federal and state policy that holds districts responsible for providing adequate schools and programs for multiple pathways; and, we need to create a common sense framework that recognizes that it is college and career, school and work, rather than either/or or sequential.

We need to be writing our transition memo for the next President and our next set of Governors.

This blog was originally posted on Connected by 25, the blog of the Youth Transition Funders Group. It is reprinted here with permission.