Learning Tour: Midwestern Strategies for Reengaging Off-Track Youth

In 2014, Raise DC was awarded a grant from Lumina Foundation to participate in the Community Partnership for Attainment, a multi-year initiative designed to increase higher education attainment in communities across the country. Lumina’s community engagement work relies on cross-sector, collaborative efforts to increase the number of Americans with high-quality degrees or credentials nationwide.

Raise DC convened its local Community Partnership for Postsecondary Attainment (CPPA) in early 2015. Comprise of a network of seven innovative programs and schools, five postsecondary institutions, and a technical team from FHI 360, CPPA focuses on youth (ages 16-24) who have not succeeded in a traditional school setting and seeks to significantly improve college preparation, transition, enrollment, and completion. As a part of this work, CPPA fortifies relationships between schools and the providers that offer non-traditional pathways to graduation and postsecondary success for previously disengaged students.

Committed to fostering continuous improvement amongst partners--and as a grantee of Raise DC’s Learning Tours opportunity—CPPA members attended the National League of Cities’ Reengagement Plus conference in Dubuque, Iowa, earlier this year. The annual convening focuses on students who have fallen off track and left school before graduating. Dubuque, a leader in the reengagement landscape, provides learning opportunities for practitioners from cities across the country to implement best practices in their communities. CPPA team members (including representatives from The Next Step Public Charter School, Academy of Hope Public Charter School, Latin American Youth Center, So Others Might Eat – Center for Employment Training, and FHI 360) attended the conference to integrate new ideas into their work in the District.

Conference sessions included: “Leveraging Community Colleges as Full Partners for Reengagement”, “Meaningful Metrics at the School Level: Developing and Collecting Data that Matters”, and “Rules of Reengagement: Building Relationships with At-Risk Youth.”

Patrice Williams, CPPA Member & Educational Consultant at FHI 360, shares what she learned from Reengagement Plus:

CPPA members attended the Reengagement Plus conference with the intent to network and learn what colleagues across the nation are doing to support disconnected youth in achieving academic success. The host city is home to Re-engage Dubuque, a partnership between the Dubuque Community School District, Northeast Iowa Community College, and Project HOPE, a citywide initiative designed to dissolve disparity and ensure equity in employment and economic opportunities. Re-engage Dubuque aims to connect students who have recently dropped out of school to alternative educational options and postsecondary opportunities. Dubuque, a small Midwestern city with approximately 60,000 residents and a history of generational poverty, still boasts an unemployment rate below 5% and a 91% percent graduation rate.

One may wonder what kind of correlation Dubuque would have with a major city like Washington, DC. Despite the differences in size and obvious distinctions between the District and an Iowa town, CPPA members took note of the site’s successful model and how it could translate to their home organizations in DC. Dubuque stands out because of its strong community support, local collaborations, and “whatever-it-takes” attitude. The core of the program consists of reengagement coaches who physically meet youth where they are and work to remove the barriers that kept them from graduating in the first place, giving students a strong shot at a second chance. From its inception, Re-engage Dubuque formed a partnership with the local community college and public school system, as well as garnered full mayoral support from the city. In addition to what CPPA members learned about Dubuque’s impressive model, the conference allowed them to connect with other partners, such as DC’s own ReEngagement Center and Boston’s Private Industry Council (PIC), who are also doing similar revolutionary work in supporting disconnected youth.

Back at home, CPPA members are continuing their work to create a strong network across participating provider sites to support District youth. Outside of the seven community based organizations, CPPA has also added three DC area community colleges as regular members to the working group. One of the biggest takeaways from our visit to Dubuque was how integral the partnerships among community-based organizations, community colleges, and the state were to the success of young students. Including higher education institutions at the CPPA table and sharing common goals has made it possible to implement necessary initiatives such as dual enrollment programs and to explore strategies and practices that lead to improved postsecondary readiness, transition, and attainment in the District.

 

Learning Tour: Maya Angelou's Young Adult Learning Center learns from the I-BEST in Seattle (pt. 2)

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As a part of Raise DC’s Learning Tour opportunity, a team from Maya Angelou’s Young Adult Learning Center (YALC) visited Seattle to learn about Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education & Skills Training (I-BEST) program. YALC members sought to gather promising practices and further their knowledge of postsecondary and career options to bring back to their own students in the District.  

Jenny Nauss, YALC Instructional Manager, shares her experience from the YALC Learning Tour:

As the YALC expands its work-learn model in 2016-2017, we are looking at other sites from which we can draw ideas for programmatic structure and best practices for classroom teaching. Raise DC provided us the opportunity to visit Seattle Central College (SCC) and Renton Technical College (RTC), both champions of the Washington State I-BEST model, which provides academic and workforce pathways for students who might otherwise not succeed.

At Seattle Central College, we had the opportunity to observe an academic I-BEST class, “Change Agents: Language, Identity, and Transformation,” which was co-taught by two instructors, a key component of all I-BEST classes. The co-teaching model allows content experts to collaborate with Adult Basic Education (ABE) or English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) teachers, who provide additional support to the students. In every meeting we attended, practitioners spoke to the importance of the co-teaching model, as well as the need to provide high-quality professional development to teachers.

At Renton Technical College, we observed a medical assistant class in which two teachers took turns reviewing key terms with students who were preparing for a test. Both campuses offer I-BEST students an additional support class to augment their content classes. In this support class, the I-BEST instructor might pre-teach vocabulary and key concepts, reinforce writing skills, explain the homework, or facilitate a writing workshop. Then the same instructor co-teaches the content class, whether it is in early childhood education (at both SCC & RTC), medical assistant, nursing assistant, automotive, or welding courses (at RTC)—providing additional support in a variety of ways. The subject matter taught in support classes is reiterated in the content classes, blending basic education skills with real-life career competencies taught by instructors specific to the field.

Directors, teachers, and students spoke highly of the I-BEST model, citing benefits from diverse student groupings and extra instructor support. According to SCC & RTC program directors, I-BEST students are less likely to drop out of school, possibly due to the extra support from having a second teacher and support class, as well as the sense of community that develops in each cohort.

One example of the benefit of diverse experiences lies in SCC’s early childhood education program, which has a high Somalian immigrant student population. Many of these students are parents and provide in-home daycare services, so they offer a wealth of child-rearing experience and anecdotes about running a home business that others in the class benefit from hearing.

We can take many of these best practices back to our program, specifically in bolstering our
co-teaching model and using our new ABE Reading program as an opportunity to both teach reading skills, as well as pre-teach concepts the students will learn in their GED classes to build students’ schema and build comprehension. Furthermore, as we expand our work-learn program and prepare for individuals in the workforce to lead classroom instruction who may not have training in pedagogy, we can bring aspects of the I-BEST co-teaching model to our own program to ensure that teachers, as well as students, succeed.

 

Learning Tour: Maya Angelou's Young Adult Learning Center learns from the I-BEST in Seattle (pt. 1)

Maya Angelou’s Young Adult Learning Center (YALC), a grantee of the Raise DC Learning Tours, provides academic and career development services to youth & young adults (ages 17-24) in the District. With programming modeled for students disconnected from school (and often formerly incarcerated), the YALC assists older, under-credited youth, in attaining a GED or workforce certification, and connecting to higher education and workforce opportunities. As Maya Angelou’s YALC continues to serve as a “gateway to life success” for DC students, instructors at the YALC hope to fortify its work-learn model and improve upon current services available.

As a part of the Raise DC Learning Tours opportunity, members of the YALC visited two colleges in Washington State recognized for supporting non-traditional students: Seattle Central College and Renton Technical College. The YALC sought to better understand Washington State's I-BEST model, or Integrated Basic Education & Skills Training program, which strives to increase the number of students with postsecondary credentials and expedite their journey to living-wage careers. I-BEST's unique team-teaching instruction contextualizes basic literacy and math skills within job-training classes, preparing students to “learn by doing” as they work toward a degree. In team-taught classes, one instructor, often an industry professional, introduces content related to a career competency, such as automotive repair. Meanwhile, a second instructor supplements the lesson with the basic math or vocabulary skills necessary to master the content (See below for an example).

Source: Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, https://www.sbctc.edu/colleges-staff/programs-services/i-best/team-teaching-models.aspx

Source: Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges,

https://www.sbctc.edu/colleges-staff/programs-services/i-best/team-teaching-models.aspx

A pilot school for the I-BEST initiative, Renton Technical College (RTC), is a leader in the "integrated learning" practice. Offerings have expanded to medical and nursing assistant certifications, early childhood career options, automotive repair, construction trades preparation, and welding. RTC’s anesthesia-tech program was recently highlighted in The Seattle Times for the importance of pairing workforce skills and basic classroom competencies. In this program, students are taught specific medical procedures from a professional-technical instructor, while a complementary basic skills teacher helps students learn relevant formulas and terminology.

Like RTC, Seattle Central College (SCC) also offers an early childhood education program as a part of a Child and Family Studies certification. With courses ranging from “Health, Safety, and Nutrition” to specializations in infant/toddler care, SCC's flexible course offerings (with evening class options) cater to students’ schedules. SCC also offers a Central Supply Technician program for those interested in careers in the healthcare sector, teaching a variety of necessary skills, such as infection control and medical instrumentation assembly.

Check back on the blog later this week for reflections from YALC Instructional Manager Jenny Nauss on the group’s I-BEST Learning Tour.

Learning Tour: PrepNext commits to continuous improvement

As a recipient of Raise DC’s Learning Tour funds, members of DC Prep’s PrepNext program visited two nationally recognized college access programs in St. Louis, Missouri—inspireSTL and College Bound—to learn how to improve their own practices. PrepNext, housed within DC Prep’s cohort of public charter elementary and middle schools, supports students’ journeys to postsecondary attainment beginning in 8th grade.

PrepNext chose to visit St. Louis because of the community’s accomplishments in supporting youth from an early age on a clear path toward college and career readiness. Starting in 9th grade, College Bound provides wraparound services to students and families, guiding them along a four-step “To & Through” program into college and beyond. Similarly, inspireSTL places each of its students within high-performing college preparatory schools, where they are equipped with academic assistance and developed as leaders in their educational environments.

PrepNext Director James Kelly shares his insights from the Learning Tour:   

The PrepNext team during their visit to College Bound in St. Louis.

The PrepNext team during their visit to College Bound in St. Louis.

Our visit to St. Louis was a powerful moment for the PrepNext team.

In College Bound, we saw a program that has invested in its students with similar interventions and support, built on a core ethos that values relationships as the most transformational aspect of this work. The organization created a model programits college graduation rates rival those of high-income students in this community. This visit was particularly affirming because so many elements of our programs overlap. It was a reminder that we need to keep going forward with our model, while refining various aspects. The learnings College Bound shared with us give us direction in that refinementTheir team shared specific strategiessuch as motivational interviewingthat have helped them to delve deeper with their students. These learnings will guide us in our own ongoing professional development in the year ahead and in the continued evolution of our program model.

Visiting inspireSTL was a particularly exciting experience for me, as I co-founded inspireSTL in 2011 when I was still living and teaching in St. Louis. The other co-founder, Charli Cooksey, showed us how the program has evolved and where the organization has chosen to focus its limited resources. What was interesting was that inspireSTL expanded by moving backwardsthe staff decided to move the entry point to the program from 9th grade to 7th grade so that they could focus on high school readiness. We have much common ground in that respect, since the PrepNext team collaborates deeply with the middle school team at DC Prep. inspireSTL's work provides guidance to us in DC on how we can grow our own program going forward.

I have such gratitude to Raise DC for affording us this opportunity. It provided us with great affirmations of our work, gave us guidance on our next steps, and instilled in us greater urgency to continue to work through all of the challenging aspects of expanding college access for our students.

PrepNext is a member of Raise DC’s 9th Grade Counts and College, Credential, & Completion Change Networks. Check back on the Raise DC blog for more Learning Tour reflections.

Adding Tableau to the Raise DC data toolkit

An example of the type of data visualizations Raise DC will be able to create within Tableau. Source: Tableau.com

An example of the type of data visualizations Raise DC will be able to create within Tableau.

Source: Tableau.com

By Allison Hagaman, Data Manager

Always eager to find more effective ways to tell DC’s education stories through data, this summer I applied to—and was selected to participate in—a fellowship with StriveTogether and Tableau Foundation. Tableau is a software that allows users to easily create compelling data visualizations and interactive dashboards. Imagine graphs that distill complex concepts into simple visuals, or interactive maps that allow website users to disaggregate data on the spot. It’s like Excel, PowerPoint, and SquareSpace joined forces to create a data visualization superhero to solve our education problems, one data analysis at a time.

Raise DC is one of 15 partnerships from the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network that will participate in the yearlong fellowship. In addition to receiving a free license of Tableau and access to secure server space, we will spend the next year learning how to effectively use Tableau to visualize local data to advance our collective impact work. The 14 other fellows and I will meet in person a handful of times to receive training from Tableau professionals and to share best practices from across the country.

Our first meeting was held in October in Minneapolis, just prior to StriveTogether’s National Convening. We spent the afternoon sharing our current data visualizations with other communities, creating action plans for our Tableau usage, and learning about all of the benefits our communities will receive by engaging in this fellowship.

With data at the core of all that Raise DC does, using Tableau to visualize data will ensure that Change Network action plans are focused on our core indicators, will make data analysis accessible to even the most data-phobic individuals, and will create the culture of data use critical to this work. Tableau will also help communicate Raise DC’s story externally. Interactive maps will allow users to toggle through indicators and identify where there are gaps and bright spots in our city; dashboards will ensure that our Progress Report represents real-time data in a sustainable and useful fashion. With several members of Raise DC’s Change Networks engaging in data sharing, I plan to use Tableau to create personalized and easily digestible reports that schools and CBOs can use for continuous improvement.

With Tableau, Raise DC will be better equipped not only to effectively analyze and use data, but also to help local schools and partners in understanding data. Through more powerful visual analytics, DC will be better informed and, therefore, more able to improve outcomes for students. I look forward to sharing all that I learn with Raise DC’s key audiences.

Progress Report media coverage

Raise DC's Progress Report, released publicly Sept. 9, has garnered positive media attention and introduced a clear call to action to move forward--together--for DC's children and youth. Check out some of the press:

To check out Raise DC's Progress Report, visit the report page.

Announcing Raise DC's New Website

Raise DC is proud to serve as the District's citywide "cradle-to-career" partnership, leveraging cross-sector engagement to collectively drive better educational outcomes for our youth. With the strong support of key stakeholders from government, philanthropy, non-profits and the private sector we are focused on kindergarten readiness, school success, re-engaging youth who have become disconnected from school/work, college and credential completion and youth employment. 

Today, we launch our new website (www.raisedc.org) so all of you can stay more connected to our work. 
  
Our new website serves as the place to follow Raise DC's most up-to-date news, data, and projects. We welcome any feedback or questions (directed at info@raisedc.org) that you may have after perusing the site. We’re excited to share this tool with you, excited about the outcomes we're furthering for youth and looking forward to having all of you become more involved.  Take a look at the website today, visit it often and follow us on twitter @Raise_DC!