Archive for the ‘Digging Deeper’ Category

Digging Deeper: What’s the real value of work-based learning?

Posted by

Getting out of the classroom and onto a jobsite isn’t just a field trip. Studies show it can open college and career doors for students after high school, especially for low-income students.

National research indicates that by 2020, around 65 percent of the family-sustaining jobs in Delaware will require at least some education beyond high school. Today, less than 60 percent of our 25-year-olds have that level of training.  

Today in Delaware, state-model career pathways are opening doors for more students than ever. Thousands of high schoolers are earning early college credits. And thanks to a $3.25 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies, even more pathways and  opportunities are coming.   

Technical skills are great (and essential). But as anyone who’s ever worked in a professional setting can tell you—the so-called “soft skills” or employability skills are just as important.  

That’s why Delaware is investing part of the grant money into the state’s first ever work-based learning course, an elective class for high schoolers that teaches things like communication, teamwork, and even dressing professionally—the sorts of skills that can be applied across industries and workplace settings. The class also comes with opportunities for  internships with Delaware employers. 

So how important are the soft skills? Opinions differ, but research from America Achieves shows that employers think they’re essential—and hard to find—in new hires.  

So, what exactly is work-based learning?  

Work-based learning can span from middle to high school. Career awareness begins in the early years and evolves into more clearly defined paths toward career goals, targeted curriculum, and, eventually, firsthand experiences like job shadowing or career coaching. During high school, students immerse themselves into a career area of their choice through internship or apprenticeship, among other options. 

Work-based learning (WBL) offers students a chance to make more informed choices about careers before they get to college. Here’s why that matters: 

It increases the chance of students getting education after high school.

A seven-year study of one California work-based learning program revealed that students who completed a WBL program entered college at double the rate of non-participating students.  

It can increase the chances of low-income students accessing career prep.

One national study found disproportionately higher employment rates among teens from families that earn over $120,000 compared to youth from households where income is below  $40,000. 

Work-based learning provides students with the skills and competencies they need to one day become a computer engineer, or a registered nurse, for example. But it also helps build connections between K-12 schools, colleges, and local industries. And employers can often benefit from bringing young people’s energy, tech savvy, creativity, and innovative ideas to the table. 

Who’s doing it? 

Colorado began its work-based learning incubator in 2017, in collaboration with the Departments of Education and Labor, local colleges, and the Colorado Workforce Development Council. Tennessee’s work-based learning initiative uses the course as an option to fulfill high school graduation requirements.  

National organizations such as YearUp (which recently opened a  Wilmington branch), and local outfits like YouthForce NOLA in New Orleans use work-based learning models to close opportunity gaps for low-income students and young adults by offering career skills development. 

WBL in Delaware  

Delaware has been lauded as a national model for its postsecondary prep efforts, having successfully launched a career pathways system where students can access  credit-bearing career prep coursework.  

This fall, we’ll see the launch of the new Healthcare Industry Council. Industry Councils are a network and platform that allows employers to inform the development of the work-based learning course, keep the broader industry, students, educators and the community abreast of changing industry trends, and gather industry feedback on the development of work-based learning and engagement with high schools.  

A new career pathway dedicated to Patient Care also launched this fall, and by  next spring, Delaware will kick-off its first work-based learning course in some high schools.  

The Office of Work-based Learning (OWBL), based in Delaware Technical Community College, will serve as Delaware’s intermediary between schools and employers, providing opportunities for engagement and interaction. OWBL facilitates employers connecting with schools through activities like classroom visits, job fairs, and internships, and will facilitate engagement between employers and schools through toolkits and similar resources.  

Work-based learning is made for students, but employers are an essential piece of the puzzle. 

Research and student outcomes show that work-based learning is a necessity for students and employers alike. Both groups benefit when classroom content is relevant and up-to-date with the latest industry trends.  And when employers plug directly into schools, they can help dictate exactly which skills (both technical and soft)  their future employees need.  = 

Want to learn more? Educators, advocates, and employers should register for the 11th Annual Vision Coalition and University of Delaware Conference, on October 11th. Hear from diverse Delaware voices —including DelTech’s Paul Morris and Christiana Care’s Dana Beckton on some amazing collaborations from the world of work-based learning.

Digging Deeper: Options Slim for Student Mental Health Supports

Posted by

 

As young people in Delaware report more and more signs of mental health issues, their options for dedicated help and support remain slim.

 

Rodel and a team of researchers just conducted a statewide landscape analysis of social and emotional learning (SEL) in Delaware. The report highlights promising practices and areas for potential growth as state leaders and educators look to serve all Delaware students in a more holistic way, with greater emphasis on their mental and emotional wellbeing to ensure they grow into  healthy, productive, citizens.

 

One area that emerged as an area for continued development was around collaboration between education and other sectors that serve students and families. The report states, “Students are typically in school for six to eight hours a day and spend the remainder of their time at home or in their communities. Schools operate within a broad system of supports that are part of students’ lives, and connecting those supports can magnify their collective impact. Delaware educators crave opportunities to collaborate with their peers, district and school leaders, and SEL partners.”

 

A clear area for improvement: supporting students’ mental health needs.

 

The need is particularly acute for students with severe mental health needs, who often require specialized care. Delaware has only one mental health facility statewide—MeadowWood—that admits adolescents for residential treatment. And whenever the facility is at capacity, new patients need to find another provider for their treatment, meaning families occasionally must make the difficult choice to send their child out-of-state for treatment.

 

This type of decision makes a stressful situation even more challenging for families, students, and educators. If a family chooses to keep their student at home rather than send him or her out-of-state, local schools may not be prepared to provide the specialized care that the student needs and deserves. As one Delaware district leader told researchers, “The concern is what happens to the students who exceed the parameters of what our programs can provide to them. We’ve lost out by not having day treatment centers. It’s analogous to a serious physical issue.”

 

Students who don’t feel safe at school often experience challenges with attendance, academics and mental health. Safe, supportive school environments, where students have positive relationships with peers and adults and feel a true sense of belonging, strengthen student engagement.

 

In Delaware around 85 percent of elementary school students report feeling happy at school, while only 61 percent of high schoolers did, according to the Delaware School Climate Survey. Meanwhile, 23 percent of Delaware children have experienced two or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACEs) that include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect, substance misuse or violence in the household, parental divorce, among others.

But these statistics are counterbalanced by promising emerging evidence that indicates students with stronger SEL skills are more likely to have positive long-term life outcomes, including staying out of jail, avoiding substance abuse, and having stronger mental health.

 

So, how can Delaware ensure that all our kids have access to the supports they need to develop their SEL skills? There are many partners in Delaware already working to support this work, but one finding of our research study found that addressing these issues will require deeper collaboration between schools and other community partners. Thankfully, there are some strong examples of school and community partnership underway in Delaware.

 

Some social service and healthcare partnerships provide services to students school campuses. The Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children (deaeyc) is currently implementing a grant from the Kellogg Foundation to place Family Service Advocates in early learning centers to connect families to social services and other community assets. The Compassionate Schools Learning Collaborative has trained over 2,000 Delaware educators on SEL and trauma-informed care. Children and Families First of Delaware partners with social services and healthcare to address student needs on school campuses. Freire Charter School and Christiana Care have partnered to provide family therapy services to students and families as needed, at no cost to families. There also are several initiatives underway in cities and states nationwide where rich, strategic partnerships between schools and community organizations support students and families with necessary social service and healthcare, which could point to possible next steps for Delaware. For example:

 

  • The Partnership for Resilience, a collaborative of education and healthcare partners in Illinois, aims to integrate health, education, and community partners to support the whole child. They build sustainable community partnerships; create resources, trainings, and education programs; and advocate for research-based policies that further their mission.
  • Every student in kindergarten through eighth grade in Salem, Massachusetts has an individual success plan, which weaves in-school and out-of-school strategies to support the needs and goals of each student.
  • A partnership between DC Prep and Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. has set up a mental health center directly within two schools, bringing a multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals to provide a wide range of services.

 

These examples and promising practices from across Delaware and the country offer insights into how to best serve students and families and how our community partners and schools can continue to work together.

Digging Deeper: When the School-to-Prison Pipeline Starts in Preschool

Posted by

 

Last month, the Office of Civil Rights released federal data that re-affirmed disproportionate discipline outcomes for public schools students by race, gender, and disability status. For many, this data confirms a need to address the school-to-prison pipeline—that is, the policies and practices that push historically underserved students (primarily students of color and students with disabilities) out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system.

 

While we know that students of color, boys, and students with disabilities are more likely than other student groups to be arrested, suspended, and/or expelled—we don’t often acknowledge how early disproportionate discipline starts. Some students experience suspension or expulsion as early as preschool.

 

Childcare programs come in all shapes and sizes and are not required to report discipline data (there is no system in Delaware to collect data from all public and private childcare providers). What little we do know is alarming. According to this 2005 Yale University study:

  • Delaware’s preschool expulsion rate is nine times higher than the rate for K-12 students.
  • We are the fifth highest in the nation in expulsion rates for preschoolers.
  • Twelve percent of early childhood teachers expelled at least one child. Teachers in faith-affiliated, for profit childcare, and other community-based settings were more likely to report expelling a preschooler as opposed to school-based or Head Start centers.

 

Unfortunately, this data could be a conservative estimate since it only looks at state-funded pre-k programs, which serve fewer than 1,000 Delaware four-year olds, only a small sample of the 15,000 kids in childcare from ages zero to 12. There remains a lack of reliable information on how many Delaware preschoolers face this type of discipline.

 

African-Americans, boys, and preschoolers four years or older are at a higher risk of receiving a suspension or expulsion.

 

While data is lacking at the state level, we know that having one or all of these traits can put a preschooler at risk. The Office of Civil Rights notes that racial disparities in discipline occur before kindergarten and that boys are over-represented in suspensions.

 

Still, researchers and practitioners dispute the root causes of these disparities. Some argue that children living in poverty—which are overwhelmingly students of color—are more likely to misbehave. Others argue that implicit bias, zero tolerance, and subjective discipline policies are resulting in disproportionate impact. Research from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that discipline is dished out more often to boys and black students despite factors such as poverty, school type, and the type of discipline.

 

The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services recommends eliminating (or severely limiting) suspensions and expulsions for preschoolers.

 

In addition to raising awareness about exclusionary discipline in early childhood settings, the departments offer guidance to states and providers on preventing suspension and expulsion, collecting data, setting goals, and teacher training, including:

  1. Establish and communicate policies that eliminate or severely limit suspension and expulsion at the state and program level. This includes the creation of developmentally appropriate behavioral expectations and discipline practices.
  2. Set goals for improvement and use data to assess progress towards ending exclusionary discipline. The state should collect and analyze data from public and private providers, and use it to create a statewide plan to reduce these types of discipline in early childhood settings. The state should support programs in setting data-based goals and provide the resources and training needed to attain those goals.
  3. State and providers must invest in workforce preparation and development. Alongside pre-service and in-service training, providers need access to community-based service providers, behavioral specialists, and mental health consultants who can help them create a positive climate, strong relationships with children and families, and develop cultural competency.
  4. The state and providers must implement policies that ensure high quality programming. That means ensuring that there are high qualifications for staff and ongoing professional development. For programs, it means coordinating and using successful early intervention approaches and helping vulnerable children transition to the pre-K classroom environment. Furthermore, programs should develop clear policies regarding supports for pre-K students with behavior problems (access to alternative services, individual behavioral aides, highly trained personnel).

 

All states must comply with federal guidelines by September 30, 2018.

 

Delaware’s proposed policy (that will be submitted to the feds this summer) requires that child care centers simply have a policy—and isn’t specific about what’s actually in the policy, or how it gets implemented. A draft statement from DHSS recommends that publicly funded childcare programs aim to make suspension and expulsion discipline a last resort. However, challenges remain with ensuring staff are getting behavioral health supports—including special education services and mental health consultants. Furthermore, questions remain about how the policy will be implemented, monitored, and enforced. Concerns about this were brought up to the Delaware Early Childhood Council, which urged the state and partners to strengthen technical assistance to providers.

 

Opportunities remain for the state, providers, and parents to ensure that Delaware’s youngest learners are getting the support they need. Here’s how:

  • Address adult needs. While focusing on adults may seem counterintuitive, addressing the social and emotional needs of providers should be a priority. Early childhood teachers are often underpaid and overworked—nearly a third qualify for public assistance like Food Stamps. Supporting early childhood teachers in coping with challenging behavior, understanding childhood development, managing stress, and creating a positive work environment are key avenues to reducing early childhood suspensions and expulsions.
  • Ensure providers have access to behavioral and mental specialists. Discipline policies that limit the use of suspension and expulsion aren’t as effective without the proper training and professional development for staff to manage behavioral challenges. This is includes supporting and expanding programs like Delaware’s Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant Service and Child Development Watch, both of which offer services to providers and families to address children’s developmental, social, emotional, and behavioral needs.
  • Promote collaboration between providers, families, and community-based organizations to provide families with support services such as home visits, therapy, and skills training. We know that providers cannot do alone—and neither can families. Prioritizing collaboration can ensure that families are connecting with the wraparound services they need to support their children, and that providers have access to best practices, training, and resources.
  • The state and providers should prioritize the collection of data and the creation of a plan to eliminate early childhood suspensions and expulsions. These plans should include the collection of data for all programs—publicly and privately funded. The state should provide assistance in the creation of a plan that includes providing families and early childhood teachers with strategies and resources to manage challenging behavior.

Follow Us

We're social

Contact Us

For further info

CONTACT US