Wednesday, October 24, 2012

News & Upcoming Events from JobsFirstNYC (Oct. 19, 2012)

Upcoming Changes to GED® High School Equivalency (HSE) Credential addressed at October 5th CBO Meeting
As you likely know, changes are underway regarding the GED® (formally the General Educational Development test). The GED® Testing Service is a privately owned assessment tool that was recently purchased by the Educational Division of Pearson, which, in acquiring the GED® Testing Service, has plans to make structural changes to the test itself as well as to the process by which organizations can prepare people for and administer the test. The change in ownership of the GED® as well as Pearson's plans to make changes to it happened relatively quickly, and as of now, changes to the test will be in effect by January of 2014. While that is still over a year away, it is a very short time frame given the complexity of the issues at hand. 

The possibility of transition from the GED® to an alternative high school equivalency credential in New York State might be one of the most important changes underway that will directly affect young adults that are out-of-work and out-of-school in New York State. The transition underway represents a hasty shift from current standards for obtaining a HSE diploma to standards focused on career and college readiness.  

Given the very tight time table to implement changes, the State Education Department has taken a critically important step in this process by recommending to the Board of Regents (in a letter written last month (PDF)) that New York State issue a request for proposals from potential vendors to create and institute a new high school equivalency credential. The provisions of the upcoming RFP are outlined in the above letter.  
At our most recent CBO Network Meeting, practitioners in the field who work day-to-day with young adults in GED-Plus and Young Adult Workforce Programs throughout the City got to hear from and direct their questions to a panel of experts on this issue.  We were joined by Kevin Smith, Deputy Commissioner for Adult Career and Continuing Education Services at the New York State Education Department - who is on the front-line of these important changes in a leadership capacity at the state level - who spoke to us about the State's role in this process and discussed what we can expect in the coming months, and what we can be doing to help practitioners and young people prepare for what comes next.  
While in some respects this conversation left many of us with more questions than answers, it was a very important and engaged discussion, and it was clear that those in attendance and those presenting are very committed to making this process as smooth as possible, and that we will need to work together in the coming months so that those who can be tested now in advance of the changes expected in January of 2014 can pass the exam. And for those that will be facing an entirely new test in 2014, the focus needs to be on getting the right information to practitioners and young people alike so that they can prepare for the changes. 
As a next step to this process, JobsFirstNYC is planning to host a webinar in order to provide information and updates for those that were unable to attend this meeting but who are concerned about this topic. Please stay tuned for announcements regarding this in the near future. 

All of the handouts/presentations from the October 5th meeting are now zipped and available for download on our website. You can access them here. 

We want to especially thank: Bruce Carmel of F*E*G*S, Kevin Smith of the NYS Education Department, Sierra Stoneman-Bell of Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, and Venu Thelakatt of the Literacy Assistance Center for their important contributions to this discussion. We also want to thank Jacque Cooke, independent consultant and adult literacy expert, for assisting us to moderate this event.
JobsFirstNYC to Facilitate Workshop on the LESEN at Fall 2012 NYATEP Conference October 29-31
The staff of JobsFirstNYC are looking forward to the upcoming Fall 2012 NYATEP Conference in Syracuse, NY, which will take place October 29-31.

The conference will include a workshop on the Lower East Side Employment Network (LESEN), facilitated by JobsFirstNYC's Deputy Executive Director Evelyn Fernandez-Ketcham, and LESEN Coordinator Gaspar Caro.   

Individuals participating in the JFNYC/LESEN session will learn how the LESEN pilot is currently being rolled out, what has been learned so far about the collaborative process, and how the Network uses labor market information to help inform its current strategy. Additionally, it will be demonstrated how this represents a coordinated way to work with employers much more effectively (and to the employers' benefit) and that it is also a way to achieve a scale in terms of fulfillment that individual institutions may not have.  

The conference is right around the corner, but the good news is, there is still time to register! Click here to register for the conference.     

Information regarding workshop topics, descriptions, speakers, and time slots is now available from NYATEP online. You can view the full agenda for the conference by clicking here.  

JobsFirstNYC Events on the Horizon
Stay tuned for other announcements coming from us in the coming weeks. Plans are underway to host another Job Developer Networking Breakfast (with our colleagues at WPTI), and to additionally host another "Meet the Employers" event. We are also continuing to host practitioner work groups. You can learn more about these meetings and other events at by visiting our website. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Crack-ing the reasons behind low black male graduation rates

The numbers are grim.

Last month, The Schott Foundation for Public Education reported that 52 percent of black males who entered ninth grade in the 2006-07 school year graduated in four years nationally. That compared with 78 percent of white, non-Latino males and 58 percent of Latino males.  The black male graduation rate has been rising so slowly that, if the current pace continues, it will take nearly 50 years for black and white males to graduate at the same rate.

(The numbers for New York City are worse for every demographic, with just 28% of black and Latino males completing high school in four years versus 57% of white males.  The New York City school district "boasts" the 7th lowest black male high school completion rate in the country.)

Why does the graduation gap persist?

It's easy to forget that the situation once looked much more promising.  Between the mid-1960s and the late-1980s, the educational outcomes of black students improved dramatically and was on pace to erase the racial gap completely by 1996.  Instead, the gains started to stall out around 1990, and by 2004 black male graduation had fallen back to a rate not seen since 1972.

To date, no one has shown conclusively why this reversal occurred. 

Is the War on Drugs to blame?

A new study (PDF) by three economists offers one controversial explanation: the rise of crack cocaine.  The study estimates that crack markets account for between 40 and 73 percent of the drop in black male high school graduation rates.  As the drug spread through black urban neighborhoods in the 1980s, the authors argue that it changed the educational calculus for black males in three ways:

  1. Decreased life expectancy.  The unprecedented levels of violence among drug dealers that accompanied the crack epidemic -- and often spilled over to innocent bystanders -- lead many young black males to fatalistic assumptions about dying young.  If they wouldn't live to see 30, they believed, what was the point of completing high school?   
  2. Increased likelihood of incarceration.  Politicians responded to arrival of crack by instituting ever more draconian punishments for possession and distribution.  The number of federal and state prisoners doubled between 1980 and 1996.  Young black men, in particular, found themselves increasingly targeted by law enforcement for a broad range of behavior.  As greater numbers went to prison on longer and longer sentences, incarceration became an expected rite of passage among many.  Anticipating a life behind bars, completing high school no longer seemed necessary.    
  3. The lure of money.  Crack cocaine dealing offered a unique source of tax-free income in neighborhoods that had been hit hardest by the urban deindustrialization of the 1970s.  Many young black men were recruited into the drug trade by older dealers to take advantage of the lighter sentences handed out to juvenile offenders.  As crack dealing became established -- and in many cases glorified -- as a legitimate alternative to legal employment, the perceived need for a high school diploma diminished.       

Although the economists do not extend their analysis to include changing social structures, early deaths, long prison sentences, and the unstable nature of the dealer lifestyle all significantly impacted black families.  As increasing numbers of children were born to single mothers with absent fathers, the structure and oversight necessary for high educational attainment weakened.