Key Education Transitions

Celebrating a Center of Hope for African-American Youth

Pat Roe, Strada Educaiton NetworkBy Pat Roe, Vice President, Philanthropy, Strada Education Network

In the mid-’70s, Indianapolis community leaders cited a number of reasons why African-American youth were failing to graduate from high school, not entering college, and falling short in career achievement. The Center for Leadership Development (CLD) answered the call to develop meaningful experiences to promote education and careers to students and their parents.

Forty years and thousands of success stories later, CLD continues to foster academic excellence for minority students. At the recent Minority Achievers Awards & Scholarship Gala, 3,000 people packed the Indiana Convention Center to see CLD award more than $3.2 million in scholarships to 46 local students. These students will attend 20 higher education institutions in Indiana as well as schools outside of the state. The scholarships also will support attendance at Indiana high schools.

One high-achieving student I spoke with that night, Zipporah Melton, received a scholarship to attend North Carolina A&T State University. Through CLD, she received assistance with medical career exploration, preparing for college, and preparing for the SAT. She has taken part in networking and volunteerism.

“Through the Center for Leadership Development, I have gained great leadership skills that will help me succeed in life,” she says. “I’m very thankful for this life-changing experience.”

The event also honored outstanding minority achievement in the Indianapolis community.

As amazing as the gala was, it’s just the latest success for CLD and the many students and families it’s served. Statistics for 2016 offer a snapshot of why CLD often is called “A Center of Hope.”

In its four decades of serving Indianapolis minority students and their families, CLD has demonstrated a commitment to transformative programming. CLD offers values-based, results-driven guidance and instruction from caring, local, college-educated professionals.

Through more than a dozen programs, CLD addresses the opportunity gaps that persist for young people of color. The organization supports students age 10-18 through services such as:

  • Career advising.
  • Academic assessments.
  • No-cost reading assistance and tutoring.
  • Licensed guidance counseling.
  • College research and selection assistance.
  • Success planning.
  • Internship opportunities.
  • Career assessments.

Additionally, CLD partners with 23 higher education institutions throughout the state to provide full and partial scholarships to cover tuition and room and board as well as equipment and study-abroad opportunities.

Dennis Bland, CLD
Dennis Bland, president of the Center for Leadership Development, addresses the 3,000 attendees at CLD’s Minority Achievers Awards & Scholarship Gala in March. Photo by Nicole Powell Photography.

CLD President Dennis Bland sums up the organization’s success in bolstering students’ academic and career achievement in this way: “For years the Center for Leadership Development has stood as an answer for so many youth and families. CLD stands as a beacon, a true Center of Hope, for youth and families throughout the African-American community.”

That Center of Hope for education and career success aligns with the Strada Education NetworkSM focus on Completion With a Purpose®, enhancing student success in college — or other postsecondary education programs — and careers. We’re proud to support the work of CLD to create the best college and career pathways for African-American students in our hometown of Indianapolis.

Key Education Transitions

This School Doesn’t Give Up on Struggling Students

By Roderick Wheeler, Senior Program Director, Philanthropy, Strada Education Network

Although the high school dropout rate has declined significantly since the 1990’s, each year more than 1.2 million U.S. students continue to leave high school with no diploma. As a result, approximately 7,000 students each day are giving up short of earning the most critical educational credential necessary for their future success.

It’s well documented that many high school dropouts face immense challenges throughout their lives. They earn less than high school graduates. They experience higher rates of unemployment, poverty and incarceration. They have much lower rates of labor market participation — in 2014, 41 percent compared with 73 percent for high school graduates.

Since 2003 an Indiana school has demonstrated significant success in getting struggling students, or those who have already dropped out of high school, across the finish line to their diplomas. Rob Staley, the founder of The Crossing School of Business and Entrepreneurship (formerly known as the Crossing Educational Center), sought to address the dropout challenge in his community by creating a state-accredited, faith-based, private alternative school that partners with public school districts to graduate their students who are struggling most, even if they already have dropped out of high school.

Staley, a former Indiana high school principal, says the impetus behind founding The Crossing came from some of his former students. “I would visit students I had expelled and who were now in jail and ask them why school did not work for them,” he says. “I would learn that they did not feel like they belonged or that school was relevant to helping them earn a living.”

As a result, Staley created an innovative school that seeks to empower struggling students to become contributing members of their communities through academics, job training and faith-based character education. His vision for The Crossing was to transform lives of young people through education, by focusing on both the heart and mind.

The Crossing model is designed to engage students as they develop their academic and job-preparedness skills. Half of the students’ time is devoted to earning academic credit. The Crossing uses technology-assisted blended learning and supportive student services to help students to master the required academic content for Indiana’s non-waiver diploma. The other half of the students’ time is spent in job preparedness training; the students are exposed to the world of work through the business development component of the job training program.

With support from Strada Education, The Crossing students gain micro-business experience by making and selling handmade candles.
With support from Strada Education, The Crossing students gain micro-business experience by making and selling handmade candles.

The business development course is a credit-bearing course that uses project-based learning, an experiential learning curriculum, and various industry-recognized certifications that prepare students to launch micro-businesses. The curriculum allows students to understand real-world business skills and principles by understanding how to operate and run an actual micro-business.

Students develop their skills in business plan development, marketing, profit and loss statements, and sales. Upon completion of the course, students are assigned to work teams and placed in local businesses. The ultimate goal is that students will become members of the workforce pool and be directly employed by a host company upon earning their high school diplomas.

The Crossing began with one campus, six students and two teachers. Today, it has grown to 25 locations, serving more than 2,000 students and employing approximately 160 staff members. It has contracts with 55 public schools. In the past four years, The Crossing has graduated 635 students, and nearly 80 percent have earned Indiana’s Core 40 diploma, without any special consideration. Among all of The Crossing’s graduates, more than 80 percent are either working or pursuing additional postsecondary education opportunities.

By partnering with public school districts to help them outsource their alternative education and dropout prevention programs, The Crossing also has found a strong collaborative business model that supports the organization’s financial sustainability and allows it to grow and advance its mission.

Strada Education NetworkSM is pleased to support The Crossing with a philanthropic investment to help expand the entrepreneurial and micro-business development program that prepares students for internship opportunities and entry-level jobs following high school.

With more than 5 million disconnected youth and young adults age 16-24 who are not in school and not working, our nation needs more programs like The Crossing that seek to re-engage students and prepare them for workforce opportunities and greater success in life.

Employer Engagement

Six Strategies Growing the Talent Pipeline Movement

JaimieFrancisBy Jaimie Francis, Director, Programs and Operations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation started the Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative with the support of Strada Education NetworkSM, then known as USA Funds®, in 2014. Since that time, we have seen continued buy-in by the business community of applying supply chain management principles to workplace talent acquisition.

Business leaders gravitate to this six-strategy approach because it makes business sense. Their willingness to engage has fueled our goal to inform the employer community about this new model and demonstrate how employers can operationalize TPM within their companies, industries and regions.

Demand-driven process
Employers recognize that TPM exemplifies what it means to be “demand-driven” because employers lead the charge. Historically, business was just another player at the table in education partnerships.

TPM, however, puts employer partners in a room with one another to have conversations driven by their needs, in what we call employer collaboratives (Strategy 1).

These collaboratives focus on identifying what factors or unfilled positions are inhibiting them from growing their businesses (Strategy 2) and what kinds of skills are needed to fill those positions (Strategy 3).

The collaboratives also examine where employers are getting their talent and whether those training and education partners have the ability to fill the needed demand (Strategy 4).

From there, the TPM approach notes how to use the talent pipeline data collected to encourage their training partners to become more responsive to employer needs (Strategy 5). The process ultimately provides a smoother and more successful transition to employment for learners.

TPM Academy
The demand-driven approach of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Talent Pipeline Management initiative features six strategies.

The strategies were not created in a vacuum. The original TPM network of business-led organizations tested our theories and provided the invaluable feedback that led to the creation of the TPM Academy. The Academy is a train-the-trainer model that unpacks the TPM strategies into a curriculum that participants can apply to projects in their own communities.

Since October, USCCF has welcomed 44 participants from across the country, representing chambers of commerce, economic development agencies, and trade associations. These business-facing leaders are interested in solving skills gap challenges in industries like health care, manufacturing, energy, transportation, food production — you name it.

Curriculum and online tool
In concert with the curriculum and in response to our original network’s feedback that a central platform was needed to execute these strategies, we have created an online tool that will allow the host organization to easily communicate with its employer partners.

The curriculum and the web tool will be available to the public this summer because USCCF and Strada Education are strong believers in sharing resources and getting feedback on how to improve. We hope providing this information will build our arsenal of business-led examples demonstrating how to improve pipelines and benefit learners, training and education provider partners and employers.

TPM has demonstrated the ability for employers to take a heightened leadership role in managing their relationships with each other and with training and education providers. But we don’t claim to have found the silver bullet or that, once executed, TPM will be the answer to all of our prayers. It is a process meant to be re-evaluated and modified based on the assumption that employer needs will change, and with those changes will come the opportunity to create more crystal clear pathways for learner success (Strategy 6).

And we won’t stop here.

Plans for the future
Next up is an opportunity to build statewide TPM academies. This step will expand our reach while taking into account state policies that impact employer-led initiatives to close the skills gap. We will have the opportunity to test this approach with a number of states that have bought into the process and are ready to share the knowledge with their employer partners.

TPM has spurred our thinking about how employers can share with the public information about providers of education and training that successfully prepare learners. We also are interested in establishing a central platform for employers to communicate their changing competency and credential requirements via a job profile registry.

The future is bright for the evolution of talent pipelines. Stay tuned.

Innovation in College & Career Preparation

Implementing Adaptive Learning Courseware? New Guide Can Help

Lorenzo Esters, USA FundsBy Lorenzo L. Esters, Vice President, Philanthropy, Strada Education Network

One of the most innovative opportunities for addressing student success and personalizing learning today is the use of adaptive courseware. The courseware allows educators to tailor the instructional experience based on a learner’s individual needs.

A new guide aims to help institutions implement the tools that facilitate this personalized approach to instruction.

The Implementing Adaptive Courseware guide is the result of a two-year effort through the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). In that project, APLU’s Personalized Learning Consortium coordinated the development and implementation of adaptive courseware for use in first-year English composition instruction. Faculty teams from four universities — Georgia State University, Montclair State University, the University of Georgia and the University of Mississippi — developed and piloted the courseware.

APLU Personalized Learning Consortium
A new guide from the APLU Personalized Learning Consortium focuses on adaptive courseware development, use and evaluation.

The project featured collaboration between institutions, faculty and students to develop scalable adaptive learning practices. Twelve faculty members contributed to the courseware or deployed it in their English composition courses with 463 students in 2016.

Goals of the project were to:

  • Engage faculty in the development and use of next-generation learning technologies and explore how adaptive approaches can improve learner mastery.
  • Create a discipline-specific cohort of faculty.
  • Support the development of learning modules using an adaptive platform.
  • Pilot learning modules in English composition courses at multiple institutions.
  • Evaluate and report on institutions’ experiences with adaptive courseware, and its impact on student learning.

Strada Education Network℠, formerly USA Funds®, supported the project to help promote innovative approaches to college and career preparation. The work is in line with Strada Education’s focus on Completion With a Purpose®, enhancing student success in college — or other postsecondary programs — and connecting graduates to rewarding careers and fulfilling lives.

The new guide outlines the steps involved in engaging faculty in the development and implementation of adaptive learning technologies, and tips and ideas for overcoming obstacles along the way.

Lynn Brabender, APLU
Lynn Brabender

I asked Lynn Brabender, program manager for the APLU Personalized Learning Consortium, about the project and the lessons learned.

Q: Why was collaboration important in this project?

By collaborating across institutions, faculty members were able to share ideas and identify common skills, learning objectives and content for first-year English composition courses. They had the opportunity to brainstorm the potential use of adaptive courseware to support these learning objectives and identify technology platform capabilities to support instruction.

Q: How should institutions approach the selection of an adaptive learning courseware platform?

We brought together faculty members from the participating institutions and representatives of courseware vendors for an in-person meeting. After presentations by each vendor, the faculty selected the vendor determined to be best suited to provide the tools to develop the courseware envisioned.

Because adaptive learning platforms are emerging technologies, there can be challenges related to the courseware’s capacity to meet faculty expectations. We learned that, in selecting the right tools for the task, it is important that there is a clear understanding not only about your instructional needs and goals — but also about your timeframe for development.

Q: What role should faculty play in developing personalized learning courseware?

Engaging faculty members in this project allowed them to broaden their understanding of adaptive courseware and explore its potential use for personalizing instruction.

Regularly engaging participating faculty, in person when possible, allows them to track progress, discuss common areas of concern, and prepare for training. Even evaluating tools that do not meet their needs can help them — and their students — to engage in the adaptive learning process. A high level of direct support to faculty is critical to ensuring that they can best develop the learning platform, so we established regular office hours for facilitating that support during this project.

Q: What did you learn about the value of adaptive learning courseware?

Faculty expressed optimism about the potential of adaptive courseware as a valuable tool for personalized learning. Students enjoyed the interactivity of the courseware and ability to receive feedback from professors and were receptive to expanding the use of adaptive learning technologies.

We view this project, and the resulting guide, as a starting point for campus-based or multi-institution faculty teams seeking to launch adaptive courseware initiatives.

Innovation in College & Career Preparation

Top Education Ideas Connect College and Career Through Technology

Allison Griffin, Strada Education NetworkBy Alison Griffin, Senior Vice President, External and Government Relations, Strada Education Network

How might we better prepare all learners for the needs of tomorrow by reimagining higher education?

OpenIDEO has announced the Top Ideas in its Future of Higher Education Challenge — and the results suggest the answer to that question lies in connecting college and career through use of educational technology.

A tool that uses data to connect learners to careers. Apps that support students through the educational journey and beyond. Online options that support education for career advancement. The Top Ideas aim to help learners of all kinds evolve with the needs of tomorrow — not just as they pursue higher education but also as they put that education to work in their careers and communities.

And technology, the Top Ideas remind us, is important not only in meeting the changing needs of students and the workforce but also in making those solutions broadly available.

Strada Education Network℠, formerly USA Funds®, is a sponsor of the Future of Higher Education Challenge. I was proud to serve as an evaluator in this months-long search for innovative postsecondary education ideas, joined by my colleagues Craig Anderson and Tammy Lakes of Student Connections and Mike Marriner of Roadtrip Nation, both Strada Education companies.

In the Future of Higher Education Challenge, OpenIDEO called on the global community for ideas to better prepare students for active civic engagement, real-world employment and career success in an ever-transforming economy. The submissions named Top Ideas last week are:

Sidekick EducationSidekick Education tool that collects data about how students work side-by-side with industry experts to solve real-world problems, and uses that data to connect students to their ideal careers.

MyBoardMyBoard: Meet Your Own Personal Board app and desktop tool that places students with teams of “life board members” who meet regularly with those students during and following their education.

MAPP — My Action Plan with PurposeMAPP — My Action Plan with Purpose, which combines an interactive “vision MAPP” of careers and lifestyles with mentoring to guide learners to academic, personal and professional success.

Anyone’s Learning Experience (ALEX)Anyone’s Learning Experience (ALEX) online marketplace that helps professionals advance their careers by taking individual, in-person courses from across colleges, universities and training programs.

PeletonUPeletonU addresses the needs of nontraditional students by combining online, competency-based education with in-person support to help working adults succeed.

Those involved in the Top Ideas now will have the opportunity to discuss and refine their innovations with sector experts. We’ll learn more from those who submitted the Top Ideas at events such as the upcoming Strada Education-sponsored ASU GSV Summit.

And at Strada Education, we look forward to continuing to advance ideas like those selected as the leaders through the Future of Higher Education Challenge. They’re ideas that, like Strada Education’s own guiding principle of Completion With a Purpose®, enhance student success in college — or other postsecondary programs — and connect graduates to rewarding careers and fulfilling lives.

Key Education Transitions

Shining a Light on Opportunities in College and Career

Daryl GrahamSenior Vice President, Philanthropy, USA Funds By Daryl Graham, Senior Vice President, Philanthropy, USA Funds

I often am struck by the many opportunities I have had in my career and my life, thanks to the college degree I received many years ago. And then I think about the challenges that today’s college students face — challenges that too often prevent them from enjoying the myriad opportunities my degree has afforded me.

That’s why I’m proud to have joined an organization so committed to ensuring that students not only have access to college or other postsecondary training, but that they also complete that higher education prepared for successful careers and fulfilling lives.

In fact, you could say I was a proponent of USA Funds®focus — Completion With a Purpose® — long before it became my job in February.

For 15 years I have worked to identify opportunities for grant making, sponsorships and volunteerism. I look forward to putting that experience to work both in the Indianapolis community, where USA Funds is based, and across the nation — particularly for at-risk youth and disconnected young adults.

daryl-graham-quoteI’ve long been committed to the principle behind Completion With a Purpose, that students need to understand their opportunities and follow their own surest paths to completing postsecondary education or training and succeeding at work and life.

Because where there are opportunities, there is hope. Hope not only for better-educated and productive individuals, but also for a better society in Indianapolis, across Indiana, and in other states and cities whose citizens understand and follow their clearest pathways to success.

Achieving these positive results for individuals and communities will require some rethinking, a willingness to embrace innovative ideas for higher education. We even need to consider the larger question of what quality postsecondary education means today.

Educational institutions at all levels as well as employers, policymakers and community-based organizations must be willing to work together to enhance the value of post-high school education. We must be open to evaluating data that show the best opportunities for success, whether those opportunities come through degrees from majority higher education institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, community colleges, or through other forms of certification and credentialing.

And USA Funds already is helping to lead this charge for boosting college and career success.

In a professional life already filled with opportunity, built on the foundation that my education has provided, I consider my new role in helping USA Funds advance Completion With a Purpose to be one of my greatest opportunities yet. I embrace that opportunity and look forward to making a difference for students and their communities.

Innovation in College & Career Preparation

The Intersection of Instruction and Outcomes

Lorenzo Esters, USA FundsBy Lorenzo Esters, Vice President, Philanthropy, USA Funds

What is the relationship between college instruction and student outcomes?

A new paper examines that question in five key areas — making the case that “what faculty do and how instruction occurs matter, and matter greatly.”

“Unpacking Relationships: Instruction and Student Outcomes,” from the American Council on Education (ACE), argues for additional support for faculty, to ensure they’re equipped to follow the evidence-based practices that have a positive impact on student outcomes

ACEThe paper is part of a collaboration between ACE and USA Funds® to examine higher education instruction and assess the connection between quality teaching and an improved student experience, which may lead to increased retention, persistence, and success rates.

Author Natasha Jankowski, director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, discussed the paper during a recent webinar for higher education faculty, support staff and administrators and employers.

The goal? To disseminate a composite of best practices in college instruction that often aren’t considered as part of the holistic student experience. This intersection between instruction and student outcomes, the paper concludes, includes the following areas:

Transparency: Students must have a clear understanding of where they are going, the criteria that will evaluate how they get there, and each course’s role in the curriculum.

Pedagogical approaches: Practices such as student-centered learning and personalized instruction generally lead to deeper understanding of a subject.

Assessment: Students learn best by receiving multiple opportunities to practice learning in a variety of situations and by receiving feedback along the way.

Self-regulation: Active participation in learning, using reflection in addition to experience, is an important component in student success.

Alignment: Content, instructional design, pedagogical approaches, assignments and evaluative criteria should work together to help students to connect the pieces in their curricula.

During the January webinar, the report’s author called for more-thorough orientation, training and sharing among instructors to encourage these best practices in college instruction. Up next are additional reports that go beyond connections between effective instruction and student outcomes to examine the impact improved student outcomes have on institutional efficiency.

ACE Unpacking Relationships
“Unpacking Relationships” is part of a USA Funds grant project aimed at improving the classroom experience for students.

Equipping faculty with the tools and techniques necessary to positively impact the curricular experience for an increasingly diverse student population is central to improving postsecondary attainment and student success.

Through our work together, USA Funds and ACE will advance the most central endeavor to the academic enterprise — effective instruction. We will help increase awareness of the need for quality assessment of faculty development that will ultimately lead to an improved classroom experience for students.