Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Finding Mutual Inspiration in Corporate-Nonprofit Partnerships

This post was written by The Advisory Board Company's Community Impact Associate Director Rachel Tappis. Rachel is a proud DC-metro native with a passion for enacting positive change through volunteerism and community engagement. 

I have always loved volunteering to work with children. I began as a coach with our neighborhood summer swim team at age 13, and ever since then I have sought out opportunities to serve as a coach, tutor, and mentor. I love the way children look at the world – every experience is new and exciting. I strive to incorporate that perspective into my own life, and when I do, often find inspiration in places that I wouldn’t normally look.

This summer, I was thrilled to accept a job with The Advisory Board Company’s Community Impact team. The opportunity to join a company that understands the inspiration I find in volunteering and seeks to support and empower talented employees to pursue their interests in an altruistic setting is, for me, profound.

The commitment to service infused throughout the Advisory Board starts at the top. This year, CEO Robert Musslewhite challenged the firm with a “2013 Commitment to our Communities”, calling for 100% employee participation in service, $1M in benefits to our nonprofit partners, and 10,000 lives touched. Even for a company with a strong service record, this was an ambitious call to action. I am proud to say that my colleagues have risen to meet this challenge applying their vast skill sets and knowledge of the health care and higher education fields to assist organizations that make a tangible and positive difference in the DC community every day. Whether it’s working with Community of Hope’s Marie Reed Health Center to provide patients with continuity of care, or enabling the Latin American Youth Center to save over $35,000 through an IT and email system assessment, the Advisory Board commits our strongest assets to help our nonprofit partners to achieve their missions. This is a mutually strengthening partnership: it empowers our partners and inspires our employees.

In my experience, Advisory Board employees choose to participate in our community impact work is because we strive to engage our teammates on dual levels: the head and the heart. Engaging the head involves assessing an individual’s unique strengths and skills to determine where and how they can have the greatest impact. Engaging the heart goes beyond that practical mindset to tap into each person’s passion to make a difference in the areas that matter most to them. By empowering our teammates to connect with service opportunities on both these levels, their community-focused work takes on a deeper meaning and results in transformative outcomes.

While the Advisory Board is dedicated to serving our community year-round, our commitment will be intensified during our third annual Week of Service: October 7-11th. Building on the 4,000 community impact hours logged in our 2012 Week of Service, events this year include dispatching 70+ senior executives to serve local nonprofits in a consulting capacity, engaging our brightest minds in a firm-wide competition to solve a pressing social issue, tapping marketing and graphic design experts to generate creative collateral for our partner organizations, and coordinating dozens of hands-on opportunities for our teammates to provide direct community service. Please check out our website for the full roster of events happening throughout the week – we may be dropping in at an organization near you!

I am extremely proud of our community impact efforts both during Week of Service and year-round, but I am just as proud to know that DC is rich with amazing nonprofits. We are very fortunate to partner with mission-driven organizations like DC-AYA, BUILD DC, and Urban Alliance. The dedication and empathy that they exhibit daily inspires me and every member of our team, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside them.

So please know our work doesn’t end on October 11th. As we move forward, we want to cultivate and expanded ways to serve our community. If your organization can benefit from pro bono support next week or at any point throughout the year, please do not hesitate to contact me. Our firm welcomes the opportunity to partner with like-minded organizations in our common goal to inspire positive community impact.

Rachel's current favorite volunteer spot is at the Children's National Medical Center where she is a member of their Junior Council. You can learn more about The Advisory Board Company's Impact team by watching this video and following them on Twitter.   

 To read more about youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook and VISIT us at www.dc-aya.org

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why You Should Care about the Adequacy Study

As many of our Youth-Friendly DC readers know, this fall is a critical time for education reform in the District. We reported last spring that the Committee on Education was set to create quite a stir with a package of reform bills and this fall we will see the markups of most of those bills. There is also quite a bit going on at the executive level. Perhaps most importantly, the District is set to release the findings of its Adequacy Study which will have major implications for the amount of funding available to the District’s schools in the coming years and could drastically affect the various education reform bills put forth by the Committee on Education.

For those of you who haven’t heard much about the Adequacy Study, it is worth reading up on before its release. According to The Finance Project (who is conducting the study):

DC leaders want to study education "adequacy," in order to set parameters in the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF), so that all schools are assured of having a sufficient amount of funding -- where funding means enough money to provide a set of defined "inputs" in order to accomplish a defined set of educational "outcomes." Based on this definition, the DC Education Adequacy Study will specify relevant standards to measure student performance -- the objective levels of achievement that every student is expected to be able to meet, in addition to other desired student outcomes and input.

In plain language this means that the city wants and needs to know the true cost of educating students at various levels. It’s no secret that education reform has moved at a pace that many people find frustrating and the Adequacy Study is one of many steps being taken to ensure the city achieves the educational outcomes (higher proficiency rates, higher graduation rates) we all want for young people. It is important to remember, however, that the Adequacy Study is supposed to provide recommendations on both the foundation level per pupil and the additional weights assigned to different categories of students, and this goes well beyond educational levels.

Though the base (foundation) cost is of course an incredibly important factor when it comes to the final price tag of the study’s recommendations, the recommendations around what new categories do or do not get created  and the weights assigned to students or schools with high proportions of those students will also have major financial implications for the city. For example students from economically disadvantaged families currently do not receive an additional weight on top of the foundation funding level. The Adequacy Study could recommend that a category and accompanying weight be created to better support these students. For the sake of argument let's say it recommends that economically disadvantaged students receive an additional .50 weight on top of their foundation and educational level funding. That means that an economically disadvantaged 8th grader would bring about $14,300 in funding to whatever school they were enrolled in. However, if the Adequacy Study does not recommend that any new category or weight be created and simply recommends the base funding for all students be raised  that would give all schools more funding regardless of what type of students they enroll.

Clearly, there are hundreds of options to consider with weighting, categories and base funding amounts and the .50 weight was just one example of a recommendation that might be made. Its important to remember though, that as much as we would like to think no price is too high for quality education, the reality is the city only has so much money. While the Council and the Mayor do not have to follow every recommendation of the Adequacy Study, its recommendations will no doubt carry quite a bit of weight in deciding what and who gets more UPSFF dollars.

This reality makes its incredibly important for the youth serving and advocate community to provide input and comments to the Deputy Mayor’s office when the Adequacy Study recommendations are released and made available for public comment. Given that it has taken the city so long to revisit the true cost of educating District residents, it is imperative to ensure that the recommendations of the study are in line with what educators and providers know will best serve their student populations. The study is due to the Deputy Mayor for Education by the end of September, so time to provide feedback is fast approaching.

Anne Abbott is the Policy Analyst at DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. She manages the organizations youth workforce development and educational pathways policy and advocacy work. You can read past education testimonies from her and  members of the DCAYA coalition on the DCAYA website.  

To read more about youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook and VISIT us at www.dc-aya.org

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

College and Career Readiness Should Be Accessible to All Students

Last week the District announced an exciting new initiative to reinvigorate career and technical education in the city. The nearly $3 million dollar investment comes at a critical time for the District as young people are struggling to gain a toehold in the local economy without the advanced skills and training that programs of study like CTE pathways can offer. Further, CTE coursework that is well aligned to labor market demands, taught by high quality teachers, and well integrated into a school is a proven strategy for curtailing dropout rates, improving school climate and increasing post-secondary success.

As part of this new initiative, the city is partnering with the National Academy Foundation (NAF) a national leader in the career education field. In partnership with NAF, eight of the District’s schools (McKinley Tech will have two academies for a total of nine) will engage in a year of intensive planning to build “career academies” in specific program areas (schools applied for IT, engineering, hospitality or health sciences).

This partnership is especially exciting given the outcomes and evidence base that NAF career academies have achieved nation-wide. According to NAF:
  • 52% of NAF graduates earn bachelor’s degrees in four years (compared with 32% nationally).
  • Of those who go on to post-secondary education, more than 50% are the first in their families to go to college.
  • 90% of students report that the academies helped them to develop career plans.
  • 85% of 5 and 10 year alumni are working in a professional field.
  • Career-academy graduates sustained $16,704 more in total earnings over the 8 years following high school than non-academy group members who were also studied—11% more per year.
  • Young men from career-academies experienced increased earnings (due to a combination of increased wages, hours worked and employment stability) over 8 years totaling $30,000 – 17% more per year than non-academy group members studied .
These types of outcomes are essential in moving the needle on youth unemployment and post-secondary attainment here in DC and it is our hope that DC’s career academies will be wildly successful at achieving similar or even better outcomes. One consideration that should stay at the forefront of people’s minds as the District roles out these academies though, is that only eight schools received planning grants to implement these programs. Further, career academies are supposed to adhere to very strict standards of practice (to ensure fidelity to the evidenced model) that include small “school within a school” models which drastically limit participation in academic programming. So while the $3 million dollar investment is a good one, there are still thousands more high school students that need better career preparation services and programming that adds real-life applicability to high school.

The city needs to remember the students who will miss out on the opportunity to be enrolled in one of the career academies because of which high school they attend, or because of enrollment caps at a school they do attend as it plans and executes a more comprehensive system of career preparation in the District’s schools. On that note, DCAYA has a few ideas to expand on the current system of career education in the District:
  1. Foster more meaningful collaboration between the Department of Employment Services Office of Youth Programs (they run programs like SYEP, the High School Internship Program and the Pathways for Young Adults Partnership with the Community College) and schools so that students can be placed at sites the align with their career interests while in high school or early on in their post-secondary endeavors. This is especially important for students who are enrolled in CTE courses, but may not be in a career academy.
  2. Ensure existing career preparation programming at high schools (traditional CTE coursework) is high quality and to the extent possible is leading to at least some of the same outcomes that career academies are. This means ensuring there are ample facilities and high-quality staff teaching these programs in all high schools.
  3. Begin career exploration and career preparation early on in a student’s academic life. The CTE Task Force and the Raise DC College and Credential Completion Network are working on implementing more career exposure and more informed counseling services so that students know what their options are by the time they get to high school. This is exactly the kind of thing the city needs to be doing more and we need to ensure these efforts are implemented in all schools, not just a few.
The city is right to start small and get its house in order before working to expand the NAF model to other high schools, however reform efforts for CTE need to be equitable in the long run. This requires a vision for the creation of a comprehensive system of career preparation at all schools and not just a few.

Anne Abbott is the Policy Analyst for Youth Workforce Development and Educational Pathways. Abbott is currently working on a report on Disconnect Youth in Washington D.C.. You can follow her on Twitter our write her an email at anne@dc-aya.org.

 To read more about youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook and VISIT us at www.dc-aya.org

Thursday, September 05, 2013

McKinney-Vento Who? Support Your Youth By Pointing Out Services

School is back in session, and as is often the case, everyone is mourning the end of summer with a mix of nerves and excitement about the year ahead. Teachers prep classrooms and lesson plans as they brace for the arrival of new learners, and parents across the region sigh with relief knowing their children are returning to the structure of the school year.

Sadly, for as many as 3,000 students in the District of Columbia, that first day of school may have been overshadowed by the fact that their morning started at a homeless shelter or another unstable living situation. The impact of homelessness and housing insecurity on an emotional young person’s development is a topic this blog has covered in the past. This week, we especially want our readership to have a good handle on some of the services and supports  available to these young people as we move into a new school year.

Homeless youth in the K-12 educational system are guaranteed certain services via the federal McKinney- Vento Act (part of No Child Left Behind). McKinney-Vento defines a child or youth as “homeless” if that child is:
  • Living on the streets (or somewhere not meant for human residence- cars, parks, public places, abandoned buildings)
  • Doubled up or couch surfing (sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship) or living in motels, hotels, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations (including migratory children)
  • Living in emergency or transitional shelter (including DC transitional housing)
  • Are abandoned in hospitals or are awaiting foster care placement
  • Unaccompanied homeless youth (those living in any of the above situations but without a parent or guardian)
Students receive support services under this legislation through the use of McKinney- Vento Liaisons, which every school is required to have. Often, the liaison plays two roles, such as a school nurse, guidance counselor or social worker. Parents or providers can find out who on staff fills this position by asking the school principal or viewing the list online of DCPS and Charter school liasons . There is also a McKinney- Vento Coordinator at OSSE. This position is responsible for coordinating the McKinney- Vento services at all schools, and this office is very receptive and helpful in supporting student needs. Students who are homeless according to the McKinney-Vento definition are eligible for:
  • Simplified Enrollment Services: ensures that a school cannot turn the child away even if a parent or child does not have all the enrollment. Liaisons are mandated to provide assistance in tracking down necessary enrollment documentation.
  • Consistent Educational Programming: provisions which allow students to stay in one school. Even if a family moves out of boundary in the city or is staying somewhere outside of the District, McKinney-Vento states the student can stay at their school of origin. Liaisons help coordinate with parents to make this happen (this often includes transportation vouchers).
  • Access to Support Services: helps connect homeless children to services and supports that can help stabilize their educational experience. Liaisons are given information on additional resources and can be a good point of contact for a family looking for supports like shelter information, feeding programs, access to clothing and free school supplies that will help their child succeed in school.

The sad reality of McKinney-Vento is that students/families must identify as homeless to receive services via liaisons. Unfortunately, given the stigma associated with homelessness, many families choose not to inform schools or other organizations of their current situation of being unstably housed. With that in mind, below are a few simple strategies that you and your organization, neighborhood group, list serv etc. can use to make sure the information gets into the hands of those who need it most:
  • Include a print out of the McKinney- Vento supports and information for the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center (where families can get referrals for shelter, housing, child care vouchers and TANF) in materials you send home with all students in your program
  • Post information about services for homeless children and families somewhere parents or youth frequent, the National Center for Homeless Education has a great example of fliers geared toward parents and youth
  • Keep hygiene supplies, bus passes or other important supplies on hand for students who need them, this can spark dialogue and trust for when students are in crisis
  • Ask students for help. Youth can share information by word of mouth, using web-based social networking, and posting outreach materials where their peers will see them
  • Talk with staff, colleagues, peers and students about being sensitive to different living situations or circumstances, empathy and awareness go a long way in starting an honest dialogue that helps connect families and kids to the services and supports they need to thrive

By working together, we can get D.C. youth the services they need.

Maggie Riden is the Executive Director of DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. In her former life, she managed the McKinney-Vento services and supports for the Massachusetts Department of Child and Family Services. Currently, Maggie is an appointed member on the Interagency Council on Homelessness and sits on the board of directors for the Mid Atlantic Network for Youth. Needless to say, Maggie would love to see a world where all youth have a home.

To read more about youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook and VISIT us at www.dc-aya.org