Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Learning to Work Schools Offer Alternative Routes to Graduation


Program Allows Students Who Have Dropped Out or Fallen Behind to Earn High School Diplomas While Participating in Paid Work Internships

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced in September that 10,629 students have graduated from schools and programs where students participated in Learning to Work, the City’s innovative career development initiative. Learning to Work was launched in September 2005 to help students who are academically behind by at least two years graduate from high school while receiving in-depth job-readiness training, including paid internships. Today, Learning to Work is offered at 25 transfer high schools, 21 Young Adult Borough Centers where evening classes are offered for students who cannot attend school during the day, and 10 GED programs. Of the 10,629 students who have graduated from a Learning to Work school or program, 9,484 received a high school diploma and 1,145 earned a GED. The success of Learning to Work will be discussed in Washington, D.C., at the America’s Promise Alliance national Grad Nation Action Forum on drop-out prevention beginning tomorrow.

“Today we mark a real milestone in celebrating more than ten thousand students who have turned their lives around with the help of Learning to Work schools and programs,” Chancellor Klein said. “When we launched Learning to Work in 2005, traditional forms of outreach and intervention were failing to bring back the many students—predominantly poor and black and Hispanic—who dropped out of City schools every year. Learning to Work makes school more relevant for students who have difficulty in traditional high schools by enhancing academics with paid internships and career counseling. I am thrilled that Learning to Work is recognized today as a national model for helping at-risk students get back on track.”

ACE, Olympus Academy, and Staten Island Young Adult Borough Center

The NY Center operates two Learning to Work programs with the NYC Department of Education. Olympus Academy in Carnarsie and SI YABC in Tottenville currently provide seats for over 200 students. In addition, the Center operate the ACE program which provides job readiness training and GED preparation for out-of-school and out-of-work young people.

Outcomes for over-age and under-credited students—those who are more than two years behind academically—are much more positive for students who participate in Learning to Work programs than for similar students who remain in traditional high schools. Historically, only 19 percent of over-age, under-credited students earned diplomas in traditional high schools. According to the 2007-08 progress reports, the vast majority of transfer schools have more than doubled this rate for over-age, under-credited students, and the highest performing transfer school with Learning to Work achieved a six-year graduation rate of 72 percent. The graduation rate for Young Adult Borough Centers with Learning to Work is 44 percent, which is also an improvement over graduation rates at Young Adult Borough Centers prior to the launch of Learning to Work.

The program is more successful than the system as a whole at re-engaging and graduating poor students, African American and Hispanic students, and male students. In 2008, 45 percent of graduates system-wide were male, compared to 51 percent of graduates from Learning to Work schools and programs. That same year, 87 percent of Learning to Work students were African-American or Hispanic, compared to 71 percent citywide, and 80 percent of students enrolled in Learning to Work schools and programs were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, compared to 72 percent citywide.

Participants in Learning to Work have access to a broad range of paid internships in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, with placements tailored to match their interests and career goals. Students express high levels of satisfaction with the program, with more than 90 percent of students reporting that their internships would help them obtain jobs after graduation. Additionally, many students reported that the overall Learning to Work program supported key career development skills—such as identifying career goals, constructing résumés, and applying for jobs—compared with programs they previously attended.

Expansion of Learning to Work programs has been a priority of this Administration. This year, there are 11,530 seats in Learning to Work transfer schools, Young Adult Borough Centers, and GED programs, up from 4,560 seats in the 2005-06 school year, the first year of the initiative.

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