One of New York City’s more innovative educational programs benefiting youth in and emerging from foster care is Multiple Pathways to Graduation, an initiative designed to expand the options and resources available to youth between 16 and 21 (this informational packet says 15 to 21) who have already demonstrated difficulty in completing high school. These are the students whom the Office of Multiple Pathways to Graduation (OMPG) designates as “overage and undercredited”—those who are at least two years off-track relative to their age and credit accumulation toward a high school diploma. This population includes not only truants, but also students with learning disabilities, English language learners, teen mothers, and of course, foster youth. (The CEO has other programs designed specifically for youth who have fallen into the juvenile justice system.)

Bloomberg’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), whose mission it is to reduce poverty in the city (and which also implemented CUNY ASAP), established Multiple Pathways in close partnership with the DOE (then helmed by Joel Klein). The OMPG has discovered that a staggering 48% of incoming freshmen become overage and undercredited during high school. This is alarming, given that even students who come into high school well-prepared, but who run into problems and fall behind, graduate at lower rates. The following statistics are from 2007: “Only 19% of over-age and under-credited students ultimately receive a high school diploma or GED if they stay in high school; 6% of these graduates receive a Regents diploma, while 20% receive a GED.” The OMPG further estimates that there are “nearly 138,000 young adults between the ages of 16 and 21 in New York City who have dropped out of school or are significantly off-track for graduation. […] Of the 138,000 youth that are over-age and under-credited, 70,000 of them are in school, and 68,000 have already dropped out.” (Appendix B, 116)

As the name suggests, Multiple Pathways offers students, in addition to the option of re-enrolling in their high school of origin, a variety of alternative paths toward either a high school diploma or a GED, along with a career preparation component. The path the student ultimately takes depends on his/her age, credits already accumulated, schedule flexibility, and career goals. The options (especially for the GED programs) are a bit confusing, and they also seem to vary depending where you look for information, but I will summarize what I’ve gleaned so far below:

Programs toward a high school diploma:

1. Transfer High Schools: These are small schools that aim to offer students “a personalized learning environment, rigorous academic standards, student centered pedagogy, support to meet instructional and developmental goals, and a focus on connections to college.” (Appendix B, 117) Students attend school full-time until they earn enough credits for a high school diploma. They also have the option of taking advantage of the Learning to Work (LTW) program (see below) offered at all transfer schools.

The success rates of transfer schools are encouraging: “Students graduate from Transfer High Schools at an average rate of 56%—compared with 19% if they remain in comprehensive high schools.” (Appendix B, 117) The numbers suggest that these specialized high schools somehow manage to re-engage students who were otherwise at risk of dropping out. The video below gives one student’s view of her experience at a transfer school.

2. Young Adult Borough Learning Centers (YABC): These are evening academic programs that operate within existing schools, and are designed to meet the needs of students who would otherwise drop out due to adult responsibilities (a child, a job) that would make attending day school difficult or impossible.YABCs all have an LTW component.

What I still do not fully understand is that students attending YABCs are still technically assigned to their “sending school” (their high school of origin), and when they complete the 44 credits required for graduation, they receive their diplomas from their home school as well. Does this mean that every student follows a different curriculum relative to his/her sending school?

Programs toward a GED certificate (the DOE website offers more options than the directory for parents and students)

3. GED Plus: This GED program prepares students to take the GED exams with the option of acquiring career and technical skills along the way. It also offers academic and social support to help students transition to college and/or a career. GED Plus is run in over 60 locations around the city. The 2011-2012 Additional Ways to Graduate Directory states that students can attend either full- or part-time, but the DOE website advertises it only as a “full-day” program. Another point of confusion is that the directory states that all the GED programs have an LTW component, but neither the directory nor the DOE website explicitly links GED Plus to LTW.

4. Access GED: This full-time GED program is supplemented with an LTW component. While preparing for their exams students engage in job-readiness and career exploration activities. Compared to GED Plus, it seems that Access GED’s career development program is more intensive and individualized. There might be less of an emphasis on college enrollment at Access GED, since the program directory makes no mention of college-prep, though the DOE website does.

5. LTW/GED: This is advertised on the DOE website as a part-time GED program combined with LTW in afternoon or evening classes, but the PDF accessible on that same page lists three full-time site locations running the program from 8:00am to 2:30pm and seven part-time program locations that run from 5:30pm-8:30pm.

Learning to Work (LTW)

Learning to Work is a job-readiness and career exploration program designed to enhance the academic programs offered at Transfer High Schools, YABCs, and (select?) GED programs. As stated in the directory, “The goal of LTW is “to assist students in overcoming obstacles that impede their progress toward a high school or GED diploma and to lead them toward rewarding employment and educational experiences after graduation.” It is jointly operated by the DOE and a host of community-based organizations that send staff directly to the program site. Students who choose to enroll in LTW are assigned immediately assigned an advisor to help each student set goals, assess progress, and access special services. LTW offers both on-site services (e.g., career exploration/development, college prep/counseling) and off-site services (e.g., internships, job shadowing, excursions).

This all sounds promising on paper, and I’m hoping to learn more about the transfer schools in particular.

1 Comment

The Ed Buzz · November 23, 2011 at 11:49 am

It does sound very promising on paper. let’s just hope they don’t get bogged down in the same politics that have doomed these much needed types of programs in the past.

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