Channel Your Inner Santa: Promote Education as a Pathway to Life Success

As participants in the Crowdrise Holiday Challenge, The Corps Network greatly appreciates your donation to support our work cultivating the “Next Greatest Generation” of Americans. Each week, we will highlight some of our 2013 accomplishments. This week we will focus on our education initiatives.

The Corps Network (TCN) continues to address critical needs in the American education system with the Postsecondary Success Education Initiative (PSEI). The PSEI promotes GED and Diploma achievement and guides participants in the college enrollment process. Helping Corpsmembers further their education is a focus for many Corps. For the large number of young people who drop out of high school, Corps can provide a vital alternative education opportunity. Corps help disconnected young people catch up in their studies and earn a GED or high school diploma. Some Corps operate charter schools and combine service-learning with workforce development opportunities. Other Corps programs employ dedicated teachers who help Corpsmembers gain marketable credentials.  

In 2013, Corps programs in The Corps Network achieved the following:

         * Almost 5,000 students received a High School Diploma or GED while in a Corps (43% of Corpsmembers did not already have a GED/HSD)

         * 30 days after completing time at the Corps, 67% of Corpsmembers were enrolled in an education program (college or high school)

Through the Postsecondary Education Success Initiative we have served 229 participants in the first year-and-a-half of programming.
           
        * 72% of participants who needed a GED or HSD received one (many are still enrolled and working towards it)

        * 72% of students have submitted an application to a postsecondary program; 40% have enrolled.
 
The Corps Network takes pride in our work connecting national service with scholarships through our AmeriCorps Education Award Program and the recently launched Opportunity Youth Service Initiative (OYSI). OYSI will engage low-income and urban youth of color in conservation service. Participants of OYSI are enrolled in academic programming designed to lead to a high school diploma or GED, as well as workforce development designed to lead to workforce skills and job opportunities. TCN is proud of the many opportunities that OYSI participants will gain, and is looking to further the reach of this initiative to provide opportunities to a greater amount of America’s youth.

Since the launch of our education initiative, The Corps Network and its member Corps have demonstrated a decreased need for developmental education and an increase in postsecondary enrollment and persistence. The Corps Network has fortified educational opportunities for many youth by partnering with College for America and other organizations that promote youth employment and opportunity. College for America provides online courses that allow Corpsmembers to pursue and earn an Associate’s degree enabling those students to pursue a greater number of careers and pathways to success. In addition, TCN is working with Corps by piloting Core Skills Mastery, an online adaptive-learning platform that is used to help teach Corpsmembers about problem solving as well as develop the skills that many employers seek.

Please support The Corps Network and help us give Corpsmembers the opportunity to have access to quality education and career success through our education initiatives. 

Channel Your Inner Santa and give to The Corps Network.
 
Thank you!

The Corps Network

Boiler Plate: 
As participants in the Crowdrise Holiday Challenge, The Corps Network greatly appreciates your donation to support our work cultivating the “Next Greatest Generation” of Americans. Each week, we will highlight some of our 2013 accomplishments. This week we will focus on our education initiatives.

Discovering Environmental Conservation: Max Fuentes’ Experience in the Montgomery County Conservation Corps

Max Fuentes visited the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) office in Silver Spring, MD after he saw an advertisement for their GED program. He was excited to learn that LAYC would soon launch a new program – the Montgomery County Conservation Corps (MCCC) – through which he could earn his GED and also have the opportunity to work and receive a stipend.

“It was the GED aspect of the program that I came for in the first place, but what got me more interested was that I could work. I thought, ‘I can get more experience, have something to put on my resume,’” said Max. “When they told me I was going to work, I just thought that sounded good – I didn’t know it was conservation work. But when they told me we’d be doing conservation projects, I definitely got interested. I didn’t know there were careers like this out there. I really like the projects I’ve worked on in the field.”

Now in his second term with the Corps, Max is a Junior Crew Chief Leader. He is responsible for keeping Corpsmembers motivated and managing the food for his crew. Every morning, he separates out the lunch for the afternoon and checks that the Corpsmembers are uniformed before the crew can begin work for the day. When they’re on a project site, Max makes sure all the Corpsmembers work and stay positive.
 


 

On class days, Max often helps Corpsmembers with their lessons. Having already passed the GED test, he is familiar with much of the material his classmates need to cover. When he’s not in the classroom, Max sometimes assists Edgar Romero, a fellow Junior Crew Chief Leader, in managing the MCCC Facebook page and producing digital media to promote their work.

In the months since Max joined MCCC, he has learned how to use a variety of tools and recognize various plant and animal species. He says he has developed an appreciation of nature and is seriously considering a career in conservation. Max feels fortunate to have the chance to work in many local parks and network with conservation professionals. Among other projects, Max’s MCCC crew has worked on roofing, tree planting, split-rail fence construction, invasive species removal and bridge construction. 

“Before I came here, I didn’t know anything about conservation. Literally, I was clueless. When I saw trails, I thought that people made them just by walking. Then I found out that we do it, but we make it look natural,” said Max. “I learned about poplar trees – that tree name is stuck in my head!...I also learned about invasive species – that they’re species that aren’t supposed to be in this region. I learned how to use different tools, from handsaws to augers. For trails, I learned about how if some trails have been badly built, then when it’s raining, it will all wash away.”

Max has become a voice for LAYC and the Corps. He recently became a member of LAYC’s six-person Youth Advisory Board. This past summer, the online media platform Global Voice Hall released a mini-documentary – “Youth Unemployment: Where Do I Stand in Line?” – featuring an interview with Max about his own experience trying to find opportunity.  

“Definitely things would be different for me if I hadn’t found this program. It’s helped me personally because I was a troublemaker. So it’s helped me not be in the streets,” said Max. “Now I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m focusing on my future and helping out the environment. It’s made me a better person. My mentality has changed from being in this program. Now I want to help the community, not destroy it.”

 

 

The Education Corner



Check back here for education news and for information about the kinds of education reforms, initiatives and programs that might make a difference for your Corps's educational programming. 


Date: April 9, 2014
Title: College Board/National Journal "Next America" Poll

 

Minority children are projected to comprise a majority of the K-12 population within this decade, and minority workers projected to provide all of the net increase in the workforce through 2030. As a result, many agree that increasing the skills and educational attainment of young, non-white people looms as one of the most pressing challenges to American competitiveness.

In an era of slow economic growth and tight public budgets, there remains considerable disagreement about not only the kind of intervention, but also the timing of intervention most likely to produce success. In other words, with limited dollars to spend, what is the point in the lifecycle of students and young workers where we can invest in them for the greatest return? Click here for the full post


Date: January 9, 2014
Title: Meeting Students Where They Are: Competency-Based Education and College Success

 

The Corps Network's Tyler Wilson recently spoke at a Center for American Progress event on Competency based education. Read below for a description of the event. 

Boosting postsecondary education success is incredibly important for our ability to grow and maintain a strong middle class in an economy that increasingly relies on technology. A new Center for American Progress report will call for game-changing reforms to postsecondary education financing models to promote the adoption of competency-based education—which tracks student progress by measuring the acquisition of knowledge and skills—and stackable credentials—which allow students to leave and re-enter postsecondary education more easily—with the goal of enabling students to more readily complete programs and presenting clear pathways to the workforce.

Please join the Center for American Progress for this event, which will explore competency-based education as a driver of innovation with higher education. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter will speak about competency-based education as part of President Barack Obama’s plan to make postsecondary education more affordable and a better bargain for the middle class. A panel will discuss emerging approaches to reform that show promise for encouraging program completion, reducing cost, and improving quality. Click here to watch the video. 


Date: April 2, 2013
Title: The GED Test is Undergoing a Major Overhaul. Will the Changes Affect You? 

 

The General Education Development (GED) test has for decades been the most commonly accepted alternative to a high school diploma. Developed in the 1940s as a way to help World War II veterans complete the requirements needed to move on to college, GEDs have now been awarded to over 18 million people. The test has proven to be an excellent tool for adults who may have dropped out of high school many years earlier; the average age of test takers is 26. The market for the GED and other high school equivalency certificates has grown recently along with increased dropout rates (especially among minority populations), and as the changing job market has forced older Americans to improve their education in order to find employment.

After a major overhaul process, a new GED test with different content and a different format will be administered starting in January 2014. This change could create serious obstacles for many low-skilled and low-income adults throughout the country. The new test will be more difficult, more expensive, and will likely be offered in fewer locations. Read more


Date: March 29, 2013
Title: What is the Common Core Initative?

 

This week, members of The Corps Network staff attended an AEI (American Enterprise Institute) research conference on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Common Core is an education initiative to align K-12 curricula across the country. The goal is that every student will receive a meaningful high school diploma that guarantees they have a certain level of ability that would be expected in college or desirable to an employer (see below for more information on what the Common Core State Standards entail).

So far, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the initiative. With the new Standards, states will be required to administer new assessments to measure student achievement. Though a test has not been created, the first formal assessment is expected to happen as soon as the 2014 – 2015 school year. This compressed timeline leaves many educators questioning whether the Standards will be effectively implemented and how successful CCSS will be. Read more

The GED Test is undergoing a Major Overhaul. Will the Changes Affect You?

The General Education Development (GED) test has for decades been the most commonly accepted alternative to a high school diploma. Developed in the 1940s as a way to help World War II veterans complete the requirements needed to move on to college, GEDs have now been awarded to over 18 million people. The test has proven to be an excellent tool for adults who may have dropped out of high school many years earlier; the average age of test takers is 26. The market for the GED and other high school equivalency certificates has grown recently along with increased dropout rates (especially among minority populations), and as the changing job market has forced older Americans to improve their education in order to find employment. 

After a major overhaul process, a new GED test with different content and a different format will be administered starting in January 2014. This change could create serious obstacles for many low-skilled and low-income adults throughout the country. The new test will be more difficult, more expensive, and will likely be offered in fewer locations. Read below to learn the specifics of how the GED is changing, why these changes raise concerns for educators, and how states and counties are addressing these concerns. Information taken from The Working Poor Families Project policy brief, "Preparing for the New GED Test: What to Consider Before 2014" (Fall 2012).

 


Why is the GED test changing?

The American Council on Education (ACE), the nonprofit organization that has developed and administered the GED since its creation, believed that the current test content did not reflect the skill level needed for college or competitive jobs. There was a desire to bring the test in alignment with the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and thus keep the test in step with the country’s increased focus on postsecondary education. ACE also wanted to update the test so it could be taken on computers rather than on paper. In 2011, ACE created a partnership with Pearson VUE, a for-profit testing company, in order to develop a new exam that would test for the skills colleges and employers now expect from competitive applicants.

 


What does the current GED test look like?

The current test is comprised of tests in 5 subject areas that, when passed, certify that the test-taker has high school-level academic abilities. Tests are administered at official GED testing centers. Usually, the tests are taken over the course of a few weeks or months (it would take over 7 hours to complete them all at once). The 5 tests include:

  • reading
  • writing
  • math
  • science
  • social studies

 


What will the new GED test look like? – starting January 2014

CONTENT
The new battery of tests places a greater emphasis on writing ability and critical thinking skills. There will be four tests covering the following subject areas:

  • literacy
  • math
  • science
  • social studies
    **(writing skills will be assessed in multiple tests, eliminating the need for a separate writing test) 

TEST TAKING
The new test will be administered on computers. The old paper and pencil tests will only be available for students with disabilities.

SCORING
There will now be a two-tiered scoring system resulting in two different types of certification. There will still be a certain passing score for each test that indicates general high school competency. But, students that score well on college readiness aspects of the test will also receive credentials that indicate both high school equivalency and college readiness.

 


What concerns do educators have about how the GED test changes could affect low-income, low-skilled adults?

COST:

  • The current computer-based GED test costs about $120 for testing centers to administer; this is moderately or significantly more than the standard fee for the paper and pencil test.
  • While some states set the fees for GED tests or cover the test costs completely, other states allow testing centers to determine the price of the tests based on their operating costs and what kinds of subsidies they receive. As subsidies decrease and testing centers must invest in new equipment to administer the tests, there is concern costs could be passed on to test takers in the form of exam fees.
  • Since the new test will be taken by computer, GED Testing Service will assume total responsibility for test scoring and record keeping (a task usually managed by states). Some fear that having a central repository for all GED test records could make it more difficult and costly for test takers to receive their certificates and transcripts.
  • All new test content means test prep centers and adult education providers will need to invest in new materials and professional development. This could mean increased prices for prep services.
  • Many states have subsidized the cost of the GED test, but there is concern that this could stop due to prohibitions of public agencies subsidizing for-profit companies (such as Pearson VUE, the test taking company now partnered with ACE) without competitive bidding.
  • There is concern that Pearson VUE, as a for-profit company, has the ability to increase the test cost whenever they want.

COMPUTERIZATION

Now that the test will be administered solely on computers, adult education providers will need to provide instruction in computer literacy. This will take more time and resources and could prove very difficult for test takers and education providers with limited or no access to computers.

AVAILABILITY OF TEST CENTERS

The new test will be available at Pearson VUE test centers, which are generally far less numerous than the state-managed test centers that currently provide the exams. Existing state testing centers will be authorized to administer the test if they have the resources (computers) and capacity to do so. Fewer testing centers poses a challenge for test takers in rural areas and for those without transportation.

IMPACT ON CURRICULUM & TEST PREPARATION METHODS

  • Studies show that about half of all GED test takers prepare for the exams on their own instead of participating in adult education programs. With the increased rigor of the exam, more students will probably need to use test preparation services.
  • Will the new two-tiered scoring system affect the rate at which GED takers move on to postsecondary education opportunities? Will those who don’t receive the college readiness credentials feel discouraged and not bother applying to college?
  • Does it make sense to bring the test in alignment with the Common Core State Standards Initiative? Yes, the Common Core was created to ensure high school graduates are more prepared for college and careers, but the Standards were developed for K-12 education, not adult education.
  • With the current test disappearing after December 31, 2013, will adult educators and test preparation services have had enough time to bring their curriculum up to speed?

 


 What is being done to address these concerns and accommodate for the new test?

Two main things that need to be done:

  1. States and school districts need to take action to ensure that the new test remains affordable and accessible
  2. States need to take action to make sure there are viable alternatives to the GED, especially for working adults for whom the new test model may not be appropriate.  

What's being done now?

  • GED Testing Services plans to make curriculum and professional development resources available in order to ease the transition.
  • Many states and counties are simply encouraging students to accelerate their studies and complete the GED test before the transition happens in 2014.
  • Some states, such as Texas and New York, are seriously considering creating an alternative test to the GED. Some states already offer alternatives to the GED test and are looking for ways to make these tests more accessible and accepted. Some states are exploring the development of new competency-based high school equivalency diplomas.
  • Some states and counties are looking into other established, national high school equivalency diploma options, such as the National External Diploma Program (NEDP). The NEDP, which is competency-based, better serves adults as it allows test takers to demonstrate skills learned through life experiences rather than through the classroom.

 

What is the Common Core Initiative?


 

This week, members of The Corps Network staff attended an AEI (American Enterprise Institute) research conference on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Common Core is an education initiative to align K-12 curricula across the country. The goal is that every student will receive a meaningful high school diploma that guarantees they have a certain level of ability that would be expected in college or desirable to an employer (see below for more information on what the Common Core State Standards entail).

So far, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the initiative. With the new Standards, states will be required to administer new assessments to measure student achievement. Though a test has not been created, the first formal assessment is expected to happen as soon as the 2014 – 2015 school year. This compressed timeline leaves many educators questioning whether the Standards will be effectively implemented and how successful CCSS will be. 

Panelists at the AEI event came to the conclusion that implementing the initiative will face a number of challenges as it interacts with existing school policies and other education reform initiatives. Issues and concerns the panelists discussed included: 

  • How will charter schools react to the Initiative? Charter schools are somewhat based on the idea that standardized schooling is flawed. Will charters reject the Common Core Standards out of fear that it would restrict their freedom to choose their own curriculum and teaching methods? Or, since all states and districts will be more closely aligned under the Common Core, will charter schools embrace the standards as a way to prove their methods are more effective than those used in mainstream schools?
  • The Common Core requires teaching a certain level of computer skills (keyboard use, etc.), and it seems likely that new state assessments will be administered on computers. How will this affect the already large “technology gap” between poor schools and wealthy schools?
  • Though implementation of the Standards is still just beginning, schools will begin formally testing students to see if their achievement levels have changed. How will we know if these assessments are really measuring student achievement in ways similar to how states measured achievement in the past? How soon will schools start looking at test results when making high stakes decisions about teacher hiring and firing?
  • Are teaching schools keeping up with the changes? Are teacher training methods reflective of the Common Core State Standards?
  • How will teachers respond to the Standards? Will they need to change any of their teaching methods? How will they react to working closely with other teachers?
  • CCSS places an emphasis on making sure students are exposed to increasingly difficult texts throughout their educational career. The Standards also require that students learn how to really interact with a text and analyze it, rather than just write about how the text makes them feel. Are students at a level where they are capable of handling this transition? 

What is the Common Core State Standards Initiative?

It is an education initiative that follows the idea that all students across the country should have a common core of knowledge that prepares them for higher education or the workforce. A high school diploma from any school, city, or state should guarantee that the recipient is literate and can compete in the job market. Historically, states have had vastly different standards for what a competent student should be able to do and understand; CCSS seeks to bring these standards into alignment.

There are currently Standards for math and English language arts (Standards for science and social studies do not exist yet). They were released in June 2010 and most states adopted them within a few months. States that adopted the Standards or a similar college and career readiness curriculum were eligible for federal Race to the Top Grants. All states that adopted the initiative plan to have 85 percent of their curricula on the Standards by 2015.

The CCSS initiative is more about prescribing what a student should be able to do rather than saying students should know specific facts or texts. For example, there are no reading lists to accompany the reading standards; rather, students are simply expected to read a wide range of classic and contemporary work that challenges their ideas and perspectives. 

 

Harpers Ferry Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center Congratulates Graduates



Photo by Holly Shok of The Journal

Taken from The Journal - written December 8, 2012

SHEPHERDSTOWN - The U.S. Forest Service Harpers Ferry Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center graduated 95 students on Friday.

Students, who were required to have a high school diploma or GED to finish, received a certificate of completion and career technical training certificate from Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center at the ceremony, hosted at Shepherdstown's National Conservation Training Center.

"This is the beginning of education and training for the rest of your lives," Center Director Ralph DiBattista said addressing the graduates. "Congratulations on a job well done thus far."

The graduation address was made by recent retiree of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dr. Mamie Parker, president of MA Parker and Associates. Parker encouraged graduates to avoid, what she terms, the four cancers of life: criticizing, complaining, negatively competing and comparing. Parker, who was the first African-American to serve as the FWS Regional Director, detailed her story of success, which included various ups and downs.

"You, graduates, are certainly braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think," she said.

Harris Sherman, undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture, also addressed the graduates.

"Let me just say that ... you should feel so proud of the achievement you have made here," he said. "I know that a lot of you have overcome adversity. You have rolled up your sleeves, you've worked hard, you've put your shoulder to the wheel. You all have faced a variety of challenges that a lot of young people your age have not had to face."

"I just want to salute you," Sherman said. "I hope you will savor this moment, you'll look back on this moment, you will realize how proud you should be of yourself for everything that you have been able to accomplish. Congratulations to you."

Keith McIntosh, representative of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, spoke on behalf of the senator. Manchin also addressed the graduates via video clip.

Special awards were presented by Mike Grove of Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia. Additional outstanding student awards were presented to Darren McIntyre Jr., Career Technical Training Award; Melody Self, Academic Student of the Year; Brandon Perry, Residential Student of the Year; Terrance Pearman, Counseling Award; and Richard Johnson, Student of the Year.

"My fellow graduates, today is one of the most successful days of our lives, because we achieved our goal," Johnson announced to the class of 2012. "Every four years, America needs a new president who can lead our country in the right direction - that president could be you. You have taken the right step at Job Corps. Don't stop now."

The Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center was initiated as part of President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty.

 

 

2009 Project of the Year: Multi-Site Non-Profit Center for Education

Winner: Southwest Conservation Corps

The Southwest Conservation Corps' (SCC) award winning project, "The Commons," is the nation's first multi-site nonprofit center focused on education. Working with the Durango Adult Education Center and Pueblo Community College, SCC and its partners purchased a new facility in 2007. The community quickly saw the benefit of the project and the pernership was awarded the Durango Chamber of Commerce's "Non-Profit of the Year" award in early 2008. The New Markets Tax Credit Coalition chose the project as its Colorado respresentative in its "50 Projects - 50 States" Report in October 2008.

Development of The Commons has provided a bounty of direct benefits to SCC and its Corpsmembers. These benefits include: transition on-site between SCC to GED programs at Adult Education Center and post-secondary education at Pueblo Community College, Fort Lewis College and The University of Denver; special $1,000 Scholarships to Fort Lewis College for SCC Corpsmembers, renewable annually for four years; and 5,000 square feet of completely re-modeled and customized offices and shops with plenty of parking in downtown Durango. The other 13 nonprofit or education organizations in the building have seen similar benefits. Pueblo Community College and the Adult Education Center have each seen enrollment jumps of 30 - 40 percent since the opening of the facility in late 2007.

In an editorial piece, The Durango Herald stated, "...the real advantages come in terms of enhanced stability, greater coordination among the various organizations and the cooperation made possible by having such a fertile mix of educational groups under one roof...That has to translate into better careers, increased opportunities and an overal better Durango." 

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Lasharee Jones

 

Two years ago, Lasharee Jones didn't have much hope.  A high school dropout and a single mother, she was struggling to make ends meet.  Then she came to the West Seneca Service Action Corps (now The Service Collaborative of WNY, Inc.).  While serving as an AmeriCorps member for two consecutive terms, Lasharee is achieving her dream.  Making deliveries for the Buffalo Food Bank, building homes through YouthBuild and beautifying local parks, Lasharee is making a difference to those around her.  Now she is about to receive her GED, a feat she had not imagined possible two years ago. Lasharee cannot wait to go to college and build her future. 

--“I don’t just want to feed people and clean a lot, I want to inspire.  I want to teach people through my actions.  I want people to get this message of service and do it too.  There is no point sitting around blaming others for not succeeding.  I’ve been given a gift, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King I want to walk in his footsteps inspiring others.”

(written in 2005)

2005 Corpsmember of the Year: Germain Castellanos

***Update! Click here to find out what Germain has been up to since he won his award.***

(Written in 2005)

Before Germain Castellanos made the decision to change his life, he was involved with a local gang and participated in various gang activities including drugs and violence.  This path caused him to get kicked out of school and convicted of a misdemeanor by age 16.  The birth of his daughter served as a wake up call. That’s when Germain joined the Youth Conservation Corps’ NASCC (National Association of Service and Conservation Corps - the former name of The Corps Network) AmeriCorps RuralResponse Program.  Now, after supervising kids who were in the same situation he was once in and volunteering for a wide variety of community, faith-based and political organizations, Germain has received his GED, completed one and half years at DeVry University and started courses at College of Lake County in Illinois.  Germain is on his way to reaching his goals of becoming an attorney and starting a nonprofit program that works with at risk youth. 

-- “This experience has shown me that the world is in dire need of help from people who love to help others.  The YCC AmeriCorps program has helped me come to the realization that I am one of those people.”

(written in 2005)

2007 Corpsmember of the Year: Cop Lieu

***Update! Click here to read about what Cop has been up to since he accepted his award.***


As a Corpsmember with The Work Group in Camden, NJ, Cop excelled quickly and became a "peer reinforcer," counseling new members coming into the program. Although just years ago he trekked by foot through the jungles of Cambodia into Thailand to come to America with his family, Cop's toughest times were actually his early years in the U.S. when he got caught up in street life and fighting, was expelled from the traditional school system, and spent time in juvenile detention.

After joining The Work Group at the recommendation of a friend, Cop passed his GED test, earned his customer service credential, obtained his driver's license, and was promoted to a peer advisor due to his natural ability to relate to and influence his peers.

Cop plans to go to school and learn more about the real estate business and has started the process to get his citizenship. He also currently works as a Support Services Associate at a Philadelphia hospital. 

(written in 2007)

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