Education & DC’s Job Training Challenge

By: Tara Adam, Policy Fellow

On June 29, 2017, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute hosted a panel discussion entitled, “Big Solutions to DC’s Big Job Training Challenge.” The event was attended by roughly forty stakeholders of varying backgrounds including Ms. Ruth Wattenberg, SBOE Representative from Ward 3.

 

The panel, moderated by Mr. Andy Shallal of Busboy and Poets and Chair of the DC Workforce Investment Council, featured private-sector employers and labor union leaders including Mr. Raj Aggarwal (Think Local First), Mr. John Boardman (Unite HERE 25), Ms. Ilana Boivie (DC Fiscal Policy Institute), Mr. Thomas Penny (Donohoe Hospitality Services), and Ms. Stacy Smith (Hyatt Hotels Corporation).

The panel opened with Ms. Ilana Boivie, Senior Policy Analyst at DC Fiscal Policy Institute, providing an overview of the current economic state of DC in relation to the job market; overall, the District has seen robust growth. While unemployment is down, rates remains high in Wards 7 and 8 (10.9 and 13.3% respectively). Of those unemployed, roughly 60,000 lack a high school degree, and even those who have multiple certificates from training programs still have a difficulty securing a job.

As Mr. Penny remarked, “we all have a responsibility to do something.” The panelists discussed that it is up to private-sector employers, labor union leaders, and local stakeholders to create educational programs and pathways to help lower unemployment rates and target demographic groups which are most inflicted. In addition to developing skillsets, employers must build up wrap-around services for employees centered on childcare, housing and transportation.

While much of the conversation centered on educational job training programs, I believe that many of the key points are applicable when thinking about recent SBOE endeavors such as overhauling high school graduation requirements. By providing students with alternative graduation pathways, not only could the number of of DC residents without a high school degree decline, but also the probability of said students obtaining higher education degrees increase. This would allow these individuals to be better candidates for many of the jobs within the District that require advanced degrees, as noted by Ms. Boivie.

At one point during the discussion, Mr. Shallal mentioned the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Workforce Programs, the fifth habit being to treat education like a job. The SBOE has worked diligently to ensure that educational standards provide students with the best opportunities to achieve success. However, I believe that more can be done, especially by the ESSA Implementation Taskforce, in working with community organizations and educational institutions to ensure that students have access to vital resources so external stressors are minimized that they have the opportunity to treat their education like a job.

Overall, “Big Solutions to DC’s Big Job Training Challenge” was an interesting panel discussion. While much of the conversation was skewed toward education in a job-training program, many of the points highlighted were applicable to K-12 education. More information regarding future DC Fiscal Policy Institute events and the organization’s work can be found here.

Can We Bridge the Research-to-Policy Divide?

By: Tara Adam, Policy Fellow

On Thursday, June 15, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, sponsored by the Knowledge Alliance, held a lively panel discussion on the topic: Moderated by the President of the think tank, Michael J Petrilli, discussants included: Dale Chu, VP of Policy and Operations at America Succeeds; Dan Goldhaber, Director, CEDR University of Washington & Director, CALDER & Vice President, AIR; Liz Farley-Ripple, Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy, University of Delaware; and Nora Gordon, Associate Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University.

The discussion opened with a brief synopsis by Mr. Petrilli discussing the recent movement of policy making power and implementation from the federal to state level, as called for by the Every Student Succeeds Act. He noted that state legislatures are now Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 3.35.22 PM.pngresponsible for being catalysts of policy change driven by sound, empirical evidence. In order to exemplify what type of questions policymakers may be asking when driving such changes, Mr. Petrilli designed an interactive group exercise for panelists entitled, “The Wheel of Policy.” When spun, the wheel landed on the topic of teacher licensure. The group proceeded to brainstorm questions to spur conversation. What was the impact of having fifty different state licensure exams and what was the outcome of having an exam that differs significantly from surrounding states? Given the number of questions, it was clear to the panelists and event attendees that the breadth of teacher licensure is significant and can be broken down into a multitude of subtopics.

From here, the discussion moved to understanding the role politics plays in the dynamic interplay between research and policy. The consensus amongst Mr. Chu and Ms. Farley-Ripple was that as policy analysts, they were more inclined to seek out researchers who produced evidence that support their policy Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 3.34.40 PM.pngclaims and beliefs. This in turn prompted Mr. Goldhaber and Ms. Gordon to rebuke and state that it was imperative that the public understands what type of research was informing said policy claims and where and from whom educational institutions and think tanks receive funding from as there is greater potential for underlying evidential biases.

The event concluded with a brief question and answer session. Attendees talked about the impact of international politics on US policy implementation and whether there should be best practice guides for education policy. During closing remarks, Mr. Goldhaber made mention of and commended the efforts by DC Public Schools (DCPS) on being an exemplary model for other states to follow when creating policy that are clearly rooted in empirical evidence. Mr. Petrilli echoed this sentiment and followed up by stating that this practice was also led by charter school management systems. To learn more about the event and watch the replay, click here.