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SACRAMENTO—California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the launch of both a new statewide #GoOpen initiative and Collaboration in Common, an online professional learning community and resource exchange platform for all California educators.

In joining the #GoOpen initiative, California becomes the sixteenth state recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its commitment to support school districts and educators transitioning to the use of high-quality, openly licensed educational resources.

California was recognized for its commitment to a statewide technology strategy that includes the use of openly licensed resources as a central component, developing and maintaining a statewide repository, and participating in a community of practice with other #GoOpen states and districts to share learning and professional development resources. More information on #GoOpen can be found at the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology Web site External link opens in new window or tab .

Source: California Department of Education News Release #16-55, August 2, 2016 External link opens in new window or tab

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Aspen Workforce Strategies Initiative (WSI) External link opens in new window or tab, in collaboration with the Urban Institute External link opens in new window or tab , recently released a new evaluation report, Implementation of Accelerating Opportunity: Final Implementation Findings with Lessons for the Field External link opens in new window or tab. The Accelerating Opportunity (AO) initiative is intended to expand economic opportunities for adult students with low basic skills through earning valued occupational credentials, obtaining well-paying jobs, and sustaining rewarding careers.

Accelerating Opportunity, begun in 2011, was designed as an integrated approach to encourage states to enroll students in credit-bearing career and technical education courses at local community colleges, while simultaneously helping them improve their basic education skills. According to the report, the “AO model focused on students who scored between the 6th- and 12th-grade level in basic skill areas but who expressed interest in earning technical credentials. In particular, AO was designed for adult education students who lacked high school diplomas or the equivalent.”

This final implementation report presents findings over the first three years of the initiative—in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana—and provides an in-depth description of the process and lessons that emerged. The report identifies several specific elements for successful implementation, including the following:

  • Receiving state leadership and support;
  • Removing policy barriers;
  • Considering college institutional factors;
  • Utilizing partnerships both from within and outside the colleges; and
  • Providing both academic and social student supports.

The report findings may be of particular interest to state policymakers, colleges, and others planning for the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) — which provides new opportunities for integrated career pathway development within states and colleges. For more information, interested parties are encouraged to read the full report.

Source: Issue 250 OCTAE Connection - July 21, 2016 External link opens in new window or tab

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants’ need for the education and training required to become economically self-sufficient is growing increasingly urgent. The vast majority of jobs in the future will require at least some education beyond high school, yet many SNAP participants have not reached this level of educational attainment. Without the skills to meet rapidly changing labor market demand, the chances of these SNAP participants for getting a good job and reducing their need for SNAP are extremely low. In fact, longer-term participants (those receiving benefits for 37 out of the past 48 months) are more likely to have less than a high school diploma as compared to their higher-educated peers.

According to a new policy brief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Why Now is the Time for States to Build Their SNAP E&T Program External link opens in new window or tab (April 2016),

The SNAP Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) program, a skills and job training program for SNAP participants administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), is a key resource States and their partners can utilize to help SNAP participants meet this urgent need for skills and better jobs. SNAP E&T has historically been under-utilized, but a renewed focus on the program amid greater urgency for job training for SNAP participants has created new momentum for States seeking to build bigger, better, and stronger E&T programs.

Funding is provided for SNAP E&T through a mix of federal grants. States receive annual formula grants to implement and operate the program; however, states, institutions, and other organizations may also receive a 50-percent federal reimbursement of non-federal investments in education and training expenses for SNAP participants. These training programs must be included in a state’s annual SNAP E&T plan that is submitted to FNS.

The policy brief also outlines the immediate opportunity of the SNAP E&T program and shares some tips and best practices to get you started. This brief is the first in a series on best practices in SNAP E&T, developed under the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s technical assistance project, SNAP to Skills. Subsequent briefs and other resources about the program will be posted on the SNAP to Skills External link opens in new window or tab website. Find out more about your state’s SNAP E&T program External link opens in new window or tab. To receive monthly SNAP E&T updates, sign up for the SNAP E&T Review External link opens in new window or tab.

Source: Issue 250 OCTAE Connection - July 21, 2016 External link opens in new window or tab

Consortium for School Networking

Student access to robust digital tools is key to their success as 21st century citizens. Yet many students from economically disadvantaged families have limited access to these tools both at school and at home. Students without home access to high quality broadband connectivity are at a disadvantage, unable to realize the full power of digital learning. Only 3 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools said that their students had the digital tools necessary to complete homework assignments, compared to 52 percent of teachers in more affluent schools, a discrepancy sometimes labeled the "homework gap."

To address this key challenge, CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking)External link opens in new window or tab launched the Digital Equity Action Agenda External link opens in new window or tab initiative. This effort highlights how some school districts are building meaningful community partnerships and creating tools to help district leaders get started in achieving digital equity.

Read more in the publicly available executive summary External link opens in new window or tab or download the full toolkit for free.

Source: COSN Digital Equity Action Agenda External link opens in new window or tab