Education innovations for disadvantaged students in Washington DC

Can internship and mentorship programs help students graduate from high school and prepare them for colleges and careers? What type of support is needed for the most disadvantaged youth, including those who suffer from homelessness? Do tutoring programs help students learn? How can we improve the research, writing, and presentation skills of middle and high school students? 

These are some of the questions considered in a new series of briefs on innovations in education in the greater Washington DC, area of the United States.  The series is launched jointly by the World Bank Group’s (WBG) education team, the WBG Community Connections Program (the WBG’s outreach program to the local community), and the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill. We hope to contribute to better education outcomes not only in the DC area but also elsewhere by showcasing innovative programs that make a positive difference in the life of students and how well they learn.

Why focus on DC? The WBG’s mission is to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. While living standards in DC are better than in the developing work, poverty rates remain high and only about two thirds of students complete high school according to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. While improvements have been achieved in recent years, innovations are needed to improve education and employment outcomes for disadvantaged children and youth.

The  briefs, in a small but meaningful way, will hopefully contribute to debates on how to improve education by featuring successful programs and policies. The programs and policies featured in the briefs will likely be relevant for other regions in the United States and developing countries with similar challenges.

The first set of briefs in the series feature non-profits that benefited from monitoring and evaluation grants from the WBG’s Community Connections Program or pro bono evaluation support provided by World Bank staff. The Latin America Youth Center (LAYC), One World Education, and the Urban Alliance are among the nonprofits featured in the briefs released on the occasion of the WBG’s Volunteer Awareness Day on May 10.

Below is a brief description of the work of the three organizations together with links to the briefs on these organizations.

LAYC: Some 17,400 young adults aged 18 – 24 who are from the Washington Metropolitan Area are disconnected from work and school. These youth are often from low-income families, are not in school, and are out of work. They typically face multiple challenges, including homelessness, issues with the courts, or substance abuse. These challenges prevent them from successfully transitioning into adulthood. LAYC uses an innovative approach called the ‘Promotor Pathway’ to target high-risk youth.  It’s a long-term, intensive, holistic case management and mentorship intervention which has led to positive changes in school enrollment, birth rates, and homelessness.

One World Education: During the 2015-16 school year, One World Education worked with District of Columbia Public Schools as a partner for the ‘Cornerstone’ initiative. Cornerstones are high-quality, in-depth core curricular experiences such as argumentative writing programs. Cornerstones aim to provide rigorous content to students, improved professional development for teachers, and continuity and consistency across grades and subjects. Some 5,200 students in 15 DC public schools in grades 10 and 12 have already participated in the One World Education programs.

Urban Alliance:  This non-profit organization, which operates in DC, Baltimore, Chicago, and Northern Virginia, facilitates the transition of disadvantage youth from high school to college to employment. It does so by running a comprehensive early employment program that provides access and exposure to professional networks for youth enrolled in the program. Urban Alliance staff train and mentor the students through their first professional employment opportunities, which help propel them to future success. Over 90 percent of Urban Alliance alumni go on to college. The WBG has participated in the Urban Alliance program since 1997 and supported over 300 students through internships. Results from an external evaluation suggest that the Urban Alliance program improves high school graduation rates and the likelihood that students will go to college after graduation.

The objective of the series of briefs is to document these and other successful programs, so that they can inform education policy and practice not only in DC, but also elsewhere. If you are living in the Greater Washington, DC, area and if you have an idea for a potential brief in the series, please let me know or post your idea in the comment section below.

This post is reproduced with minor changes from a post published by the author on May 9, 2016 on the World Bank Education for Global Development blog.

 

 

Open Access World Bank Publications on Education (Resources Series No. 5)

Getting a good education is one of the best ways to escape poverty in the developing world. This post, the fifth in a series on open access World Bank publications, provides easy access to a selection of 50 books and reports published since 2010 by the World Bank on education and (to a lower extent) on WASH in schools. The publications were compiled as a resource for participants at the 2016 Rotary International Presidential Conferences on literacy and WASH in schools in Kolkata, India, and on WASH in schools in Pasay near Manila, Philippines. The list of publications is available here.

KolkataManilla

Rotary International has long recognized the importance of basic literacy and education, as well as WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene). These areas have been recognized as two of the six areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation. Many clubs and districts around the world are implementing projects in those areas.

How can clubs and districts contribute to efforts towards literacy and education, including through WASH in schools? These are the questions that will be discussed at the Kolkata and Pasay Conferences. The conferences are part of five flagship conferences organized by Rotary International in 2015-16. The other conferences are on peace and conflict resolution in Ontario (California), disease prevention and treatment in Cannes, and economic development in Cape Town.

The compilation of recent World Bank publications on education made available here is provided as a service to Rotarians and others working on those areas without any endorsement of the World Bank as to which publications should be featured. Access is provided through the World Bank’s Open Knowledge Repository. In order to keep the list manageable, the focus is on books and reports published since 2010 as opposed to other publications. Only publications from the World Bank are listed simply because covering (many) other organizations would be a rather complex task. At the same time, focusing on World Bank has the advantage of being able to go global with a single organization.

The hope is that the publications listed, and more generally the World Bank’s open access knowledge resources, will be useful to conference participants and others working on education and WASH in schools.

 

Open Access World Bank Publications on Entrepreneurship, Jobs, and Skills (Resources Series No. 4)

Entrepreneurship, jobs, and skills are fundamental for poverty reduction and development. This post, the fourth in a series on open access World Bank publications, provides easy access to a selection of 50 books and reports published since 2010 by the World Bank on entrepreneurship, jobs, and skills. The publications were compiled as a resource for participants at the 2016 Rotary Presidential Conference on Economic Development in Cape Town, South Africa. The list of publications is available here.

Cape Town

Rotary International has long recognized the importance of growing local economies and more generally economic development. This area has been recognized as one of six areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation. Many clubs and districts around the world are implementing projects promoting economic development, and these projects often focus on skills, jobs, and entrepreneurship.

How can clubs and districts contribute to efforts to grow local economies? These are some of the questions that will be discussed at the Cape Town Conference. The conference is one of five flagship conferences organized by Rotary International in 2015-16. The other conferences are on peace and conflict resolution in Ontario (California), disease prevention and treatment in Cannes, literacy and WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) in schools in Kolkata, and WASH in schools in Manila.

The compilation of recent World Bank publications on entrepreneurship, jobs, and skills made available here is provided as a service to Rotarians and others working on those areas without any endorsement of the World Bank as to which publications should be featured. Access is provided through the World Bank’s Open Knowledge Repository. In order to keep the list manageable, the focus is on books and reports published since 2010 as opposed to other publications. Only publications from the World Bank are listed simply because covering (many) other organizations would be a rather complex task. At the same time, focusing on World Bank has the advantage of being able to go global with a single organization.

The hope is that the publications listed, and more generally the World Bank’s open access knowledge resources, will be useful to conference participants and others working on economic development and jobs.

Five Steps to Improve Girls’ Education and Job Prospects

by Mattias Lundberg, Oni Lusk-Stover, and Quentin Wodon

What comes first to your mind when you think about girls’ education? There may be a good chance that you remember a particular girl you met who could not go to primary school. Or perhaps you will visualize one of those great pictures of smiling and studious girls attending primary school in a developing country thanks to a particular project or intervention.

Both pictures are correct, but they account for only a small part of the story.Until recently, many girls did not even complete primary school. But dramatic progress has been achieved toward gender equity in basic education as part of the Millennium Development Goals. While more remains to be done, today’s challenges for improving girls’ education, skills, and job prospects have changed.

More attention needs to be given to what happens before and after primary school. For girls and young women to acquire the skills they need, five steps – suggested by the World Bank’s STEP framework – are needed. The good news is that at each step, we have a good idea of which interventions can help girls fulfill their potential.

First, give girls a strong foundation through early childhood development (ECD). Disadvantages built early in life are difficult to remedy, but effective ECD programs can avoid such disadvantages and thereby yield high payoffs. ECD programs build the technical, cognitive, and behavioral skills conducive to high productivity later in life. Successful interventions emphasize, among other areas, nutrition, stimulation, and basic cognitive skills.

A new study suggests that in Jamaica, 20 years after an ECD intervention was conducted, the average earnings of beneficiaries – boys and girls – were 42% higher than those of the control group. While such large gains might not be obtained if all children were benefiting from such interventions, which is the ultimate aim, it is nevertheless clear that early psychosocial stimulation can substantially improve future earnings.

The second step focuses on basic education. Gaps remain, to be sure: Data from a forthcoming paper suggest that in 24 low-income countries, only 34% of girls in the poorest 20% of households complete primary school, compared with 72% of girls in the richest 20% of households. These income-related gaps can be reduced through interventions to reduce the opportunity cost of schooling for girls, such as conditional cash transfers.

In Yemen, one such new program targeting girls in grades 4-9 in disadvantaged communities is reaching close to 40,000 girls. In addition to increasing enrollment and attendance, we also need to ensure that all girls who go to school can learn—by building stronger schooling systems with clear learning standards, good teachers, adequate resources, and a proper regulatory environment that emphasizes accountability.

But learning for what? Education for its own sake certainly has an intrinsic value, but education and training that proves useful in the workplace is also essential. The third step in helping girls grow is to provide them with job-relevant skills that employers actually demand, or that they can use in launching their own business.

Many countries have achieved (or are making rapid progress toward) gender parity in basic education. By contrast, labor force participation in most developing countries remains substantially lower for young women than men. In India, Nigeria and South Africa, more than three-quarters of all girls aged 15-24 are not engaged in paid work and are not looking for work. And according to the International Income Distribution Database, nearly 40% of young women globally are either unemployed or ‘idle’ (not in education, nor work). In addition are the millions of young women who are engaged in unpaid or unproductive work.

Clearly, this represents a significant loss to their families as well as to economic growth. How can we get young women into productive work? According to new research conducted as part of the World Bank’s Adolescent Girls’ Initiative, a program in Liberia that provided girls age 16-27 with life skills, training, and job placement assistance increased employment by nearly 50%, and nearly doubled incomes. The program also had positive impacts on self-confidence, satisfaction with job outcomes, and household food security.

Step four relates to the creation of an environment that encourages investments in knowledge and creativity. This requires innovation-specific skills and investments to help connect people with ideas, as well as risk management tools that facilitate innovation. Again, girls are at a disadvantage when compared with boys, with fewer opportunities and, therefore, lower rates of entrepreneurship in many countries.

A new program in Uganda run by the nongovernmental organization BRAC provides girls age 14-20 with a safe space, life skills training, and livelihoods training for self-employment based on local market conditions. This program generated significant income gains from self-employment with no adverse effects on schooling outcomes. In addition, childbearing among beneficiaries declined, the proportion of girls using condoms increased, and the incidence of forced sex decreased.

Finally, and this is the fifth and last step, it is important that societies promote flexible, efficient, and secure labor markets. Apart from avoiding rigid job protection regulations while strengthening income protection systems, providing intermediation services for workers and firms is important to transform skills into actual employment and productivity.

This matters even more for girls than for boys, as girls are often more constrained and have limited access to opportunities, which in turn can lead to diminished expectations. But this can be overcome, at least in part, by providing information on how markets really work. For example, research suggests that women who were shown videos of other women working in traditionally male occupations, such as auto repair, and who were told that wages were higher in such fields, were more likely to choose and enroll in training in those traditionally male-dominated fields.

When thinking about girls’ education, there’s nothing wrong with picturing primary schools. But to help girls succeed in life, this is not enough: We need to pay equal attention to what happens before and after primary school. Girls and young women entering the 21st century job market will need skills and knowledge that can be developed only throughout their lifetime. They need our support at every step along the way.

Note: this post is reproduced with minor changes from a post on the Education for Global Development blog of the World Bank available at http://blogs.worldbank.org/education/