Education forum on Multiple Pathways and the College and Career Readiness Challenge highlights school-community partnerships

On June 4, 2013, the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, together with the Learning to Work Coalition and PACE University School of Education, held an education symposium on  “Multiple Pathways and the College and Career Readiness Challenge: School-CBO Partnerships Raising Achievement for Off-Track Students”.  With 200 attendees, the forum brought together non-profit service providers, educators, young people, employers, city leaders, and foundations to discuss the NYC schools’ transition to Common Core standards and the Multiple Pathways model – a partnership between the NYC Department of Education (NYC DOE) and community-based organizations (CBOs) to re-engage students who have fallen behind or dropped out of high school and support them on a path to graduation and postsecondary success.  This model includes the Learning to Work initiative, through which CBOs provide paid internships and youth development supports to off-track students.  As NYC schools strive to increase college and career readiness for all students, the Multiple Pathways model is a powerful strategy that can be leveraged to support off-track students to reach a higher bar and graduate ready for their next steps.  The event highlighted the primary issues involved in this effort to support and improve student success.

 Michele Cahill, Vice President of National Programs for the Carnegie Corporation of New York, gave the keynote address, emphasizing the postsecondary imperative and innovative school design that draws on community assets.  “The Multiple Pathways strategy that has graduated at high standards, thousands of young people who were formerly disconnected from school, and put these youth on pathways to positive adult lives, has critically important lessons for the country as we move towards adoption of Common Core Standards.  Innovative school design combining strong academics with partnerships for effective youth development and career-readiness supports is a powerful model for successful outcomes for older youth.”

 Respondents included Josh Thomases, the Deputy Chief Academic Officer for Instruction at the NYC DOE, and Cass Conrad, the Executive Director for School Support and Development at CUNY, who added their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges of increasing postsecondary readiness.  “The Common Core standards provide us with a powerful tool for getting students college and career ready,” said Thomases.  “New York City has been a national leader both in Common Core implementation and in supporting our transfer school student population with graduating high school, with the help of the Learning to Work Initiative.  As transfer schools take on the Common Core, we need to build on our past work and our community partnerships, including the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, to ensure all our students reach these higher standards.” 

 Lili Allen, the Director of Back on Track Designs for Jobs for the Future, moderated an engaging panel discussion that included Gloria Rosario, Principal of West Brooklyn Community High School; Lainey Collins, Program Director of North Queens Community High School and SCO Family Services; Ashley Colón, 2012 Graduate of Bronx Haven High School; Francisco Martinez, a student at the Young Adult Borough Center at John Adams High School; and Lisa Dowd, Regional Learning Center Coordinator for CVS Pharmacy which is a Learning to Work internship partner.

 NFSC Co-Director Sierra Stoneman-Bell opened the morning session with a challenge to “apply the lessons learned from the Multiple Pathways model to help meet the Common Core challenge and support all NYC students to graduate ready for postsecondary success.  With a new goal post, it is even more important to have a system-wide strategy to improve outcomes for all of our students, especially those who are catching up from behind.  Community-based organizations are key partners in this effort.”

 Kevin Heath, a graduate of South Brooklyn Community High School, also spoke about his experience in the transfer school.  Through the Learning to Work program, he interned at a cabinet and furniture design company, and explained, “Once I started getting hired at other shops, I realized the value of the skill I developed through my internship. I now have a skill that I can parlay into income opportunities anywhere in the world and an education that can offer me opportunities in another field.”


About the Multiple Pathways/Learning to Work Model

As NYC schools implement Common Core standards and strive to increase college and career readiness, the education challenge is even greater for students who are already behind or disengaged from school.  Through the Department of Education’s Multiple Pathways portfolio, NYC has developed groundbreaking school models designed to re-engage students who have not experienced success in school and get them back on track to graduation and postsecondary plans. The model combines accelerated instruction and intensive support and relies on an integrated partnership between a school and a community-based organization (CBO) with expertise in youth development.  The CBO partners run Learning to Work (LTW) programs, embedded in the schools, to provide paid internships and personalized supports for students. Over 20,000 students have graduated from these programs since 2005, and the LTW model has achieved the greatest academic gains with students who are farthest behind when they enter the program.