Bidwell, A. (2014, June 30). Youth Are Worse Off Now than in 1990. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2014/06/30/american-opportunity-youth-are-worse-off-now-than-in-1990

In her U.S. News & World Reports News blog, Data Mine blog article entitled, “Youth Are Worse Off Now than in 1990,” Allie Bidwell reports that while the U.S. high school graduation rate “is the highest it’s been in decades,” the economic mobility of young people has not kept pace. In fact, according to Opportunity Nation, (a coalition comprised of businesses, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions and others working together to strengthen “pathways to upward mobility and build strong communities”), a higher percentage of young people ages 16 -24 do not attend school or work as compared to the same population group in 1990. This increasing incidence of economic inequality is a negative consequence for affected young people, but also significantly contributes to the community destabilization.

To determine how income inequality affects young people Measure for America, (a human development project of the Social Science Research Council and Opportunity Nation), compiled a report measuring the poverty, crime and graduation rates in each state. The findings were predictable, but we believe useful for education policy and practice. There is a positive correlation between economic inequality; and the high levels of poverty and violent crime and low high school and postsecondary graduation rates among young people ages 16-24.

The aforementioned essay, Opportunity Since 1970: A Historical Report, among the 10 states with the highest percentage of disconnected youth, nine are affected by high poverty, seven experience higher than average violent crime, eight have high school graduation rates below the national average, and all ten report below average postsecondary graduation rates. The five states with the lowest percentages of disconnected youth have lower poverty and crime rates, and higher high school graduation rates. ‘”Our country’s relatively modest progress [in education] is not nearly enough to ensure that Americans – particularly teens and young adults – have access to the critical economic, education and community supports that promote upward mobility,” said Mark Edwards, executive director of Opportunity Nation, in a statement. “It also prompts a closer look at states that have helped youth embark on meaningful educational and career pathways – the key to thriving communities and economies that benefit all of us.”’

Opinion

If the U.S. is to realize fewer disconnected youth, schools must also assume responsibility for addressing the challenges associated with economic inequality. Cross-sector coalitions like the aforementioned Opportunity Nation and StriveTogether Cradle to Career Networkoffer evidenced-based models for sustained and collective impact among communities experiencing economic inequality. At Talbot Consulting, we believe the most successful K-12 public schools are designed to serve the students who are actually enrolled.

It sounds simple, but think about it; most U.S. elementary, middle and high schools look and operate very similarly. However, in the aggregate, they serve very diverse student populations. To address the needs of disadvantaged students, many schools have added family and student inventions, and on-site and/or referral-based human services to their school models. We promote a sustainable, more integrated approach – that is, embed youth development principles (i.e., reflection, resiliency, persistence, service and leadership) into curriculum, instruction, performance assessments and daily programming; and establish an in-school one-stop shop using effective case management principles to broker on- and off-site health and human services. We have been privileged to support the work of several organizations highly skilled in implementing these program designs including YouthBuild Newark and the High School for Recording Arts.

About Talbot Consulting

Talbot Consulting (TC), an independent education management consulting practice delivering innovative solutions to nonprofit programs/organizations and Pre-K-12 schools. TC engages clients in program or school design, startup, site evaluations, and strategic planning – particularly around growth and replication. Talbot Consulting’s current work includes creative solutions for the educational and policy challenges facing off-track and disconnected youth.

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