Wayfinders: The Way Forward in 2022

Happy New Year. At the end of 2020, I shared a note with this group–who I know are a diverse group of funders, practitioners, educators, and advocates–highlighting my concerns about the ongoing effects of the pandemic on young people. In particular, I know that many of us who work in this space are concerned about increasingly harmful impacts of the pandemic on Black and Latino young people, and young people from lower-income backgrounds, groups who have already experienced inequality accessing education and employment opportunities. After two years of the pandemic, emerging research on widening academic and learning disparities is troubling; college enrollment and academic scores are down, and these gaps are particularly acute when it comes to the young people we hope to engage with our Pathways strategy.

The ongoing nature of the pandemic is putting even more stress on our systems, on practitioners, on families and students, and it’s painful to read and hear about the consequences that will be with us for years to come. As COVID continues, the steps we need to take to strengthen our education systems to withstand future challenges are needed more now than ever. We need to be agile, adaptive, and creative in ensuring that our work confronts the reality of how to truly build a stronger, more resilient system as we hopefully shift into recovery mode in 2022.

I see no alternative other than to dig deep and bring renewed energy and determination to our support of the incredible leaders, like you, who help young people succeed. We can’t give up, no matter how discouraging the research gets about the pandemic’s impacts on their lives. If you have a few minutes, please take a moment to watch these videos on the Equitable Futures website, shot during the height of the pandemic in partnership with Roadtrip Nation, featuring young people who are in no way giving up on their dreams. We owe it to them to do the same.

For my part, I’ll be looking for ways to connect more to the experiences of students and families. I’ll be focused on sharing more of what we are learning at the foundation and ensuring that our research and insights are informing our decisions. In the meantime, please continue to check in with us about exciting updates from the foundation and reminders about the opportunities to partner with us on supporting young people, including the opportunity on seamless pathways highlighted below.

​​​​​​In partnership,
Sara Allan
Director, Early Learning & Pathways

Reminder and Deadline Extended – Accelerate[ED]: Seamless Pathways to Degrees and Careers 

In the most recent Wayfinders issue, we announced an exciting new grant opportunity from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate, integrate, and streamline pathways for students transitioning from high school to college. The new funding opportunity, called Accelerate[ED], will support up to 12 regional design teams of stakeholders from the K-12 and postsecondary systems to design accessible career pathways for young people. Students involved in these programs will be able to earn 30 college credits by the end of high school and take courses aligned with their career interests, leading to an associate degree by their 13th year.

We are requesting proposals from organizations engaged in scaling career-connected accelerated postsecondary pathways at the regional and state levels, with a focus on serving Black and Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds. These pathways should be aligned to regional workforce sectors that have strong demand and paths to economic mobility.

The deadline for proposals has now been extended to Friday, January 28, 2022. You can learn more about this opportunity by watching the webinar with Sara Allan from December 2, 2021.

How to Make Dual Enrollment Available for More Students 

Dual enrollment allows high school students to take college courses for credit–either through their high schools, local colleges, or online. If done effectively, dual enrollment opportunities can help students achieve their education and career goals more quickly, and at the same time help to lighten the financial costs and burdens associated with education.

new report from the Education Trust-West examined data from California community colleges to determine whether Black, Native, and Latino students were equitably accessing dual enrollment programs. The report, Jumpstart: Setting Goals to Drive Equitable Dual Enrollment Participation in California’s Community Colleges, found that these groups of students were not accessing dual enrollment opportunities to the same extent as other students. The report recommends ways dual enrollment programs across the country can address this issue through partnership between community colleges and K-12 systems.

For more information and to register for an upcoming webinar about the research and the recommendations, visit the Jumpstart web page.

Finding New Ways to Smooth the Path for High School Graduates 

In the wake of historic pandemic-related enrollment declines, postsecondary institutions have responded by developing and expanding innovative approaches to engaging learners. During a virtual workshop hosted by Strada Education Network in October 2021, higher education practitioners shared their experiences and ideas on how to minimize pandemic-related disruptions for recent high school graduates with respect to their education and career pathways. Not surprisingly, practitioners agreed on the need for coordination across multiple parts of education systems, combined with strong partnerships with potential employers and career guidance organizations. Overall, students are asking for more guidance, affordability, and stronger connections between their education and career options in order to successfully transition to higher education.

You can learn more about the workshop discussion and the key takeaways here.

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