Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 2 Profiles of Promising Practices - 1995
A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
Total Action Against Poverty (TAP)
Summer Youth Employment Program
- Strong employment component
- Nontraditional, individualized instruction
The Summer Youth Employment Program is one of more than 30 programs coordinated by Total Action Against Poverty (TAP), a community action agency located in Roanoke, Virginia. In existence for more than 20 years, all of the programs focus on a common theme: helping low-income individuals achieve self-sufficiency through education and training. The Summer Youth Employment Program, funded through the Job Training Partner-ship Act (JTPA), operates at several sites in Virginia. In 1993, the Roanoke program profiled below served 190 youth between the ages of 14 and 21. Students may participate in academic or work portions, or both. The academic program, first offered in 1982, offers six to eight weeks of basic remedial classes, Monday through Friday mornings, for 25 hours a week with a minimum of 90 hours over the course of the summer. The work program places students with nonprofit employers in the afternoons for 30 to 40 hours a week.
Students are drawn from 6 high schools and 8 to 10 middle schools in the Roanoke area. According to their scores on the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE), these students function at academic levels between third and tenth grade. Slightly less than 10 percent of the students have limited English proficiency. A similar percentage are classified as physically handicapped; less than half of all students are in special education programs. Forty-five percent of the students are Anglo; 45 percent are African American; and 10 percent are Asian, Haitian, or Puerto Rican. Program eligibility is based on place of residence, age, income level, physical handicaps, and whether the student's family receives public assistance. Almost half of the students live in public housing projects, and between 85 and 90 percent of the students live below the federal poverty line. Approximately 10 percent of participating youth are either not school-age (over age 18) or have dropped out of school. Students are referred to the program by community agencies, the department of social services, and schools.
Major Program Features
- Planning and design. Federally funded summer employment programs have existed in Roanoke for more than 20 years, beginning with funds from the Manpower Development Training Act (MDTA) and the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). The program is currently funded through JTPA. Program planners emphasize basic remedial education because many of the youth enrolled in the program have academic deficiencies that hamper their employment opportunities. In accordance with JTPA requirements, all youth must be evaluated upon entering the program; students who test at least two grades below grade level receive remediation.
The Roanoke program teaches students to express themselves orally and in writing and provides meaningful work experiences. Recognizing that these youth are at extremely high risk for dropping out of school, the program tries to stimulate their interest in school and encourages them to seek post-secondary training.
Each year, TAP staff write to schools and work sites asking for letters of commitment that describe the potential work opportunities for students at that site. Sites that participated during the previous year are asked to assess the quality of the program and its management, indicate whether the site will be offered again as a student workplace, and note the number of students that can be served at the site. TAP has further contact with the schools through referrals from school counselors and principals. The program is publicized to students primarily by word of mouth.
- Academic focus. Classwork, which accounts for 20 to 25 hours a week, focuses on communication skills, reading, writing, and vocabulary. The program director describes her approach as nontraditional: students do not sit in rows and take notes, memorize facts, or take quizzes. Instead, they may interview elected officials, discuss their responses, and report the conversations in a newsletter. Because most students have difficulty obtaining basic information, many activities focus on oral question-and-answer sessions or presentations. The project director also maintains contact with the students' regular teachers and principals who, in addition to guidance counselors, refer children to the program.
Instruction is individualized, based on student scores on the achievement test. The program emphasizes one-on-one relationships between instructors and students; because the maximum student-teacher ratio is 15:1, and each class has an aide, teachers can develop close relationships with each student. Teachers also may work with a single student while the others use computers for remedial exercises. Teachers take classes to tour radio and television stations, city hall, and the local courts.
Since 1992, the program has offered ESL classes in addition to basic education, as well as a class for physically handicapped students. The instructors are often certified teachers, and all have experience using nontraditional teaching methods and working with disadvantaged students. Teachers are recruited from local schools and universities. The program uses remedial text books and materials, purchased with grant funds, such as New Beginnings in Reading and GED program resources.
- Organizational management/structure. The program is administered by the youth services division of TAP. The director of youth services writes the grant applications each year and is in charge of program planning and implementation, including hiring teachers and aides and planning the curriculum in conjunction with teachers. The assistant program director visits the job sites and works as a liaison between the job site superintendent, the student, and the program counselor, making sure that students fill out time sheets correctly and honestly. The assistant director also files a monthly report to TAP that counts the number of students and sites involved in the program and whether the sites are academic- or work-oriented.
Three sites offered classes for TAP in 1993, including an occupational school for handicapped students and a community college. The largest employer of students in the summer program is a local hospital, where students work on grounds maintenance crews, in dietary services or child care, and as housekeepers or clerks.
- Professional environment. The program hires teachers who have experience working with disadvantaged, at-risk students in nontraditional settings and using such teaching methods as summarizing ideas and concepts, storytelling, and leading group discussions in a noncompetitive environment. Most of these instructors are certified teachers. Teachers do not receive professional development in the summer program because of the short time span.
- Funding. Funding for the program in 1993 was $200,000, provided by JTPA. These funds cover teachers' salaries; student wages (for classes and work hours); materials; transportation to classes; and some fringe benefits, such as worker's compensation. Students receive a bus pass for public transportation to their classes but not to their work site. Space for the classes often is contributed by a local community college or occupational school. Students are paid minimum wage for attending class and their jobs. The TAP agency also provides some in-kind administrative support.
- Parent and community involvement. There is no effort made to involve parents in the program, other than to keep them informed about their children's placement and schedule. According to the program director, the program has a very good reputation in the community, with community organizations such as the Roanoke Fifth District Employment and Training Consortium referring many of their youth to the program. Local department stores and businesses contribute volunteers and in-kind donations, such as gift certificates, restaurant meals, and leather briefcases that are used as incentives and graduation gifts for students.
- Cultural inclusiveness. ESL classes are offered to those students identified as having limited English proficiency.
- Assessment and accountability. Every student takes the TABE before and after the program. This test, which is required by JTPA, measures vocabulary, writing skills, math comprehension, and language mechanics. In addition, the program co-ordinators monitor the students' performance at their work sites, including attendance records and the quality of work. Federal monitoring also occurs to ensure that the program meets all JTPA regulations.
One of the biggest obstacles the program has had to overcome is convincing youth who are at risk for dropping out of school to enroll in what amounts to summer school. In fact, when the remediation requirement was added to the program, many youth declined to participate. The program had to convince these adolescents that the summer experience would be very different from the traditional school setting they were used to.
Now, because of positive word-of-mouth communication among students, the program has no trouble getting students to participate. To entice students who would rather be at a job site to attend the academic remediation, TAP pays the students the same stipend offered by the job site: $4.25 an hour. Sources did not report any problems with space, transportation, or school relations.
Evidence of Success
The completion rate for the program is close to 90 percent, which program coordinators consider a measure of success because the program serves such a high-risk population. As one program administrator said, "All the other programs don't want these kids--this is a last stop for them. If you can get them through a program, it's a miracle." In addition, 95 percent of these students return to school in the fall. As one individual involved with the program commented, "Some of these kids would without a doubt fall by the wayside if not for this program."
All of the students in the program have achieved post-program TABE scores at the same or higher level than their pre-program scores; most scores rise by at least three months, as measured on a grade-level basis. Students who are working in a full-time job at the end of the summer are not post-tested.
[Summer Program For At-Risk Students]
[Teen Outreach Program (TOP) Association Of Junior Leagues International]