Career Training + Quality Pre K : NPR Ed : NPR

Logan Faerber/Getty Images/Imagezoo RM

Logan Faerber/Getty Images/Imagezoo RM

What makes a high-quality learning program effective not just for the child but the whole family? What else, besides a well-run pre-K, is essential to help families break out of intergenerational poverty?

These are some of the key questions that an approach called “two-generation” programs are working to answer. There are many of these “two-gen” programs across the U.S. And while they differ in emphasis and detail, at their core they intentionally focus on ways to help both the child and parent. Usually this happens through targeted education and career training and other vital support such as health services, mentoring, and transportation.

NPR Ed has been keeping an eye on one innovative two-gen program in Oklahoma. It’s called Career Advance and is run by the Community Action Project of Tulsa County (CAP Tulsa). I’ve reported on it here and here. It gives low-income mothers access to high-quality Head Start for their children, alongside free career training in nursing and other in-demand health care fields as well as life coaching and support.

A new study on the first year impact of Tulsa’s Career Advance that’s just been released shows that, so far, Career Advance is working well for both parents and their children. In fact, the study says, CAP Tulsa’s program is working better than similar combined job training and pre-K programs elsewhere in terms of job certification, employment, income and overall well-being for the parent. And, the report shows, the program has boosted attendance and reduced absenteeism among participating children.

I reached out to two of study’s co-authors to find out more. Teresa Eckrich Sommer is a research professor at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research. Chris King is a senior research scientist and lecturer at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

When I went down to report on the program, no one had studied it in-depth. Is this the first big look at this program and its impact?

Teresa Ekrich Sommer: This is the first one. We’re [a colleague, Lindsay Chase-Lansdale at Northwestern University, is the first author on this paper] looking at what happens at the end of year one.

In terms of their education, we see that participants had much higher rates of certification in the healthcare fields. And then we see that in terms of employment, a greater proportion of the families, at the end of the first year, are employed in the specific career to which they’ve been trained, as compared to those who weren’t in the program. Sixty-one percent compared to 3 percent.

Chris King: I would add to that, Eric, that the kinds of…

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