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Points of Entry Project Helps Ex-Offenders Find Training and Employment

Posted on 03/21/2012

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The Points of Entry (POE) Pilot (www) was launched in partnership with the US Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) and the Open Society Foundation. The project aims to promote the development of career pathways and transition programs for low-skilled adults, 6th to 8th grade level equivalent (GLE), and prisoners in re-entry at 6th to 12th GLE. Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) and Elk Grove Adult and Community Education (EGACE) have received funding to develop or enhance programs and services, providing target populations with the training, education, and support services necessary to achieve industry-recognized credentials and sustainable employment.

For this project, eight demonstration sites were selected in four of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education's (OVAE) Policy to Performance (P2P) states (Alabama, California, Massachusetts, and New York). Each site will receive customized technical assistance to identify, develop, and implement unique and successful approaches to strengthen and/or expand upon current services. Key goals include the creation of education and career pathways, and the implementation or enhancement of behavior change/personal growth services, as well as ensuring that these successful approaches will have an influence on policy and be sustainable beyond the life of the project.

There are three target populations that Points of Entry demonstration sites will address:

  1. Low-skilled adults defined as having basic skills in the 6th to 8th grade level equivalent, or adults defined as intermediate-high in the U.S. Department of Education's National Reporting System;
  2. Incarcerated adults in prison or jail with skills in the 6th to 12th GLE; and
  3. Adults on parole or probation with skills in the 6th to 12th GLE.

In California, the two educational agencies - the Contra Costa County Office of Education and Elk Grove Adult and Community Education - were chosen for their innovative approaches for education and training services that lead to employment, and for strategies that will allow each program to sustain Points of Entry services after the demonstration has ended.

Contra Costa County Office of Education

The Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Parolee Education Program (PEP) operates Computerized Literacy Learning Centers (CLLCs) that provide academic and work readiness instruction at 21 locations in parole offices across the state. The classrooms serve a range of student skill levels. Two of the CLLC sites are participating in the Points of Entry Demonstration, and are located in the Visalia and Riverside parole offices. Because the classrooms are located inside parole offices, the instructors work collaboratively with the students' parole officers. Learners are also able to access other parole services, such as parole out-patient clinics. Statewide, the 21 Computerized Literacy Learning Centers serve an average of 3,300 parolees a year, with approximately 50 students enrolled in a classroom at any given time. The CLLC program is an open entry, open exit program; however, many CLLC teachers group students into learning cohorts according to assessed skill levels.

All student referrals to the CCCOE PEP Computerized Literacy Learning Centers come directly from parole agents. While the program has no exclusionary criteria, they tend to serve primarily males who are at least 18 years old (most clients being between 25 and 50 years of age) from all ethnic backgrounds. The general program has no skill level requirements for enrollment. However, students participating in the Workforce Skills Certification System (WSCS) Pilot program must achieve CASAS Reading and Math assessment scores in the secondary skill level range.

At enrollment, students are given CASAS Reading and Math skills assessments; they review their educational and employment goals and set up an educational plan with the instructor. Transition planning is a key part of the enrollment process. Teachers work closely with the parole agents to refer students to local employment, educational, community and social services. The goals of the CLLC are to help parolees improve their skills in reading and math, to help them earn a GED, to prepare students for CASAS Workforce Skills Certification and to assist students with the transition to work and/or postsecondary education. Through the Points of Entry Demonstration, the CLLC programs at the two demonstration sites have been enhanced with additional curricula and services focused on creating career pathways for the students, and focused on increasing employment and community networks for students. The future plan is to use the information and experience from the Points of Entry Demonstration to create a model for providing career pathways and services that can be replicated at the remaining 19 CCCOE PEP CLLC sites throughout the state.

Workforce Skills Certification System
The California Department of Education (CDE) is continuing to partner with CASAS, local One Stops and Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), local Chambers of Commerce, parolee programs, and adult education programs to implement a workforce skills program leading to a National Workforce Skills Certification. Learners enrolled in vocationally focused ABE and ESL programs are administered CASAS assessments that measure readiness for work and are composed of the applied academic skills of reading, math, problem solving, and critical thinking. Learners are also assessed on employer-defined soft skills including 14 effective personal behavior and customer service skills. Learners are able to receive a Workforce Skills Profile that outlines their workplace-related skills and can be used by potential employees and job training programs to evaluate candidates effectively. In the CCCOE PEP CLLC program, learners are able to receive the Workforce Skills Certificate, as a culmination of their participation in the program. Like other CDE WSCS pilot programs, the CLLC PEP WSCS pilot programs provide instruction and support, and work with the One Stops and employers to link participants to available jobs matching their skill profiles.

As of February 2012, the CCCOE PEP Riverside Points of Entry Demonstration program served 38 Points of Entry students, including 14 WSCS students participating in the Points of Entry study evaluated by Abt Associates. The Visalia POE Demonstration site served 36 POE students, including 4 WSCS participants in the study. POE Study participants will continue to be enrolled in the POE Demonstration through the end of July 2012 when data collection will end. POE services will continue beyond July 2012. Both Riverside and Visalia sites have added a 10 week Cognitive Behavior Treatment workshops, using materials compiled from "Commitment to Change" series by Dr. Stanton Samenow. CCCOE PEP Coordinators and Principals will receive training in "Thinking for a Change" (T4C) along with the Elk Grove Adult and Community Education Points of Entry Demonstration staff. Both sites are actively using enhancements with students in the classrooms, including: Choices Career Exploration software, the National Career Awareness Pilot lessons, and LRI Soft Skills lessons. Teachers have also invited speakers from the Employment Development Department, State Colleges and Employment Staffing agencies to speak to and work with students in the classrooms. CCCOE PEP teachers and management staff are actively creating local community and employment networks through meetings with local Workforce Investment Boards and community partners dedicated to providing services to parolees.

Elk Grove Adult Correctional Education Program

Elk Grove Adult and Community Education (EGACE) has classes in locations throughout the district, including elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as the Elk Grove Senior Center. In collaboration with the Sacramento Sheriff's Department and the Sacramento Superior Court, EGACE has had a large correctional education program for more than 35 years at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center (RCCC) and the Sacramento County Main Jail. In collaboration with the Sacramento Sheriff's Department and the Sacramento Superior Court, EGACE's Correctional Education program offers vocational, academic and personal development classes.

The EGACE's Correctional Education Program serves close to 3,000 students annually. All students enter educational programming via a weekly orientation and placement testing process. Elk Grove primarily uses the CASAS e-test Life and Work Series as the assessment tool for placement. The goals of the orientation classes are to help students learn about the educational program available to them, set educational goals and understand what type of learner they are. All students participate in goal setting with a teacher to ensure that they are enrolling in the appropriate program that will help meet their short- and long-term goals.

Students complete a three to six hour course orientation in which they must take an assessment of academic skills. If students score below the 8th Grade Level Equivalent (GLE, CASAS Scale Score 230) in reading, they are mandated to enroll in an ABE course to build or review basic literacy skills. If they score above the 8th GLE (CASAS Scale Score 231-235), students are mandated to enroll in ABE and can optionally co-enroll in CTE or personal development courses that include evidence-based programs for Cognitive Behavior Change and Parenting. If they are in need of a GED, they are mandated to enroll in GED and can optionally enroll in other Elk Grove courses. Ten weeks prior to release students must attend the 30-hour Reentry course. The goal of Reentry classes is to help students get re-acclimated to society by addressing barriers that will prevent them from obtaining employment. Students also learn how to build a resume, interview for a job, and search for jobs with the aid of a job coach.

Points of Entry: As part of the demonstration grant, the EGACE's Correctional Education Program Point of Entry has established a referral system between programming at Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center (RCCC) and EGACE's non-correctional Adult Education program, the local community college system, and the local Sacramento Works Career Centers. Referrals include enrollment, financial aid, placement exams, WIA Title I & Title II services (including employment services), and social services (such as housing, financial, substance abuse, etc.). The orientation process begins in pre-release and continues on the "outside". Students are interviewed by a POE-designated transition specialist to determine student's needs, barriers, and academic status. From the point of enrollment in POE a transitional specialist and job developer share the development of an education and career portfolio. Through steady case management, students are connected with the appropriate services during pre-release, transition and post-release, ensuring enrollment in various programs and continued supportive services.

Remodeling of the current Reentry program: As part of the Points of Entry grant, EGACE has partnered with CASAS to participate in the Workforce Skills Certification System pilot project. This has given EGACE the opportunity to re-model the existing Reentry curriculum to better fit the needs of students. Reentry now includes a discussion-based curriculum that helps students develop soft skills for the workplace and better prepares them to reenter the workforce. In addition to the new discussion guide, students will have the opportunity to create a Workforce Skills profile that identifies strong personal qualities that will make them more viable to employers in the community.

Greater Collaboration: The Point of Entry grant has opened doors for greater collaboration and partnership. The Point of Entry partners have met on a monthly basis to plan for the implementation of the grant and to strategize how to build sustainable, systematic changes that will demonstrate the greatest amount of support for ex-offenders in reentry. Some of the outcomes from these meetings have been the program articulations, matching funds to support reentry, the Welding program, expanded ABE and GED classes as well as GED testing services. Most recently the collaboration has led to the opening of a new Cognitive Behavior Change program.

Guest Speaker Schedule: Students are currently visited by a Job Developer from the South County Career Center weekly through their Reentry class. This job developer provides students with job leads, makes appointments for meeting at the career center post-release, as well as provides assistance in developing workforce documents like cover letters and resumes. In addition, the student academic advisor at EGACE's non-correctional Adult Education site visits the academic classes twice monthly to inform students of the opportunity to continue coursework post-release, and to provide a familiar face to make the transition more comfortable. CRC also sends staff to help with college registration and financial aid workshops as requested. Other guest speakers may include local community-based organizations such as Asian Resources, the Greater Sacramento Urban League, and Pride Industries, Inc.

Education and Career Portfolio for students: Students who are enrolled in the Points of Entry Pilot cohort work closely with a transition specialist who provides case management services for each individual. Part of these services includes the development of an education and career portfolio for each student. Through this process, students identify their goals – personal, academic and employment, and work with the transition specialist to create an action plan to meet those goals. Through the education portfolio, the transition specialist is able to track students' progress towards GED completion through their official test scores as well as progress made on CASAS assessments. The employment portfolio helps students generate an accurate record of previous employers as well as identify different references that can be used in the search for future employment. This information is passed on to the job developer as the student transitions to post-release services at the South County Career Center.

Through the guidance and support of a pilot project with Outreach and Technical and Assistance Network (OTAN), EGACE is utilizing e-Portfolios, a Google Documents feature, as a neutral site to share information amongst partners in POE as well as with cohort participants upon their release from custody. With access to the Internet and a username/password, partners and POE participants are able to view uploaded individualized education and career plans, contracts, resumes, cover letters, and more.