Creating Pathways to Success for Opportunity Youth: Lessons from Three Massachusetts Communities

November 2014

Today, 6.7 million youth in the United States between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither enrolled in school nor employed. This crisis continues to grow as, each year, over one million additional youth become disconnected from the schools and systems intended to prepare them for their future. Educators and youth advocates have dubbed this disconnected population “opportunity youth” to reflect their unrealized potential and the opportunity we have as a society to strengthen communities and boost the economy by ensuring sustainable life success for all young people.

In this policy brief, Creating Pathways to Success for Opportunity Youth: Lessons from Three Massachusetts Communities, the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy explores high school equivalency (HSE)-plus programs. HSE-plus programs are designed to provide a combination of academic and support services—including wraparound connections, postsecondary transition, and career support—to prepare youth for high school equivalency exams and sustained future success. Research considered Massachusetts’ capacity to serve opportunity youth by taking a close look at HSE-plus programs in three communities, examining to what extent local programming reflects best practice and identifying areas where more capacity must be built.

The policy brief is organized into several sections: a national review of research literature about HSE preparation programs; characteristics of selected Massachusetts HSE-plus programs; challenges moving forward in Massachusetts HSE-plus; and considerations for policymakers and practitioners.

This brief was the subject of discussion at a public event on November 6, 2014.

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