Mobilizing the Higher Education Community to Support P-12 Pandemic Recovery
The National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS) was launched by the Biden-Harris Administration in July 2022.
The U.S. Department of Education recently released a call to action in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter.
This letter encourages colleges and universities to place more of their students in crucial P-12 student support roles, focusing on tutoring, mentoring, and college advising or postsecondary transition coaching work.
By: Mariko Yoshisato Cavey and Kate Cochran
As we approach the end of the third school year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions to schools and communities continue to have lasting effects on students. To help address the challenges of the pandemic, the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS) was launched by the Biden-Harris Administration in July 2022, through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Education, AmeriCorps, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. In collaboration with a diverse network of over 135 organizations committed to providing academic, social-emotional, and other supports that foster student success, the NPSS is working to meet the Administration’s goal of getting an additional 250,000 people into evidence-based, high-impact, NPSS-aligned roles as tutors, mentors, student success coaches, post-secondary transition coaches, and wraparound/integrated student support coordinators.
Knowing that recruitment and staffing are among the most significant challenges facing schools and youth-serving organizations today, the NPSS has focused much of its recent strategy on identifying groups of people who – if provided the right opportunities, training, and ongoing support – might be motivated and well-suited to work or volunteer in NPSS-aligned roles in their communities. Considering many potential sources of people-power for this work, the NPSS is exploring how college students, older adults and retirees, corporate volunteers, caregivers and families, and older high school students in near-peer roles might have a role in this national effort.
National Efforts to Engage College Students in High-Impact Roles
To engage college students and the higher education community, the U.S. Department of Education recently released a call to action in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter, encouraging colleges and universities to place more of their students in crucial P-12 student support roles, focusing on tutoring, mentoring, and college advising or postsecondary transition work.
Specifically, the Department has called on colleges and universities to set a public goal to either:
- Use at least 15% of their FWS funds to compensate college students employed in community service activities, devoting any increase in FWS compensation for community service employment in NPSS roles located in schools or out-of-school time programs by June 2025,
- Significantly increase the number of college students their institution will place in NPSS roles regardless of the funding source supporting them by June 2025.
In answering the call to action, higher education institutions are encouraged to build on their existing partnerships, resources, and program infrastructure, while continuing to grow with the field by aligning their work with quality standards and best practices. Strong models of colleges and universities partnering with schools and non-profits to provide tutors, mentors, success coaches, and college advisors to P-12 students already exist in a range of diverse institutions and communities. College and university leaders who participated in focus groups hosted by the NPSS Hub expressed a desire for opportunities to learn from one another’s expertise, explore shared challenges, and troubleshoot barriers to implementation. With collaboration and support, higher education leaders can make an even more significant impact in their communities by devoting a greater portion of their institutions’ Federal Work-Study funds to provide additional high-impact, people-powered support to P-12 students in schools and out-of-school time settings.
College students – including those employed in Federal Work-Study programs and others – have enormous potential to support P-12 students to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and thrive. While balancing college coursework and employment can be challenging for students, research shows that meaningful Federal Work-Study job opportunities can positively impact student academic performance and early career outcomes. When college students deliver evidence-based student supports such as tutoring or mentoring, it is mutually beneficial for the students and those providing services. Experience working with children and youth in these roles can also offer valuable pre-service experiences to college students interested in pursuing careers in education, youth development, social services, and more.
Concerted action is now needed to:
- Garner commitments from colleges and universities to place more of their students in high-impact P-12 student support roles;
- Connect higher education institutions with local schools and non-profit organizations that can help train, place, and/or support college students in impactful positions; and
- Elevate these meaningful community-engaged work opportunities to college students.
Many campuses have already committed to this national pandemic recovery effort by joining the NPSS Higher Education Coalition and setting a public goal as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s call to action. The Coalition’s growing membership comprises a geographically and demographically diverse group of public, private, 2-year, 4-year, and graduate/professional institutions.
The NPSS Hub is poised to support these colleges and universities and their local P-12 school and non-profit partners, by providing resources to help organizations move from commitment to action. To smooth the path for implementation, the NPSS Hub is offering guidance and toolkits, providing free technical assistance, uplifting examples of progress, and convening professional learning communities and working groups to foster collaboration and information-sharing.
Will your higher education institution, P-12 school, or organization join the NPSS in this national effort to support the P-12 pandemic recovery? To learn more, connect with others doing this work, access resources, and be considered for recognition opportunities, visit partnershipstudentsuccess.org/colleges.
Mariko Yoshisato Cavey is Senior Program Officer and Director of Higher Education Partnerships with the National Partnership for Student Success, a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Education, AmeriCorps, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. Her work supports university-school-community partnerships for equity in education research, policy, and practice.
Kate Cochran is Managing Director of the National Partnership for Student Success, a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Education, AmeriCorps, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. Kate served as Chief of Staff and a founding team member at InnovateEDU.
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