learn / 2015

The Academy Project--Helping Foster Youth THRIVE!!

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by The Academy Project

50% of the 21,000 kids in foster care in LA end up homeless, in gangs, institutionalized or in jail, with 8% having dropped out of school (3 x the statewide rate), due to frequent school changes. Starting in Grade 7, TAP is building a year-round, in-school solution that integrates individual needs & guarantees youth a consistent placement through high school. Within a community of peers, TAP provides a safe place where youth thrive & discover otherwise ignored talents and wasted potential.

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • South LA
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles
  • We are targeting South LA first as this is where the largest population of foster youth reside

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Conduct research
  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Implement a pilot or new project

How will your proposal improve the following “Learn” metrics?

  • Youth unemployment and underemployment
  • District-wide graduation rates
  • HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math
  • Academic Performance Index* scores
  • College matriculation rates
  • Student education pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher ed
  • Suspension and expulsion rates (Dream Metric)
  • Truancy rates in elementary and middle schools (Dream Metric)
  • Students perceived sense of safety at and on the way to school (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to learn.

California Standards Test (CST) results show the proficiency rate for the statewide student population to be 53% for English & 60% for Math, but only 29% & 37% respectively for foster youth. 75% of foster youth are working below grade level & only 58% will graduate high school (V’s 84% statewide).

The LA County Board of Supervisors Blue Ribbon Commission concluded “A State of Emergency exists. If we knew that 50% of all children in foster care end up homeless, or incarcerated upon aging out of the system & only 4% received any higher education, we would not tolerate such a negligent system.”

We are failing this population, our citizens for LA2050. The best place to learn is where every child has equal opportunity to succeed. TAP’s new, innovative education engagement model will achieve this. The LA2050 grant would allow us to bring the following design to life.

The Academy will start in Grade 7. A founding tenet is keeping school as the point of stability in a foster youth’s life. Students are guaranteed a tuition free placement through to completion of high school. The Academy will operate as a school-within-a-school, with an extended year round schedule providing the opportunity to participate in a variety of enrichment programs outside of class.

Students will be selected from a pool, created by self-submit applications & recommendations from experts (Social Workers, Lawyers, CASA). Engagement begins prior to the start of the school year, during a summer camp, focused on building trust & setting bi-directional expectations.

A comprehensive battery of tests will be completed (medical, dental, academic etc.) that will shape students’ individualized holistic plans. A licensed therapist will be matched with each student. Once the type & frequency of therapy sessions are prescribed, they will be included in each student’s plan, along with any required remediation & other appointments that would usually disrupt progress at school (e.g. court appearances).

The Academy will create a community for students, a home, with a core curriculum teacher & a site-based clinical social worker assigned to each class for the duration. After two years full time within The Academy, students will join mainstream high school. They will continue to have this ‘home’ for extra-curricular programs & support (therapy, tutoring, SAT preparation etc.).

TAP will ensure they graduate career & college ready & prepared to be well-rounded citizens for LA2050.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

Our solution has been designed with input from former foster youth & experts in the field, including a study by Princeton University. Our Focus Groups have determined evaluation metrics across 2 areas: Student: Individual baseline metrics established via tests applied on joining TAP. Academic proficiency & general well being will be monitored for improvement School Community: Several recent studies (The Invisible Achievement Gap) have provided baseline metrics for LA’s foster youth. TAP will also work with Partner Schools to establish these. Targets: improve student attendance rates; totally eliminate transfer rates to alternative schools; reduce discipline & expulsion rates; increase CST participation rates & eventual scores; reduce drop-out rates; improve AP & CTE enrollment & passage rates; improve graduation rates; improve college attendance rates. We are working to define other metrics related to improvement to life outcomes (unemployment, homelessness, future health & happiness)

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Education/training
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support