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Building pathways to success for the next generation


By: Stephanie Banchero, Sameer Gadkaree, and Jason Quiara

To help ensure that young people in the Great Lakes region are prepared for the future and are economically mobile, the Joyce Foundation has created the Education & Economic Mobility Program, merging its Education and Employment Programs. Through this new program, we will work to advance policies that help get the next generation on a path to economic and life success.

Our new mission, in which we will invest $43 million over the next three years, is to ensure equitable access to high-quality schools and jobs. This change comes as Joyce refocuses its 2018-2020 strategic priorities across programs on preparing the next generation in the region to thrive in education, career, and community, and on advancing racial equity and economic mobility.

The rapidly changing economy demands that we rethink how to prepare young people for future success. Unfortunately, many students do not have the educational and career opportunities they need and deserve. This is especially true for low-income students and students of color.

In our new Education & Economic Mobility Program, we begin with the premise that post-secondary attainment is the surest path to the middle class. We know we need to ensure young people have quality K-12 school experiences. And we know we must improve – and better align – education and workforce policies and systems to ensure young people have the smoothest path possible.

We will focus our work on research, policy development and implementation, advocacy, and coalition building aimed at these goals.  And we will tackle the challenge in three ways.

  • Advance policies aimed at increasing the number of low-income students and students of color who have top-notch educators in elementary and high school. Research has long shown that educator quality is a main driver of student achievement. We will continue Joyce’s longstanding focus on policies aimed at ensuring students have educators who are highly trained, fairly evaluated and supported in their growth. We will deepen our focus on policies aimed at boosting the quality of school principals, and add a new sub-focus on building a strong pipeline of STEM teachers.
  • Support policies to increase the number of low-income students and students of color who earn post-secondary credentials with labor-market value. To address the problem, we will work at both the K-12 and higher education levels. On the K-12 side, we will work on policy development and advocacy aimed at helping students build early college and career momentum in high school through AP and dual enrollment courses and engagement with employers and industry experts through work-based learning. On the postsecondary side, we will focus on advancing state and federal policies that help students earn credentials – whether occupational certificate at a community college or baccalaureate degree at a regional university – that leads to a good job. We’ll also support advocacy to ensure that higher education creates equitable opportunity for students of all races and classes, with an aim to reduce the current gaping inequalities.
  • We will set aside a small budget for an Innovation portfolio that seeks to shift the conversations around K-12 school reform and about how we best respond to a shifting labor market.

Ultimately, we hope to transform our public education systems into coordinated college-and-career systems that link school districts, postsecondary systems, and workforce sectors. We hope these new systems create pathways to economic and life success for low-income students and students of color.