Youth in Nation’s Capital Struggle to Succeed

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Raise DCRaise DCRaise DCRaise DCRaise DCraise dcIn the District of Columbia, nearly 30 percent of children live in poverty, less than half of eighth-graders can read proficiently, and nearly 11 percent of births are to teenage mothers, according to a report card released Monday on the state of D.C.’s youth.

Raise D.C., a partnership between public agencies, schools, nonprofits and the city’s community college, released the report to highlight the current status of young people in the city and to set a baseline upon which to create indicators and performance goals in five areas, from early education to youth employment.

“For far too long we have attempted to improve educational outcomes by using a ‘spray and pray’approach—we disperse resources, time, and talent in an uncoordinated manner in hopes this has an impact somewhere for someone,” the partnership explained in its report. “Instead, by selecting a few critical indicators (both academic and nonacademic) and engaging in analysis of the work that is already happening on the ground, we can determine which effective practices we can lift up, improve upon, and expand.”

Its goals focus on getting young people ready for school; perform well academically; access education, training or employment opportunities outside of school; get some kind of credential after high school; and prepare for full-time jobs.

By 2017, the alliance aims for 75 percent of the District’s students to get through high school in four years, compared to 61 percent now, and for 66 percent of its 20- to 24-year-olds to be employed full-time, compared to under 42 percent now.

“The fact that indicators are both academic and non-academic speaks to the understanding that our educational challenges cannot be resolved solely by our educational institutions,” said BB Otero, the deputy mayor for health and human services, in a prepared statement. “Local businesses, health and human services agencies, and community organizations play a critical role in supporting the academic success of our youth.”

While some Raise D.C. goals are clear, others are still under development. Over the next year, the network plans to analyze available data, examine best practices and create and implement action plans. It will release a similar report card every year.

“Growing a stronger economy and increasing the incomes of all of our residents depends on improving outcomes for our young people ages 0 to 24, from the time they are born to the time they begin a career,” the report said. “There is much at stake, and we each have a role to play.”