Access, Coordination, and Counseling Support among Key Opportunities Found in Statewide Post secondary Landscape Analysis
WILMINGTON, Del.—When it comes to preparing students for life after graduation, Delaware has emerged as a national leader. But the state still has work to do in how it approaches college and career advising and leveraging its many existing resources for students and families with equity and efficiency—according to a landscape analysis report released Monday.
The Rodel Foundation of Delaware, United Way of Delaware, Delaware Department of Education, Delaware Community Foundation, and Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee presented the results of a statewide landscape analysis of in-school and out-of-school postsecondary resources during a special event at the Route 9 Library & Innovation Center in New Castle.
The analysis was executed to gain a better perspective on the strengths and opportunities of current resources that prepare high school students for postsecondary options, and further enhance the work that is currently in progress. Organizers hope the report’s findings spur stakeholders into action and position Delaware as a national model.
The analysis—collected from focus groups, surveys, and individual feedback—revealed significant assets in Delaware, including its committed public- and private-sector leadership, vision, and alignment. And while the state has a long list of successful programs ranging from state agencies, scholarship programs, and community-based organizations, the analysis found there is a need to strengthen the coordination and collaboration among youth-serving organizations, schools, and other stakeholders. Many programs also face capacity and resource needs.
“Delaware has gained national visibility for the rapidity with which it is opening career pathways to young people, preparing them to meet labor market needs in Delaware,” said Nancy Hoffman, senior advisor at Jobs for the Future, a national nonprofit that conducted the analysis. “Nearly 9,000 high school students now have access to a career pathway program and early college credit. An increasing number are also gaining work experience.
“What we learned from the research, however, is that Delaware has to do a better job in ensuring that all students learn about the labor market and careers—not just about college—while they are in middle and high school. Delaware is ahead of the game in their honest assessment of the equitable distribution of services across the State. My guess is that other states will follow their lead in doing similar assessments.”
The analysis also highlights Delaware’s opportunity to rethink its approach to college and career advising. Delaware’s counselor-to-student ratio of 1:464 is far beyond the 1:250 ratio recommended by the National School Counselor’s Association. Many counselors shared that added job responsibilities like lunch or bus duty have stretched them thin and impacted their effectiveness to deliver postsecondary and career planning services, as well as mental and emotional heath support. However, the analysis revealed that adding more counselors is not necessarily the answer—national experts shared that leveraging out-of-school resources and building public-private partnerships may be Delaware’s smartest approach.
It also shows that Delaware can do more to integrate college and career preparation, rather than treating them like separate paths. Other opportunities for the state identified in the report include:
– Increasing programming focused on career planning
– Finding the right college fit for students, and programs that ensure students complete college
– Removing barriers to accessing programming, such as transportation and language barriers
– Empowering families/parents, who are the primary source of information for students
– Strengthening strategic data use, referral of students, and capacity among youth-serving organizations
– More effectively using technology to meet student needs
– Addressing unmet mental health needs of students
“We know that the world is changing rapidly, and businesses can’t find the talent they need to fill important jobs. We underwent this analysis to begin to understand where our system was serving young people well, and where we could strengthen or expand support to help them make informed choices and get ready for life after high school,” said Gary Stockbridge, president of Delmarva Power, and chair of the state’s Workforce Development Board. “We should be encouraging all students to explore their career interests, while supporting them to successfully transition to higher education and future careers with skills and supports they need to be successful.”
Hoffman and Dr. Gregory Seaton of Jobs for the Future, which focuses on public policies that increase college readiness and career success, presented the findings. Stockbridge highlighted several updates the state has undergone since the completion of the analysis to showcase Delaware’s commitment to improvement, including progress in aligning resources across government agencies, the launch of study to examine social and emotional supports for students and families, and public-private partnerships to expand career advisement. Local leaders from the Rodel Foundation, United Way of Delaware, and the Delaware Department of Education led small group conversations to explore the report’s recommendations, build on momentum underway, and work with attendees to identify action steps to address the opportunities identified.
In total, more than 300 Delawareans participated in the process via interviews, focus groups, professional meetings, and surveys. Students, school counselors and administrators, government officials, representatives from business, community-based organizations, and postsecondary communities throughout the state were engaged during the research.
To view the full landscape analysis report, click here.