Back on Track Design Services

Back on Track Design Services

Helping Communities Reengage Opportunity Youth

Designing cutting-edge programs for schools and youth-serving organizations to reengage youth and young adults who are disconnected from both education and work, and put them on a path to postsecondary credentials.

Lili Allen
Associate Vice President, Reconnection Strategies and Designs
617.728.4446 x105

Back on Track Design Services collaborates with school and program leaders and community partners to help communities implement programs that reengage off-track youth and propel them toward high school graduation, postsecondary credentials, and family-supporting careers.


JFF’s approach is grounded in the most promising practices from across the country, yet is tailored to the particular context and needs of individual communities. JFF helps communities determine the most promising starting point for strategic action to improve outcomes for this population, and offers the tools and supports communities need to help these opportunity youth to achieve their aspirations.

Practitioners and policymakers alike increasingly recognize the economic and moral imperative to improve outcomes for off-track and disconnected opportunity youth.  The estimated lifetime economic consequence to a community of a single off-track 20-year-old is $235,680. A recent report calculates the total fiscal and social burden of today’s off-track youth population to be $6.1 trillion.  Increasingly, communities are calling out for strategies to help this population of young people get back on track to a postsecondary credential.

Back on Track Design Services include four components:

  • Strategic Assessment and Planning identifies your off-track and disconnected youth population, determines the best pathways to meet their needs, and chooses policies and systems to support those pathways.
  • Pathway Design determines what specific design features are most critical (i.e., curricula, instruction, guidance supports) and develops college and employer partnerships to implement them.

  • Pathway Implementation helps school and program leaders create a college-going culture and drive instruction focused on college and career success.
  • Impact and Sustainability uses data to guide improvement and make a compelling case for ongoing investment in these pathways. We also help communities develop strategies to secure new and ongoing financing.

Jobs for the Future’s Back on Track model has taken hold in communities across the country. 

  • Communities ranging from Chicago to Philadelphia and Denver have incorporated Back on Track features into their expectations for all schools serving off-track and out-of-school youth—such as in RFPs for new schools, and in standards of practice for portfolios of schools.
  • Back on Track is the pathway model adopted by the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, and is driving the development of pathways to postsecondary credentials in the 20 communities that are taking a collective impact approach to improving outcomes for opportunity youth. 
  • Our partners at YouthBuild, the Conservation Corps, and the National Youth Employment Coalition—who worked with us to develop the model—are spreading Back on Track practices in their affiliated schools and programs for opportunity youth.
And we are seeing early indicators of success of the model in improved student outcomes. 
  • More than 1,000 former dropouts have graduated from the College, Career & Technology Academy in Pharr, Texas since it opened with Back on Track design in 2007. Since then, the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District’s graduation rate has risen from 62 to 88 percent.
  • 80 percent of students in the Back on Track-supported Postsecondary Success Initiative earned a diploma or GED. In addition, over half of these youth went on to a postsecondary program, and 70 percent completed one semester or more of postsecondary education.
    • Back on Track Designs Video

      Back on Track Designs Video

      Watch a video featuring students about Back on Track's work in action!

      Special thanks to: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Open Society Foundations, New Profit Inc., YouthBuild USA, National Youth Employment Coalition, the Corps Network, and Brandeis University.

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    • Crossing the Divide

      Crossing the Divide: An Emerging Typology of Postsecondary Bridging for Opportunity Youth

      Through JFF's work with communities around the country on the Back on Track model, postsecondary bridging strategies have emerged as a particularly critical and especially replicable component of programming for vulnerable.

      This issue brief offers a typology of evidence-informed bridge programming, drawing on frontrunner programs that have designed their strategies specifically for this population and that have attained early indicators of success. We hope this typology will inform the design and support the scale of bridging programs that provide a critical leg up for opportunity youth to earn the postsecondary credentials that are so essential to thriving in today’s economy.

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    • Back on Track Cost Calculator

      Back on Track Cost Calculator

      JFF developed the Back on Track Cost Calculator to help schools and programs put in place the Back on Track Through College diploma-granting or GED model. The calculator is helpful for those starting a new program or expanding an existing program to incorporate additional phases.
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