Texas has long been an innovator in policies, systems, and practices to ensure that young adults from low-income backgrounds are prepared for postsecondary education and careers. The state has launched college and career readiness school models, which include early college high schools, early investments in dropout recovery through initiatives such as the Texas Dropout Recovery Pilot Program, a Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative, and a Texas Regional Pathways Network. These programs have spurred partnerships among K-12 systems, postsecondary institutions, workforce boards, and community-based organizations to establish seamless pathways to and through college graduation.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis have cast a harsh light on the importance of reengaging young adults who are disconnected from school and work and putting them on a path to success. This population, known as opportunity youth, is so named based on the promise they hold for society as a whole and for themselves and their families. Their numbers grew dramatically in 2020, and that rise calls for bold action. This paper provides a starting point for movement on Texas state policies that can be built upon, strengthened, and/or implemented.
Over the past 10 years, JFF—a national intermediary that drives change in our workforce and education systems to achieve economic advancement for all—has partnered with a range of entities in Texas to put into place Back on Track pathways to help this population graduate college and career-ready, transition to postsecondary education and training, and persist to credential attainment. JFF brings its evidence-based Back on Track model to this work, helping schools and programs implement these proven practices to boost the success of opportunity youth and to help the state meet its 60x30TX goal of 60 percent of Texans attaining a marketable credential by 2030. Evaluations have shown strong evidence that Back on Track improves postsecondary enrollment and completion by opportunity youth.