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PR- 012-08
January 14, 2008


Program Allows Over-Age Students to Earn High School Diplomas While Serving in Paid Work Internships

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced today that the 5,000th graduate from the City's innovative career development program, Learning To Work, will earn his or her high school diploma by the end of this month. Learning to Work, launched in September 2005, helps students who are academically behind by at least two years graduate from high school while receiving in-depth job-readiness training, including paid internships. The Mayor, Chancellor, and Learning To Work participants from programs throughout the city were joined at the Harlem Renaissance School in Manhattan by Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis Walcott, New York City Mission Society Executive Director Stephanie Palmer, and Harlem Renaissance Principal Mary Rice Boothe. 

"When students fall two or more years behind in school, we as a City have two choices - throw up our hands and consign our kids to a lifetime of doors closed to opportunity, or find ways to help them across the line to graduation," said Mayor Bloomberg.  "We've chosen the more challenging route - finding a different way - and we have found that given an opportunity to combine academics and opportunities to gain workforce experience, students respond positively. Learning To Work has improved students' odds of enjoying successful and rewarding careers, and that is good news for all New Yorkers."

"We launched Learning to Work because tens of thousands of predominantly poor, black, and Hispanic students were dropping out of City schools every year, and traditional forms of outreach and intervention were failing to reach them," said Chancellor Klein. "Learning to Work makes school more relevant for struggling students by supplementing academic instruction with paid internships and career counseling. Today, Learning to Work is recognized as a national model for helping at-risk students to get back on track. Its success is a testament to the hard work and commitment of teachers, administrators, community partners, and especially the students."

Outcomes for over-age and under-credited students - those who are more than two years behind academically - are much more positive for students who participate in Learning To Work programs than for similar students who remain in traditional high schools. Only 19 percent of over-age, under-credited students earn diplomas in traditional high schools, while the graduation rates is 56 percent for comparable students in transfer schools - small, academically rigorous, diploma-granting high schools designed to reengage students who have dropped out or who have fallen behind and earned fewer credits than expected for their age. The graduation rate in Young Adult Borough Centers with Learning To Work programs is 44 percent. The program also outperforms the school system as a whole in re-engaging and graduating male students. The vast majority of Learning To Work graduates are black and Hispanic, with black males representing 19.9 percent and Hispanic males representing 22.4 percent of its graduates.

Participants enjoy a broad range of paid internships in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, with placements tailored to match their interests and career goals. Students express high levels of satisfaction with the program, with over 90 percent of students reporting that their internships would help them obtain jobs after graduation. Additionally, three times as many students reported that the overall Learning To Work program supported key career development skills - such as identifying career goals, constructing résumés, and applying for jobs - compared with programs they previously attended.

Expansion of Learning To Work programs has been a central priority of this Administration. Since September 2005, the DOE has opened or enhanced 15 transfer schools, 10 GED programs, and 20 Young Adult Borough Centers with Learning To Work components. In 2007, 9,809 students participated in Learning To Work programs, compared with 6,351 during the previous year. As of November 2007, nearly 8,000 students were already participating in the programs citywide, with students continuing to enroll throughout the academic year. The Department of Education has also expanded program services to students, with internship placements increasing by 115 percent during the program's second year of operation and continued growth expected in 2008.

"Learning to Work programs have provided tremendous benefits to Harlem Renaissance students who have taken advantage of them," said Harlem Renaissance High School Principal Mary Rice Boothe. "Our most successful students are those who have been involved with Learning To Work, not only because of the work experience they gained outside of school, but also because of the social, emotional, and academic supports they received from the dedicated staff of our community partner, the New York City Mission Society."

"Our partnership with Harlem Renaissance High School demonstrates that community-based organizations such as the New York City Mission Society are committed to working with the Department of Education to ensure that the City's education system works for all young people," said New York City Mission Society Executive Director Stephanie Palmer. "The success of this initiative proves that our collective efforts can assist students who somehow lost their way to get back on track to fulfill the promise of a brighter future and better outcomes for themselves and their families."


Stu Loeser/Dawn Walker   (212) 788-2958

David Cantor   (Department of Education)
(212) 374-4341

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