The Opportunity Works Implementation report describes the "Back on Track" framework, a multi-phase intervention to help "opportunity youth—" young people ages 16 to 24 who are not in school or meaningfully employed—into pathways to postsecondary education.

The Opportunity Works intervention replicates and scales the "Back on Track" framework to help opportunity youth progress along secondary and postsecondary pathways. The "Back on Track" framework is characterized by three program phases which consist of a set of features to help opportunity youth move toward postsecondary and career success:

First Phase: enriched preparation helps students complete their high school equivalency credentials through a focus on creating a college culture. This is done by reinforcing interactions and pro-college physical spaces, offering college- and career-ready curricula and instruction, customized and accelerated instruction, and personalized guidance and support.

Second Phase: postsecondary/career bridging helps students bridge to college and/or careers through supported dual enrollment, sharing of college knowledge and success strategies, personalized guidance with connections to “best bets,” mentorship from program graduates, and supported transition to college.

Final Phase: first-year support encourages staff members to continue working with students through their first year of college or career, focusing on developing an attachment to postsecondary education.

Major Findings & Recommendations

  • When first thinking about program design, various sites emphasized the importance of having a strong understanding of the local labor market and the population that will be served. One valuable way to get this insight is to engage program partners at multiple levels.
  • Anticipating and planning for recruitment and retention challenges can save the energy of shifting focus partway through implementation.
  • Offering nonacademic content, such as opportunities for socialization and cultural capital building, college- and job-readiness skill development, and personal confidence-building, can provide a useful complement to standard programming.
  • Ensuring that new interventions are embedded seamlessly into existing programming can offer an uninterrupted continuum for youth that may increase retention and improve outcomes.
  • Strong technical support from the funder or another organization well versed in the framework can be valuable at the planning stage and throughout implementation.