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Hello! It’s that time of year again. Code4Life will be launching its semester the week of March 20th. We need 26 instructors to teach our Code4Life curriculum at 24 DC public and charter middle-schools all around the District. For details, click on our flyer below. Be sure to checkout our interactive map and use it to select a school or schools.

Code4Life — Teaching Gig Available

Interactive Map

Once you’ve had a chance to check out the map, fill out a copy of our short Prospective Candidate Questionnaire. We’ll get back in touch with you shortly thereafter. If you have any questions, email our executive director, Dave Oberting, at dave.oberting@egdcfoundation.org.

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Due to cost of living differentials across the country, it is often difficult to estimate typical salaries for various occupations. The payscale.com website does a pretty good job. Below is the report on a hypothetical 21 year old high school graduate with a post-secondary certificate in software development. It estimates a starting salary of $77,000.


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Accenture Logo Revised Code4Life Logo


The “Sputnik Crisis” was triggered by the launch of Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite, on October 4, 1957 from what is now known as the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It stirred within the American people a sense that they had fallen behind the Soviet Union technologically, and in the “race for space.”

But Americans didn’t panic. In short order, they created the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA. Less than a year after the launch of Sputnik, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act. It was a four-year program that poured billions into the U.S. education system.

Within a decade, the U.S. had launched the first human into space. We landed on the moon in 1969. The U.S. has dominated space exploration ever since. Countless technological innovations sprung from that period, from Tang to the World Wide Web.

2017 represents a new Sputnik moment. The American workforce is at risk of being left behind. The next century will be one dominated by information technology.

If American workers are not equipped with the skills required to succeed in our technology-based future, we risk falling permanently behind in a variety of ways. It is time for America to accept the challenge of the next century and put the same level of effort that followed Sputnik into preparing its workforce for the 21st century.

Astronauts will land on Mars, but it is the computer scientists who will get them there.

The most important education policy challenge we face in America today is improving access to computer science education. Only a fraction of our school districts, mainly in Silicon Valley, have integrated full-blown computer science education into their regular for-credit curriculum. Our foundation and many others are actively advocating for the completion of this integration as quickly as possible, but Congress has been slow to act.

Until then, Code4Life is a first of its kind after-school program developed by us in partnership with Accenture. It teaches basic computer programming skills to middle-school students. As good as the program may be, it is a crude substitute for the full-scale integration of computer science education into the regular for-credit curriculum. Until national policymakers and our patchwork of local school-districts across the country get serious about the integration, programs like Code4Life will play an important role in experimenting with best practices.

Our program is designed to impart to middle-school students the basic computer programming and development skills that will provide them with the tools and the confidence to pursue a career in computer science.

While many of our participants will pursue undergraduate degrees, there are numerous career paths within computer science that provide an opportunity to earn a middle-class living that do not require a four-year degree. Our program is designed to provide a foundation from which a career in computer science can be built.

According to the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Worforce, between now and 2025 there will be upwards of 107,000 high-paying technology related jobs created in the DC area that do not require a college degree. Code4Life puts some of those jobs within reach.


The program began in September of 2014 with one classroom and 15 students at KIPP NE Academy in Trinidad. When our Spring 2017 semester begins in March, we will be operating in approximately 35 classrooms with over 500 students participating in the program, including at KIPP, Francis-Stevens Middle School, Hart Middle, Johnson, Howard University Middle School/Girls Inc., Chavez Prep, Chavez Parkside, Stuart-Hobson, EL Haynes, Leckie Elementary, Center City PCS, and Excel .

One of the problems with computer science in America today is its lack of diversity. About 90% of all computer scientists are white males. Our program requires that at least 50% of the participants at each of our schools are girls and the vast majority of our participants are African-American or Latino.


Code4Life Week 2

Accenture volunteers teach Module One at KIPP NE Academy

How It Works

The class meets for two hours after school, one day per week, for 8 consecutive weeks in each semester.

The program is designed for students to remain with us working on progressively more complex programming throughout their middle school careers.

We teach four different curricula we call Modules each semester. Technical staff at Accenture developed the curriculum for Module One based on a programming language developed at the University of California at Berkeley called SNAP. It’s a visually oriented entry-level programming language designed to introduce students to programming for the first time.

Module Two is an HTML and CSS class that was developed by IT staff at George Washington University that teaches participants how to code basic websites. Module Three is an introduction to big data and data analytics developed by Accenture, and Module Four introduces students to smartphone app development using the MIT App Inventor.

Code4Life Week 2 -- Student Presentation 2

A Code4Life student presents her final project

Code4Life is funded by a fee paid by each school per classroom per semester. While these fees cover most of our expenses, we are constantly raising money to support our expansion and curriculum development. To support Code4Life financially, simply click the “Contribute” button at the top of the page. The Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) public charity. Your contribution is fully tax-deductible as a charitable gift. If you like to learn more about the benefits of supporting Code4Life, contact our executive director,  Dave Oberting, at dave.oberting@egdcfoundation.org.

If you’d like to bring Code4Life to your school, email us at code4life@egdcfoundation.org.

Here are some links to recent news coverage of Code4Life:

Natalie Wexler’s Greater Greater Washington article

Opportunity Lives article

Click below to see Code4Life featured on the Harris’ Heroes segment of a recent ABC7 broadcast:



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Code4Life Logo


Code4Life is an after-school program run by the Economic Growth DC Foundation in partnership with Accenture that teaches middle-school students basic computer programming skills.

We are seeking multiple paid instructors to teach Code4Life at several different DCPS and Charter schools. The program will begin in late March of 2017. It meets one day a week for two hours after school for eight consecutive weeks, for a total of 16 hours of paid instruction time.

If you are interested in teaching Code4Life, contact our executive director, Dave Oberting, at dave.oberting@egdcfoundation.org.

You can learn more about Code4Life by clicking here: http://egdcfoundation.org/code-4-life/

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Operation Capstone Logo


Operation Capstone is an initiative developed and underwritten by the Economic Growth DC Foundation that finds jobs for DC residents who have recently returned to the District from incarceration.

Out of a population of over 672,000 residents, it is estimated than in excess of 50,000 DC residents have a criminal record of some kind and approximately 50% of those individuals are believed to be unemployed. Furthermore, according to the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, those residents are missing out on approximately $915 million in lost wages annually. See here for details and methodology: Returning Citizens Lost Wages. That’s almost a billion dollars in lost economic activity, and well over $100 million in lost tax revenue annually.

Here’s how the program works: The team operates in a fashion similar to the way a typical staffing or recruiting firm works. Using industry experience and expertise, team members initiate, develop, build and maintain relationships with employers willing to provide DC residents who’ve paid their debt to society with a second chance. We rely on non-profit partners, the District’s Department of Employment Service’s Project Empowerment, and the Office of Returning Citizen’s Affairs to provide us with job ready candidates.

We then find an employer that is suitable for each candidate’s skills and background. We aim for full-time positions with benefits that pay a living wage. Our goal is to place 1,500 returning citizens in our first twelve months of operations. A program of this type makes sense for our foundation because our executive director, Dave Oberting, has over twenty years of job placement experience. Here is a link to his resume: Oberting Dave Resume2.

If you have recently returned to the District from incarceration and are in need of employment, or for more information about the program, contact our executive director, Dave Oberting, at dave.oberting@egdcfoundation.org.

To see the Operation Capstone business plan, click here.

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By Dave Oberting

To no one’s surprise, poverty is not spread evenly throughout the District of Columbia. Only six percent of the District’s white residents live in poverty. For Hispanics, the rate is 23% and for African-American District residents it’s 36%.

The most important statistic in all of the poverty debate is this one: according to Dr. Harry Holzer of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, of the 88,773 people over the age of 16 living in poverty in DC in 2014, only 1.9% had the opportunity to hold a full-time job at some point throughout the year, while 64% did not have the opportunity to work at all.

The District doesn’t have a “poverty” problem, per se. It has an unemployment and underemployment problem, of which poverty is a symptom.

The elusive “solution” to poverty is actually pretty obvious: work — meaningful, decent, and full-time work to be sure, but work itself is how poverty ends.

Our public discourse tends to trend towards who’s to blame for the existing state of affairs, but the causes are many, varied and ultimately irrelevant. The only thing that matters is how it gets fixed.

Deep Poverty        Estimated U6 Unemployment Rate by Ward   Poverty and Employment


Our answer comes in three parts that are not a mystery:

1) The District’s economy grew at a rate of 1.55% in 2014. While better than the 0.61% contraction that took place in 2013, it’s not fast enough to take on the District’s high level of unemployment. The number one task of the new administration, and the thing that most requires their attention is implementing a policy framework that permits the private sector to grow faster. This can and should be fixed in the short-term. Improvements in tax policy, regulatory policy, more flexible labor laws and even the facilitation of the birth of new industries are within reach. Aggressive moves in each area are required to jump-start the creation of jobs at all skill levels.


2) Too many District residents lack the skills required to acquire and maintain a full-time, middle-skill, middle-wage job. This is a medium-term project, but the best tool we have for transmitting the skills that District residents need to command a middle-class job is our long neglected workforce development system. It is frankly the best anti-poverty tool we have.

Some improvements in the system have been made over the last four years, but we need to move farther, faster. Instead of complaining that the workforce is unskilled, the corporate sector needs to drive the design of, supervise, facilitate, and to some degree, fund an improved job training system. As the pace of  job creation increases in the short-term it places a higher premium on residents with competitive skills.


3) As a longer-term proposition, we need a more radical reconstruction of our K-12 education system. Dating back to Mayor Fenty’s takeover of the schools and the tenure of Michelle Rhee, the energy required for dramatic improvement has been there, but the results have not. According to Ken Archer of Greater Greater Washington, if you take a closer look at the city’s test scores, you see, “stagnant or downward trajectory for black, Hispanic, low-income, English language learner, and special education students in the last five years.”

This is a recipe for the perpetuation of inter-generational poverty. Until the city grapples with this reality and commits to more drastic action, the long-term trajectory of poverty will not change. By the time a faster growing economy is producing more jobs,and an improved workforce system is producing higher-skilled District residents, we must graduate 100% of our high school students and they must be ready for post-secondary training/education and a productive career.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We’ve been doing the same things over and over for decades.

Dave Oberting is the executive director of the Economic Growth DC Foundation, an anti-poverty organization focused primarily on improving the productivity of the District’s workforce. You can email Dave at dave.oberting@egdcfoundation.org.




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658,893 people call the District of Columbia home. Approximately 60,000 of those residents have at least one criminal conviction and have spent at least some time in prison. It is believed that 50-55% of that group is unemployed. The number is a little lower for women, and a little higher for men, but in that range.

Image result for criminal justice reform


Economic Growth DC has a number of organizational goals. One of those is to bring the unemployment rate in the District down to under 5% in all eight wards. This will take some work because in the predominately African-American parts of the District, the real unemployment rate is more like 20%. In order to make a serious push towards 5%, you have to be able to do something about finding jobs for returning citizens.


Estimated U6 Unemployment Rate by Ward


That basic premise has led us down some interesting roads as it relates the criminal justice system. For instance:

  • You would be shocked at how many people are let out of prison without basic identification — no driver’s license, no birth certificate, no social security card, no nothing. And, because of new federal rules, it has become more difficult to obtain identification upon release. You often need a utility bill in your name to prove residence, but if you’re homeless or living with your aunt, you can’t produce a utility bill. In almost all cases, you have to provide proof of identity, usually in the form of a driver’s license, to get a job. It’s like the government inadvertently said we’re going to make it as difficult as possible for a returning citizen to find work.
  • The criminal justice system has provided a mechanism for a person who’s served their time to go thru a court supervised process to get that conviction expunged or sealed. But, we’ve made it so difficult, cumbersome and expensive to go through that process that almost no one does. One of the main ways a returning citizen is denied a job is because of the criminal background check. Here we have this process authorized by the constitution that legally permits a person to clean up their record — something that would go further towards helping them find work than almost any other measure —  and yet we’ve made it so convoluted that it’s next to impossible.
  • We’ve discovered that the average person is likely to commit at least one crime a day because we have managed to criminalize just about everything. At the federal level, there are over 3,000 criminal offenses, and over 300,000 regulations that carry criminal penalties. That’s just flat out of control. The need for broad decriminalization in the District, and around the country, is compelling.
  • The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. One of the significant reasons for that is mandatory minimum sentencing. During the “war on crime” we took away a judge’s discretion on sentencing. It’s time to return that responsibility to the bench.
  • The conditions where most District residents are incarcerated are deplorable. That’s why we have an entire DC government agency, the Criminal Information Council, that does nothing but inspect and report on conditions in prisons where DC residents are held. Improving the quality of programming while in prison, specifically job training , is a key to reducing recidivism.
  • Next to a job and a place to live, mental health care is the most vital need of returning citizens. The overuse of solitary confinement can cause serious and long-lasting mental health problems. We have to do a lot better at identifying and treating PTSD and all of the other mental problems that prison invites.

What is it we plan to do about all this? At the policy level, we will continue to work an these various elements of criminal justice reform with an eye towards making it easier for returning citizens to obtain and keep a job.

At a programmatic level, we don’t think it’s realistic to expect large numbers of returning citizens to find work without active assistance. By making use of our job placement industry experience, we have proposed a program that will create a small team of job placement professionals who will do nothing but place returning citizens into employment. The business plan can be found here: Operation Capstone