November 11, 2009
Each of the three required local activities funded by Title II—adult education and literacy (including workplace literacy), family literacy, and English literacy—should increase the rate at which students attain career and postsecondary success.
The law should explicitly allow these three services to be provided either before or concurrently with work or postsecondary education and training. The law should also recognize that program strategies can include, but are not limited to, approaches that integrate basic skills and postsecondary education and training content or which may dual or concurrently enroll students in basic skills and postsecondary education and training. Although the current law sets broad economic goals for the program, Title II has been implemented more narrowly than its original intent, which has stifled innovation.
Require states to ensure that every region has at least one adult education program that offers more than one option for earning a credential with value in the local labor market to students who do not yet have a high school diploma or GED and who are unlikely to earn one in the short-term. Such an option could include partnering with a community college or job training provider and may or may not include getting a GED in the process. Students, including those at lower-skill levels, need more options to connect more quickly to education and training that leads to better jobs.
Target $75 million of federal Title II state grant appropriations over current appropriations to states for seeding and scaling up approaches that integrate basic skills and postsecondary education and training or that dual or concurrently enroll students in basic skills and postsecondary education and training. Research suggests such approaches are more effective than the traditional, solely sequential, academic approach in helping students earn postsecondary credentials.vi We recommend, initially distributing $25 million through formula to states so all states can work on designing new programs and then providing $50 million in competitive grants to states that wish to scale up these new efforts. In the interest of ensuring that lower level students have access to innovative approaches, the federal government should give priority to those states that include programs that target students below the 9th grade level. The Secretary should develop separate performance measures for these programs, rather than holding them accountable for the current adult education performance measures, and conduct an evaluation of the impact of integrated programs on the rate at which students attain career and postsecondary success.
Help adult education students gain access to career counseling, job placement, and support services by increasing co-enrollment of these students in Title I programs under WIA. These supports have been shown to increase persistence among adult learners.vii Require states to promote closer connections between Titles I and II and to set targets that steadily increase the percentage of co-enrolled students over time. During PY 2007, only 0.2 percent of exiters from the WIA Title I Adult program were co-enrolled in adult education. There is no comparable information on the percentage of Title II students who are co-enrolled with Title I. viii
Create Career Pathways state policy leadership grants, to be jointly administered by the Departments of Education and Labor to support systemic state policy change across adult education and postsecondary education and training programs. Often, these systems are not coordinated, resulting in a leaking pipeline that prevents low-skilled individuals from reaching family-sustaining employment. These grants would
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