Paving the Way to Postsecondary Success through State-Level Basic Skills Reform

Mar 15, 2011

by Marcie Foster

By 2018, 64 percent of jobs could require a postsecondary education. As the nation recovers from a deep recession, a credential beyond a high school diploma or GED is more important than ever. Unless we pursue strategies to increase the number of adults and out-of-school youth who enroll and succeed in education and training programs, economists predict we will fall short of projected demand by at least three million workers.

To meet the challenge of creating a competitive workforce, we need policies that respond to the needs of diverse students.

In its new report Beyond Basic Skills, CLASP lays out strategies to help state policymakers strengthen connections between basic skills education and postsecondary education, which would open up postsecondary education to many lower-skilled adults and out-of-school youth.

These adults and youth typically benefit from a different set of interventions than traditional age students. They are more likely to be working full- or part-time, have dependent children or families, and begin their education in one of two basic skills services-adult or developmental education. State policies, including instructional strategies, acceleration strategies, funding formulas, assessment policies, and other administrative policies can make it easier for these low-skilled students to progress on a pathway to better jobs through postsecondary education.

Despite the budget challenges of the current fiscal year, governments and private foundations are supporting basic skills system reform nationwide. The Department of Labor is supporting a $2 billion grant program to help local institutions increase the number of low-skilled adults who attain degrees, certificates, and other industry-recognized credentials to help them succeed in the labor market. In addition, a new initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ABE to Credentials, will support a group of states in reforming their adult education state policies and systems to help more low-skilled students access postsecondary credentials that have value in the labor market.

These initiatives recognize the value of educating more adults and out-of-school youth for meeting tomorrow's challenges. Using the strategies in Beyond Basic Skills, more states can create policies that meet the unique needs of lower-skilled adults and out-of-school youth, and set a course for creating the educated, skilled workforce employers need.

Read the full report: Beyond Basic Skills: State Strategies to Connect Low-Skilled Students to an Employer-Valued Postsecondary Education

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