Federal Adult Education Policy Needs Reform
Jul 27, 2009
Roughly 2.3 million students are served annually in the main federal adult basic skills program, Title II of the Workforce Investment Act, also known as the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act.
The act's effectiveness has long been hampered by having too little funding and too many goals. More funding for adult basic skills and English language services is urgently needed, especially after a decade of record immigration. But the program also needs to be transformed to better meet the needs of low-literate and low-skill adults and older youth, and to ensure that America has a globally competitive workforce.
The federal investment in adult education should have a tighter focus: to provide, in partnership with states and localities, high quality adult education and English language services that dramatically increase the rate at which all students attain career and postsecondary success. Currently most adult education students leave after just 30 to 80 hours of instruction without any credential. Reforms are urgently needed that will help students persist longer while creating new and shorter career and postsecondary pathways that lead to family-supporting jobs.