Feb 13, 2014 | PERMALINK »
From Adult Education to College: Success Factors, Challenges, and Tools
A recent MDRC report, Beyond the GED: Promising Models for Moving High School Dropouts to College, provides a snapshot of innovative adult education programs and the challenges involved in helping high school dropouts acquire a GED and gain postsecondary credentials. Considering that nearly 39 million adults in the U.S do not have a high school diploma, and fewer than 5 percent of GED recipients go on to enroll in college or other adult education programs, this issue is critical.
The study finds that the most successful adult education programs for high school dropouts contextualize basic skills and GED instruction within specific career fields and support students in their transition to college. These programs offer more rigorous academic curricula, as well as support services such as career and college admissions advising. Supporting students in their transition to college has been shown to increase the rate of their entry, persistence, and success.
Unfortunately, fragmented funding streams, lack of coordination among government agencies, and lack of college-readiness courses for those with skills below the ninth-grade level often make adult education programs less effective than they could be.
By limiting participation in these innovative programs to students with skills at the ninth grade level or above, Adult Basic Education (ABE) and Adult Secondary Education (ASE) programs are effectively barring 80 percent of students from these innovations. This is even more startling when one considers that 40 percent of students have skills below the sixth grade level.
One way to tackle the issue is to offer career pathway bridge programs, which provide targeted basic skills or English language instruction to lower-skilled adults and youth. These bridge programs, which often begin at the sixth grade level, enable students to enter and succeed in career pathways. For those with the lowest skill levels, there are even some “pre-bridge” programs to prepare them for the career pathway bridge. Bridge and pre-bridge “on-ramps” are essential features of career pathways in CLASP’s Alliance for Quality Career Pathways (AQCP), a two-year initiative with 10 leading career pathway states to identify criteria and indicators that define high-quality career pathway systems and a set of shared performance metrics for measuring and managing their success.
Fragmented funding is also a major challenge. Adult education programs have come to survive on a complicated array of federal and state funding streams, which are managed by numerous government agencies. Each of these funding streams comes with different restrictions and performance measures that are not well-aligned. This is a common challenge for career pathway efforts, as well, which is why CLASP developed a funding toolkit for career pathways and career pathway bridges to help interagency state teams identify and use federal resources to support career pathways and career pathway bridges for adults and out-of-school youth. The toolkit helps state agency staff and practitioners identify opportunities for braiding funding streams and begin creating plans and partnerships toward this end.
More attention should be paid to the number of individuals without a high school diploma and effective strategies to help them obtain their GED and postsecondary credentials. With this report, MDRC has highlighted very promising models for doing so.
Feb 6, 2014 | PERMALINK »
Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) Launches Effort to Improve Data and Information on Postsecondary Education and Training
The Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) recently launched a new website, www.workforcedqc.org and issued a new report, Making Workforce Data Work about steps policymakers can take to improve the availability and quality of information about postsecondary education and training. CLASP is one of nine national partners helping to shape the WDQC’s policy agenda, which includes the following proposed improvements at the federal and state levels:
1) Ensure that data systems include information on students in programs beyond basic and higher education, including out-of-school youth, adult workers, and other individuals enrolled in job training, adult education and career and technical education programs;
2) Capture individual achievement of a wide range of industry-recognized credentials (including certificates, certifications, licenses) and related competencies;
3) Assess employment outcomes by matching student records to employment records for enrollees across all education and workforce programs;
4) Expand the use of labor market information about changing demand for jobs and growth projections, and make it more understandable to students, workers and employers; and
5) Ensure appropriate data access and use, so that privacy-protected data on student outcomes can be made available to education and training institutions to use in assessing their graduates’ outcomes and guide program improvements; to students and workers who want to choose the best programs for their respective career goals; and to policymakers who want to know more about the effectiveness of public education and training policies. (For more information, see the Workforce Data Quality Campaign at http://www.workforcedqc.org/)
The new website explains how better data can help ensure that publicly funded programs are preparing skilled workers for our changing economy and the ways policymakers, students, workers, business leaders, and educators can use data to make good decisions.
In addition, the website identifies federal and state policy reforms that could improve data quality and highlights model state practices with brief case studies. Among the featured innovations is CLASP’s Alliance for Quality Career Pathways (AQCP), a two-year state-led initiative to identify criteria and indicators that define high-quality career pathway systems and a set of shared performance metrics for measuring and managing their success. The leading career pathway states in the Alliance include Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
AQCP has been identified as a promising model for creating consistent metrics across education and workforce programs to facilitate program alignment and integration into state data systems. The purpose of the Alliance metrics is to provide a shared set of career pathway participant outcome metrics that can be used jointly by partners to measure participant progress and success and to use for continuous improvement of career pathways and programs. Development of these outcome metrics necessarily should begin from the perspective of the career pathway and the participants rather than from the perspective of a particular program, institution, or funding stream. Version 1.0 of the AQCP framework will be available in June 2014.
The WDQC, along with CLASP’s AQCP, is committed to addressing how better data systems are needed to ensure that progress on a career pathway toward credential attainment and employment can be measured and improved in a more streamlined way with the adoption of shared metrics.
Sign up here for more information on the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways.
Jan 17, 2014 | PERMALINK »
How Does Postsecondary Education Fare in the New Federal Budget?
As the result of bi-partisan negotiations, Congress arrived this week at a $1.1 trillion federal omnibus budget agreement that sets spending levels for each federal program, fleshing out a framework set by Congress in October. The bill has moved quickly, with the House passing it 359-67 on January 15, the Senate passing it 72-26 on January 16, and President Obama expected to sign it by January 18. Under the terms of the agreement, funding for many programs administered by the Department of Education (ED), including K-12 programs, is restored to pre-sequester levels, but many higher education programs are funded at levels slightly lower than that.
- Maximum Pell Grant awards receive an automatic increase (based on inflation) from $5,645 to $5,730 for the 2014-15 award year.
- Funding for two major campus-based programs, Federal Work-Study (FWS) and Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG), is nearly restored to pre-sequester FY 2012 levels, with FWS funded at $733 million and SEOG at nearly $975 million. These reflect increases of over $49 million and nearly $37 million, respectively, over last year.
- The legislation also reflects an increasing focus on completion in higher education. It provides $75 million for President Obama’s new “First in the World” grant program for higher education institutions to spur the adoption of innovative, effective strategies that improve affordability and completion. Up to $20 million is to be set aside for minority-serving institutions to improve persistence and completion rates. And the legislation instructs the Department to prioritize applications targeting strategies at low-income students.
- State grants under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act are funded at the same level as FY 2013, which is over $31 million lower than before the sequester; a drop from $594,933,000 in FY 2012 to $563,955,000 for FY 2014. This comes a few months after the release of new data showing that nearly one in five Americans has low basic skills.
- Career and Technical Education State Grants are funded at $1.117 billion, an increase of $53 million over last year, but slightly below their pre-sequester levels.
- Funding for the eight programs that fall under the TRIO program, including Educational Opportunity Centers and Student Support Services, is restored to pre-sequester FY 2013 levels, which is still short of what the programs received in FY 2012.
- Most of the sequestration cuts are restored to the Title III and V programs, which fund those institutions serving a high number of low-income students and minority students.
- The main child care program that specifically funds parents pursuing higher education degrees, Child Care Access Means Parents in School, is funded at $15 million, failing to recover more than $800,000 lost to sequester cuts.
- The legislation also includes policy provisions that reflect an increasing emphasis in the higher education community on transparency of outcomes while seeking to balance a need for better data with concern about regulatory burdens.
- ED is required to submit a report on institution-level enrollment and graduation information for Pell Grant recipients for the 2012-13 award year within 120 days of the enactment of the legislation. The Department has not reported such data before and only started collecting this information on Pell Grant recipients in the 2012-13 award year. Although there are reasonable concerns about the quality of these data, which will be drawn from the ED’s National Student Loan Data System, it is the most robust data the federal government currently collects for these students and is an important step in gaining greater clarity about how well institutions serve these students.
- With an eye toward institutional concerns about increased reporting requirements, Congress asks that the report also include a plan to minimize the burden of recent student aid reporting changes.
- Congress calls for ED to include in the report a proposal to improve the tracking of enrollment and graduation rates for transfer students and nontraditional students. Congress is also calling for strategies to increase enrollment rates and improve graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients.
- The legislation sets aside $1 million for the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the impact of Federal regulations and reporting requirements on institutions of higher education.
- The bill asks ED to alert foster youth and those who were in the foster care system about their potential eligibility for student aid by adding a box to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid so that ED may identify these students. ED is instructed to notify them about federal student aid and postsecondary education programs through the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program.
- In addition, the legislation includes language that will rename the Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education to the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education.
While programs affecting postsecondary education reside within the Department of Education, many low-skilled adults and youth also rely on Department of Labor (DOL) programs as they embark on a pathway to a postsecondary career. Most DOL workforce programs are restored to just under their FY 2012 funding levels. However, the Employment Service is continued at its FY 2013 post-sequester level of $644 million.
The path to economic security for low-income students depends on a variety of supports that prepare them for well-paying jobs. While this budget prevents backsliding and offers some stability in funding, including providing a modest increase to Pell Grants and funding to seed innovation, it still leaves many funding gaps.
For a broad look at how the new budget affects low-income people more generally, please see this earlier post from CLASP.