Studies Confirm Favorable Long-term Impacts for Adult Basic Education Program Participants

While PIAAC data analyses confirm that U.S. adults continue to struggle with foundational reading and writing skills, PIAAC reports will not be able to document the impact of WIOA Title II Adult Education programs on the basic skills of participating adults. 

Recently, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) released five research briefs using Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning (LSAL) data to examine the long-term impacts of participation in adult basic education programs. Portland State University’s LSAL randomly sampled and tracked 1,000 high school dropouts between 1998 and 2007. Dr. Steve Reder has used three different methodologies to control for selection bias in that data, finding clear evidence of the long-term value of participating in adult basic education.

The briefs released last week highlight several key points. As stated in the briefs:

  • “Participants in Adult Basic Skills (ABS) programs experience significant and, in some cases, substantial increases in long-term educational and economic outcomes.
  • The enhanced outcomes require an average of 100 or more cumulative hours of program attendance.
  • The enhanced outcomes do not typically appear until several years following program participation.
  • The income premiums to ABS program participation average $10,000 per year, in 2013 dollars.
  • The overall GED attainment rate is estimated to have risen from 16 percent to 36 percent because of ABS program participation. ABS programs appeared to be effective ‘on-ramps’ into postsecondary education, but additional supports are likely needed for completion.” 

As we enter the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act Title II Notice of Proposed Rulemaking comment period, it is important to note the many benefits of these programs that can be documented long term (well after the reporting timeframe for federal performance measures).