U.S. Department of Education Responds to OECD Survey with Strategies to Transform Adult Learning

Responding to our nation’s disappointing results in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Survey of Adult Skills, the U.S. Department of Education released a report last Tuesday that details its vision for transforming adult learning in the United States. In “Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States,” the Department acts on the survey results along with other recent changes in the adult education and workforce landscape, namely the recent passage of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) and the White House’s Ready to Work report, to develop comprehensive strategies that will be ripe for “synergy, amplification, and investment.”

The highlight of the report is the Department’s seven strategies for improving adult learning and skill development.  We applaud both the breadth of the current adult education landscape addressed in these recommendations and the Department’s commitment to improving it. Several of the proposed strategies closely connect to our work at CLASP, including promoting expanded use of career pathways, emphasizing “no wrong door” approaches for youth and adult services, and improving opportunities and outcomes for low-income and under-served minorities. CLASP encourages the Department to consider also incentivizing workforce development partners to implement these strategies through the development of a truly shared accountability system.

In our original post about the Survey of Adult Skills’ release in 2013, CLASP called for policymakers to use the survey’s results as an impetus to redesign the nation’s inadequate skills development system.  This international skills survey underscores the need for action, as adults in the United States were ranked 16th in literacy, 21st in numeracy, and 14th in problem solving using technology, out of 24 advanced countries. Improvements in this field would not only upgrade adults’ basic skills, but also promote innovation and workforce success, creating opportunities for individuals to begin or continue postsecondary training.

The Department offers a comprehensive and strategic response. Now it’s up to all of us from the worlds of government, education, policy, advocacy, business, labor, philanthropy, and nonprofits to do our part to put these strategies into action.  CLASP is committed to redoubling our efforts to improve adult learning so that poor and low-income individuals gain the basic skills they need to reach economic security.