2
Background

Accountability is a fact of life in the current educational setting, not only in the United States but in many other countries. Educational programs that are funded by public monies are increasingly being asked to account not only for how they expend public resources, but for the extent to which these expenditures result in educational outcomes that are valued by stakeholders. Standardized assessments are believed by some to be one of the most powerful levers that policy makers have for influencing what occurs in the classroom in a high-stakes accountability system. A premise of high-stakes accountability is that instruction and student learning will be improved by holding teachers and/or students accountable for test results. Many have argued that there can be negative consequences associated with high-stakes assessment as well. These include teaching to the test, narrowing of the curriculum, cheating, and making improper or inaccurate high-stakes decisions based on one test result (National Research Council [NRC], 1999b).

There are a number of challenges associated with using tests accurately and fairly for accountability purposes. Sometimes, performance assessments, which generally require test takers to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in a manner that closely resembles a real-life situation or setting, are seen as solutions to the limitations of other assessments such as multiple-choice tests (NRC, 2001a). In this report, the use of performance assessments in adult education for high-stakes purposes is discussed. In order to describe the workshop discussions about benefits and issues associ-



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2 Background Accountability is a fact of life in the current educational setting, not only in the United States but in many other countries. Educational programs that are funded by public monies are increasingly being asked to account not only for how they expend public resources, but for the extent to which these expenditures result in educational outcomes that are valued by stakeholders. Standardized assessments are believed by some to be one of the most powerful levers that policy makers have for influencing what occurs in the classroom in a high-stakes accountability system. A premise of high-stakes accountability is that instruction and student learning will be improved by holding teachers and/or students accountable for test results. Many have argued that there can be negative consequences associated with high-stakes assessment as well. These include teaching to the test, narrowing of the curriculum, cheating, and making improper or inaccurate high-stakes decisions based on one test result (National Research Council [NRC], 1999b). There are a number of challenges associated with using tests accurately and fairly for accountability purposes. Sometimes, performance assessments, which generally require test takers to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in a manner that closely resembles a real-life situation or setting, are seen as solutions to the limitations of other assessments such as multiple-choice tests (NRC, 2001a). In this report, the use of performance assessments in adult education for high-stakes purposes is discussed. In order to describe the workshop discussions about benefits and issues associ-

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ated with performance assessments in several areas of the report background information is provided on pertinent measurement concepts. Many of the challenges identified in this report may be relevant to other kinds of tests and the broader accountability system of adult education. WORKFORCE INVESTMENT ACT AND THE NATIONAL REPORTING SYSTEM The passage of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998, Title II (Public Law 105-220), mandated an accountability system for state adult education systems. Under the WIA, the U.S. Department of Education (DOEd) was required to negotiate levels of performance with each state for “core measures of performance” related to Demonstrated improvements in literacy skill levels in reading, writing, and speaking the English language, numeracy, problem solving, English language acquisition, and other literacy skills. Placement in, retention in, or completion of, postsecondary education, training, unsubsidized employment or career advancement. Receipt of a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent (Public Law 105, Section 212). The DOEd developed the National Reporting System (NRS) in order to support the development of the comprehensive accountability system required by the WIA. Within the NRS, students are administered an assessment at entry to an adult education program and then take a posttest after a period of instruction determined by each state. States are given the flexibility to select the assessment of their choice to measure students’ progress on an annual basis. The assessments may be standardized tests or performance-based assessments that reflect the skill areas identified in the NRS educational functioning levels. The NRS specifies six educational functioning levels for both adult basic education (ABE) and English as a second language (ESL). These functioning levels include brief descriptions of the skills students are expected to demonstrate at each of six levels in specific subject areas. The subject areas for ABE are reading and writing, numeracy, and functional and workplace skills. For ESL, the subject areas are speaking and listening, reading and writing, and functional and workplace skills. The functioning levels are displayed in Table 2-1 and described in more detail later in this

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chapter. The states report the percentage of students who move from one functioning level to the next. In his presentation, Mike Dean, of the DOEd’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education, explained that the NRS provides the methodologies and structure for the collection, analysis, and reporting of data on the core measures from the local level to the state level to the federal government. Dean stressed the importance of producing valid and reliable results and emphasized the fact that the whole system depends on the comparability of data across states, that is, similar scores reported for performance on Program A and Program C should reflect students’ mastery of similar skills and knowledge. Dean acknowledged the complexity of achieving comparability when different assessments are being used in different programs and different states. The WIA also includes incentives for states that exceed the levels of performance agreed to by the DOEd. The agreement on the performance levels takes into account statutory criteria.1 The criteria include factors such as the characteristics of participants at entry to the program, the services or instruction that are provided within a program, and the extent to which the performance levels promote continuous improvement in student performance. The performance levels were approved for the first three years of the five-year state plan period (7/1/99–6/30/02) with the performance levels for years four and five (7/1/02–6/30/04) being approved in 2002. Yet in order for state adult education programs to be eligible for the incentives, other federally supported programs are simultaneously required to show improvement and meet particular goals. These other programs include Title I (employment services and job training) administered by the Department of Labor and, under a separate act, the Carl D. Perkins Vocational–Technical Education Act Amendments of 1998 (Public Law 105– 332). All three federally supported programs, WIA Titles I and II and Perkins, must exceed their negotiated levels of performance in order to qualify for an incentive grant award that can range from $750,000 to $3 million. For states that qualify for incentive grants, the governor has latitude in making allocations of the grant among the three major programs. In addition, the DOEd is required to provide an annual report to Congress 1   The law can be located at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d105:HR01385:|TOM:/bss/d105query.html. [April 24, 2002].

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TABLE 2-1 Educational Functioning Level Descriptors—Adult Basic Education Levels Literacy Level Basic Reading and Writing Beginning ABE Literacy Benchmarks: TABE (5-6) scale scores (grade level 0-1.9): Total Reading: 529 and below Total Math: 540 and below Total Language: 599 and below TABE (7-8) scale scores (grade level 0-1.9): Reading: 367 and below Total Math: 313 and below Language: 391 and below CASAS: 200 and below AMES (B, ABE) scale scores (grade level 0-1.9): Reading: 500 and below Total Math: 476 and below Communication: 496 and below ABLE scale scores (grade level 0-1.9): Reading: 523 and below Math: 521 and below • Individual has no or minimal reading and writing skills. • May have little or no comprehension of how print corresponds to spoken language and may have difficulty using a writing instrument. • At upper range of this level, individual can recognize, read and write letters and numbers, but has a limited understanding of connected prose and may need frequent re-reading. • Can write a number of basic sight words and familiar words and phrases. • May also be able to write simple sentences or phrase, including simple messages. • Can write basic personal information. • Narrative writing is disorganized and unclear, inconsistently uses simple punctuation (e.g., periods, commas, question marks). • Contains frequent spelling errors. Beginning Basic Education Benchmarks: TABE (5-6) scale scores (grade level 2-3.9): Total Reading: 530-679 Total Math: 541–677 Total Language: 600–977 TABE (7-8) scale scores (grade level 2-3.9): Reading: 368–460 Total Math: 314–441 Language: 392-490 CASAS: 201-210 AMES (B, ABE) scale scores (grade level 2-3.9): Reading: 503–510 Total Math: 477–492 Communication: 498–506 ABLE scale scores (grade level 2-3.9): Reading: 525–612 Math: 530–591 • Individual can read simple material on familiar subjects and comprehend simple compound sentences in single or linked paragraphs containing a familiar vocabulary. • Can write simple notes and messages on familiar situations, but lacks clarity and focus. • Sentence structure lacks variety, but shows some control of basic grammar (e.g., present and past tense), and consistent use of punctuation (e.g., periods, capitalization).

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Numeracy Skills Functional and Workplace Skills • Individual has little or no recognition of numbers or simple counting skills or may have only minimal skills, such as the ability to add or subtract single digit numbers. • Individual has little or no ability to read basic signs or maps, can provide limited personal information on simple forms. • The individual can handle routine entry-level jobs that require little or no ndividual basic written communication or computational skills and no knowledge of computers or other technology. • Individual can count, add and subtract three digit numbers; can perform multiplication through 12. • Can identify simple fractions and perform other simple arithmetic operations. • Individual is able to read simple directions, signs, and maps; fill out simple forms requiring basic personal information; write phone messages and make simple change. • There is minimal knowledge of, and experience with, using computers and related technology. • The individual can handle basic entry-level jobs that require minimal literacy skills. • Can recognize very short, explicit, pictorial texts, e.g., understands logos related to worker safety before using a piece of machinery. • Can read want ads and complete job applications.

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Literacy Level Basic Reading and Writing Low Intermediate Basic Education Benchmarks: TABE (5-6) scale scores (grade level 6-8.9): Total Reading: 723–761 Total Math: 730–776 Total Language: 706–730 TABE (7-8) scale scores (grade level 6-8.9): Reading: 518–566 Total Math: 506–565 Language: 524–559 CASAS: 221–235 AMES (C and D, ABE) scale scores (grade level 6-8.9): Reading (C): 525–612 Reading (D): 522–543 Total Math (C): 510–627 Total Math (D): 509–532 Communication (C): 516–611 Communication (D): 516–523 ABLE scale scores (grade level 6-8.9): Reading: 646–680 Math: 643–693 • Individual can read text on familiar subjects that have a simple and clear underlying structure (e.g., clear main idea, chronological order). • Can use context to determine meaning. • Can interpret actions required in specific written directions. • Can write simple paragraphs with main idea and supporting detail on familiar topics (e.g., daily activities, personal issues) by recombining learned vocabulary and structures. • Can self and peer edit for spelling and punctuation errors.

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Numeracy Skills Functional and Workplace Skills • Individual can perform with high accuracy all four basic math operations using whole numbers up to three digits. • Can identify and use all basic mathematical symbols. • Individual is able to handle basic reading, writing, and computational tasks related to life roles, such as completing medical forms, order forms, or job applications. • Can read simple charts, graphs, labels, and payroll stubs and simple authentic material if familiar with the topic. • The individual can use simple computer programs and perform a sequence of routine tasks given direction using technology (e.g., fax machine, computer operation). • The individual can qualify for entry-level jobs that require following basic written instructions and diagrams with assistance, such as oral clarification. • Can write a short report or message to fellow workers. • Can read simple dials and scales and take routine measurements.

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Literacy Level Basic Reading and Writing Numerac High Intermediate Basic Education Benchmarks: TABE (5-6) scale scores (grade level 6-8.9): Total Reading: 723–761 Total Math: 730–776 Total Language: 706–730 TABE (7-8) scale scores (grade level 6-8.9): Reading: 518–66 Total Math: 506–565 Language: 524–559 CASAS: 221–235 AMES (C and D, ABE) scale scores (grade level 6-8.9): Reading (C): 525–612 Reading (D): 522–543 Total Math (C): 510–627 Total Math (D): 509–532 Communication (C): 516–611 Communication (D): 516–523 ABLE scale scores (grade level 6-8.9): Reading: 646–680 Math: 643–693 • Individual is able to read simple descriptions and narratives on familiar subjects or from which new vocabulary can be determined by context. • Can make some minimal inferences about familiar texts and compare and and contrast information from such texts, but not consistently. • The individual can write simple narrative descriptions and short essays on familiar topics. • Has consistent use of basic punctuation, but makes grammatical errors with complex structures.

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Numeracy Skills Functional and Workplace Skills • Individual can perform all four basic math operations with whole numbers and fractions. • Can determine correct math operations for solving narrative math problems and can convert fractions to decimals and decimals to factions. • Can perform basic operations on fractions. • Individual is able to handle basic life skills tasks such as graphs, charts, and labels, and can follow multi-step diagrams. • Can read authentic materials on familiar topics, such as simple employee handbooks and payroll stubs. • Can complete forms such as a job application and reconcile a bank statement. • Can handle jobs that involve following with simple written instructions and diagrams. • Can read procedural texts, where the information is supported by diagrams, to remedy a problem, such as locating a problem with a machine or carrying out repairs using a repair manual. • The individual can learn or work with most basic computer software, such as using a word processor to produce own texts. • Can follow simple instructions for using technology.

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Literacy Level Basic Reading and Writing Numerac Low Adult Secondary Education Benchmarks: TABE (5-6) scale scores (grade level 9–10.9): Total Reading: 762–775 Total Math: 777–789 Total Language: 731–743 TABE (7-8) scale scores (grade level 9–10.9): Reading: 567–595 Total Math: 566–594 Language: 560–585 CASAS: 236–245 AMES (E, ABE) scale scores (grade level 9-10.9): Reading: 544–561 Total Math: 534–548 Communication: 527–535 ABLE scale scores (grade level 9-10.9): Reading: 682–697 Math: 643–716 • Individual can comprehend expository writing and identify spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. • Can comprehend a variety of materials such as periodicals and non-technical journals on common topics. • Can comprehend library reference materials and compose multi-paragraph essays. • Can listen to oral instructions and write an accurate synthesis of them. • Can identify the main idea in reading selections and use a variety of context issues to determine meaning. • Writing is organized and cohesive with few mechanical errors. • Can write using a complex sentence structure. • Can write personal notes and letters that accurately reflect thoughts.

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Numeracy Skills Functional and Workplace Skills • Individual can perform all basic math functions with whole numbers, decimals and fractions. • Can interpret and solve simple algebraic equations, tables and graphs, and can develop own tables and graphs. • Can use math in business transactions. • Individual is able or can learn to follow simple multi-step directions and read common legal forms and manuals. • Can integrate information from texts, charts, and graphs. • Can create and use tables and graphs. • Can complete forms and applications and complete resumes. • Can perform jobs than require interpreting information from various sources and writing or explaining tasks to other workers. • Is proficient using computers and can use most common computer applications. • Can understand the impact of using different technologies. • Can interpret the appropriate use of new software and technology.

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Basic Reading and Writing Functional and Workplace Skills • Individual is able to read simple descriptions and narratives on familiar subjects or from which new vocabulary can be determined by context. • Can make some minimal inferences about familiar texts and compare and contrast information from such texts, but not consistently. • The individual can write simple narrative descriptions and short essays on familiar topics, such as customs in native country. • Has consistent use of basic punctuation, but makes grammatical errors with complex structures. • Individual can function independently to meet most survival needs and can communicate on the telephone on familiar topics. • Can interpret simple charts and graphics. • Can handle jobs that require simple oral and written instructions, multi-step diagrams, and limited public interaction. • The individual can use all basic software applications, understand the impact of technology, and select the correct technology in a new situation. • Individual can read authentic materials on everyday subjects and can handle most reading related to life roles. • Can consistently and fully interpret descriptive narratives on familiar topics and gain meaning from unfamiliar topics. • Uses increased control of language and meaning-making strategies to gain meaning of unfamiliar texts. • The individual can write multiparagraph essays with a clear introduction and development of ideas. • Writing contains well-formed sentences, appropriate mechanics and spelling, and few grammatical errors. • Individual has a general ability to use English effectively to meet most routine social and work situations. • Can interpret routine charts, graphs and tables and complete forms. • Has high ability to communicate on the telephone and understand radio and television. • Can meet work demands that require reading and writing and can interact with the public. • The individual can use common software and learn new applications. • Can define the purpose of software and select new applications. • Can instruct others in use of software and technology.

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that details and compares the performance of each state with respect to the core measures of performance. These public reports are shared with state governors and the chief executive officers of the agency in each state that has jurisdiction over the WIA Title II program. Finally, the state agency responsible for administering WIA Title II must consider the performance, with respect to the core measures, of local programs when it makes funding decisions about these programs. These provisions for incentive grants and high-profile state performance reports establish high stakes for the ABE performance accountability system. First of all, $750,000 to $3 million for incentive grant awards is more than some states receive under their entire annual allocation under WIA Title II. Second, the tripartite structure for qualifying for these grants ensures that governors will be well aware of which local ABE programs may have failed to qualify their state for such an award. Third, the public reports that must be provided to Congress and other elected and policy leaders, which compare the performance of states on these measures, will be used to assess the appropriateness of federal and related state expenditures on this program. Fourth, depending on their level of performance, local programs may lose all or part of their funding and, because many are heavily dependent on this funding, their ability to provide ABE services will be at risk. MEASUREMENT AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS OF THE NATIONAL REPORTING SYSTEM The WIA required the establishment of a comprehensive accountability system and the annual measurement and reporting of data on students’ performance in reading, writing, and numeracy. The NRS established the specific reporting requirements for state and local adult education programs and included a measure of educational gain in the content areas. Under the NRS guidelines, students are assessed in the skill areas most relevant to their needs or to program curriculum during intake. If students are assessed in multiple content areas and have different abilities across those content areas, the local program should place the student according to his or her lowest functioning level. The local programs then make decisions about appropriate instruction. All students must also be assessed at least one more time during the program year.

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The NRS Educational Functioning Levels The students’ scores at intake (pretest) and on the follow-up (posttest) assessments are examined in light of the NRS educational levels. There are six educational functioning levels for both adult basic education (ABE) and English as a second language (ESL) (see Table 2-1). The six functioning levels for ABE are: (1) Beginning ABE Literacy; (2) Beginning Basic Education; (3) Low Intermediate Basic Education; (4) High Intermediate Basic Education; (5) Low Adult Secondary Education; and (6) High Adult Secondary Education. The six levels for ESL are: (1) Beginning ESL Literacy; (2) Beginning ESL; (3) Low Intermediate ESL; (4) High Intermediate ESL; (5) Low Advanced ESL; and (6) High Advanced ESL. Each of the NRS educational functioning levels includes a brief narrative description of the skills required for a student to be placed at that particular level. For example, the Beginning ABE Literacy functioning level in reading and writing is described as follows: Individual has no or minimal reading and writing skills. May have little or no comprehension of how print corresponds to spoken language and may have difficulty using a writing instrument. At upper range of this level, individual can recognize, read and write letters and numbers, but has a limited understanding of connected prose and may need frequent re-reading. Can write a number of basic sight words and familiar words and phrases. May also be able to write simple sentences or phrases, including simple messages. Can write basic personal information. Narrative writing is disorganized and unclear, inconsistently uses simple punctuation (e.g., periods, commas, question marks). Contains frequent spelling errors. In numeracy, the Beginning ABE Literacy level states: Individual has little or no recognition of numbers or simple counting skills or may have only minimal skills, such as the ability to add or subtract single digit numbers.

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In functional and workplace skills, the Beginning ABE Literacy level states: Individual has little or no ability to read basic signs or maps, can provide limited personal information on simple forms. The individual can handle routine entry-level jobs that require little or no basic written communication or computational skills and no knowledge of computers or other technology. Benchmarks for Educational Functioning Levels For several of the standardized tests commonly used in adult education, benchmark scale scores are provided for each educational level as examples of how students functioning at that level would perform on the tests. These benchmark scores were set by the test publisher at the request of the DOEd. Accordingly, the test publisher was instructed to determine the test score range for which examinees would be expected to possess the skills described for each functioning level. The standardized tests with benchmarks on the NRS consist primarily of multiple-choice items. They are (1) the Comprehensive Adult Standard Assessment System (CASAS-Life Skills or Employability); (2) Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE); (3) the Adult Basic Learning Examination (ABLE); (4) the Adult Measure of Educational Skills (AMES); (5) Student Performance Levels (SPL) for ESL in both speaking and reading; and (6) oral scores of the Basic English Skills Test (BEST) for ESL. For example, for the CASAS, a score of 200 is considered to be the cutoff score for the Beginning ABE Literacy level. For TABE (Form 7-8), a score of 367 for reading is considered to be the cutoff score for this level. (Full descriptions of the functioning levels and benchmark scores for standardized tests appear in Table 2-1.) The guidelines for the NRS acknowledge that “the tests should not be considered equivalent, however, and do not necessarily measure the same skills.” The guidelines also state that the “tests are offered only as examples and their inclusion does not imply that these tests must or should be used in the determination of educational functioning levels” (DOEd, 2001a:40). The educational functioning levels are used to measure educational gain. The difference between the students’ functioning level at intake (or at pretest) and at the follow-up assessment (or posttest) is what determines educational gain. After an established period of instructional hours, if a student’s skills have improved enough so that he or she can move to a

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higher educational functioning level, an “advance” is recorded for that student. IMPLEMENTING THE NRS Local Responsibilities The NRS has been designed so that all local programs administer a standardized assessment using valid and uniform procedures and then enter data for each individual into the state data collection system. The programs must provide information on the three types of core measures (outcome, descriptive, and participatory) for each student as well as demographic information, attendance hours, individual student goals, and assessment results. Programs must also submit descriptive information on the roles and responsibilities of all staff members, budgetary information, and reporting timeline as determined by state policy. According to the NRS guidelines (DOEd, 2001a), the information programs collect is either aggregated at the local level and used to produce reports on the overall program, or it is aggregated for reporting by the state. Whether the aggregation occurs at the local or state level, reports to the states typically indicate the number of students at each functioning level for ABE and ESL, the number recommended for advancement, the percentage of students advancing by level, and the average number of contact hours per student before advancement. The federal government anticipates that the data collected at the local level will be useful for program management and program improvement efforts. State Responsibilities States are responsible for determining the assessment policy and procedures that local programs must use to gather and report information about individuals participating in each program. This includes deciding the skill areas in which to assess students, choosing the standardized test and assessment procedure that local programs should use, and determining when to conduct the posttest. The posttest should be administered after a set instructional period, expressed either in hours (e.g., after 40 hours of instruction) or months (e.g., the last two weeks in May or the last week of instruction). For the purpose of NRS reporting, a different form of the same test should be used for the posttest. If states decide to use a performance assess-

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ment, the tasks used for the pretest and the posttest should measure the same content and skills. States are responsible for training and monitoring staff in the proper use, administration, and scoring of the chosen assessment, which is especially important with performance-based assessment. The states are also responsible for developing a database system for the collection of individual student information. States could choose either to distribute software for collection of NRS information to each local program or to maintain a centrally located internet data collection system. States are required to evaluate each local program’s performance on the outcome measures as one factor in determining local funding. One area of particular interest to the states is how well the local programs are addressing the needs of specific population groups, such as low-income students or adults in family literacy programs. To obtain this information, the software system must have the capability to report by individual program and by student population groups. Finally, states must also provide technical assistance to local program staff as needed and conduct periodic quality control reviews of local programs. States must set performance standards on each core measure discussed earlier, and they are eligible for incentive awards if they meet these standards. For the core outcome measure that includes educational gain, the performance standards include the percentage of students who will meet or exceed each educational functioning level. The states are also required to meet expectations on the other outcome measures. The performance standards for each of these are negotiated between every state and the federal government. States are responsible for reporting aggregated data to the federal government in order to be eligible for WIA funding. The report must include information on all the core measures, and reporting tables have been developed to facilitate reporting. Each state must submit seven reporting tables, including a table on educational gain and attendance by educational functioning level. Federal Responsibilities The DOEd has published the NRS, which identifies in broad terms the standards that state and local programs must meet. The data collected through the NRS will be used by the DOEd to demonstrate program effectiveness to Congress and to determine state incentive awards. Under WIA, the role of the DOEd also includes providing assistance to states in under-

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standing and implementing the requirements of the NRS. The guidelines for the NRS were commissioned by the DOEd as part of the effort to develop more specific and precise requirements related to the use of performance assessments permitted under the NRS (DOEd, 2001a). It is clearly relevant to the DOEd’s responsibilities to ensure that the quality of data is commensurate with their uses and collected in line with the practices of the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association [AERA] et al., 1999). It was noted at the workshop that the DOEd has assumed a quality assurance role with respect to the implementation by states of similar ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) Title I requirements; this model could be helpful to DOEd’s Division of Adult Education and Literacy. AN OVERVIEW OF THE U.S. ADULT BASIC EDUCATION PROGRAM Appropriations for WIA Title II are authorized through federal fiscal year 2003, but because education funds are generally appropriated nine months in advance, fiscal year 2003 funds will be allocated to states for program year 2004 (July 2003 to June 2004). The Title II appropriation for program year 2002 is $565.1 million, with the major portion of this funding being a direct allocation to the states. States received between $750,000 and $52 million for 2001 (see Appendix C for a list of allocations for each state). State allocations are based on the number of non-high school graduates between 16 and 60 who are not currently enrolled in school according to census data. For 2002, the DOEd has budgeted about $10 million for incentive grants to states that exceed the levels of performance they negotiated with the DOEd. As previously mentioned, if a state receives the incentive grants, the governor will make decisions about the allocation of funds among WIA Title I and II and Perkins programs. The DOEd also has $9.5 million for national programs this year. Over the last decade, the typical annual appropriation for national programs was about $6 million, which generally covered developmental initiatives, including activities related to the assessment challenges highlighted later in this report. Finally, the National Institute for Literacy receives $6.56 million, including a $1 million allocation for the Equipped for the Future initiative. In fiscal year 2002, an additional $8 million was provided to the National Center for Education Statistics to

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support the decennial National Assessment of Adult Literacy—a cost and an appropriation that will not recur until the next national assessment. The major portion of federal adult basic education allocations to states (not less than 82.5 percent) must be used for grants to local providers of adult basic education services. In her presentation, Cheryl Keenan noted that under the law, state administration is capped at 5 percent, and state leadership funding from the federal government is capped at 12.5 percent. To provide context, she reported that in Pennsylvania, which is a “rich cousin” to other states, the state leadership fund represents approximately $2 million. For 2001, states received between $94,000 and $6.5 million in leadership funds. This last category supports professional development, technical assistance, evaluation, and a range of other developmental initiatives, and includes investments to develop, improve, and maintain assessments used by the state. Keenan noted that Pennsylvania has chosen to focus the majority of its $2 million leadership funding on staff development and the implementation of the performance accountability system (using standardized commercial assessments) required by the WIA. Kennan pointed out that states would have to decide to prioritize development of performance assessments over other issues given the limited leadership funds available. Also, several states do not appropriate state funds to match any of the federal investment, and of those that do, few allow state funding to be used for developmental purposes. A wide range of public and private nonprofit entities are eligible for WIA Title II-funded grants, which are competitively awarded by states to provide adult basic education services. School districts, colleges, community-based organizations (and other nonprofits), correctional facilities, libraries, and other municipal agencies are recipients of these grants. Most states award grants almost exclusively to school districts, several almost exclusively to community colleges, and a small number of states award grants to a diverse mix of eligible entities. Grants to local programs cover an extraordinarily wide range, from under $1,000 to well over $1 million. A small number of states provide a few million dollars to each of their largest programs. The number of program staff can range from one part-time coordinator to more than 100 professionals. In his presentation, John Comings noted that nationally for 1998, 13 percent of staff were full-time, 39 percent were part-time, and 48 percent were volunteers (see www.ed.gov/offices/OVAE/.html. [April 29, 2002]). Turnover among paid staff aver-

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ages 30 percent per year. Administrative support can be quite limited. For instance, Donna Miller-Parker commented that her midsize program enrolls 1,000 students per year but has only one full-time coordinator (who is also responsible for other programs), one clerical staff person, and one student adviser. She noted that her college’s situation is considered “pretty good” for an ABE program in her state. In many states, professional development has been handled through the funding of a state literacy resource center, which may be part of a regional consortium. In his presentation, Bob Bickerton, director of adult education for Massachusetts, said that, with a few notable exceptions, per capita funding for teacher training is limited. For example, the teachers in Miller-Parker’s program are only paid for their contact time with students; this makes it difficult to engage them in professional development and other program development and support activities. If she wants to plan a professional development activity for her teachers, Miller-Parker either cancels a class or offers some kind of incentive for teachers to participate on their own time. Keenan added that in Pennsylvania, as in many other states, there are no specific requirements for certification as an adult education teacher. Hence, Pennsylvania uses the bulk of its state leadership funds on training teachers, because it cannot assume that teachers are entering the field with the preservice type of knowledge those in other areas of education have. Other funds are devoted to implementing accountability systems required by WIA, including building and maintaining sophisticated data systems and providing tech support to the local programs that use them. Keenan concluded that the vast majority of states do not have great resources to invest in test development. In program year 2000, approximately 2.9 million adults participated in WIA Title II-funded programs. In general, to be eligible for ABE services a person must be above the age of compulsory school attendance (as determined by each state) and (a) lack the level of skills expected of a high school graduate (most states enroll both high school noncompleters and undereducated high school graduates); and/or (b) possess limited communication skills in English. Students enroll in classes or are matched with a volunteer tutor for the purposes of instruction. Comings noted that in a recent program year, 48 percent of students were enrolled in basic literacy through intermediate level ABE instruction (grade level equivalent, 0 to 8), 20 percent in adult secondary education (grade level equivalent, 9 to 12), and 32 percent in English language instruction (English-language learners at student performance levels 0 to 8 or 9).

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Comings described the great diversity of the student population. Adult education students include immigrants from many different countries and native-born Americans, men and women, 16-year-old high school drop-outs and 70-year-old retirees, workers, welfare recipients, and prisoners. Some students have never been to school, while others have completed high school, and a few have college degrees. Most immigrant students do not have reading disabilities but many native-born students do. Students come to adult education programs to improve their English language, reading, writing, and math skills and to study for a high school equivalency credential. Students learning English typically fall into one of two groups: They either have a strong educational foundation in their native language, which may include advanced degrees, or they lack literacy in their native language. Every state, most programs, and even some individual classes exhibit this level of student diversity. In program year 1999, the average expenditure per student (federal and matching funds combined) was $374, according to Bickerton. The average expenditure among the 10 states investing the most per student per year was $1,157, while among the 10 states spending the least, the average was $156 per student per year (DOEd, 2001b). In that same program year, students nationally received an average of 66 hours of instruction. This appears to have increased to an average of 86 hours per student in program year 2000. During the program year 1999, the average hours of instruction per student among the 10 states with the highest attendance was 106 hours, and it was only 31 hours for the 10 states with the lowest attendance. For program year 2000, the averages were 128 and 40 hours respectively for states with the highest and lowest attendance. These low average numbers of attended hours are often not by design. Many adults are enrolled in class-based instruction. Many programs, particularly those for working adults, meet five or six hours per week. Classes targeted for unemployed adults can meet for 15 to 20 (or more) hours per week. According to the DOEd report, classes tend to run from 30 to 39 weeks in some programs (typical school year) and from 44 to 48 weeks in others (year-round). Hence, classes range from just under 200 hours per year to more than 800 hours, with most clustered at the lower end of the scale. The low average hours of attendance can be attributed to two factors. First, many students either drop out or “stop out” (leave and then return) because of other responsibilities. Adult education is not and cannot be the “number one priority” for most adults. Attending school is the primary responsibility for children. Adults, on the other hand, are raising families,

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working, and taking care of children and sick parents. As noted in a DOEd report, many students who want to continue in a program may drop out because of a change in work schedule or a crisis at home (Kaufman et al., 2000). Second, many students leave a program because they are not experiencing success. Although, this lack of success can be attributed to a number of factors, Bickerton said that dissatisfaction with the quality of adult education services, which are often undersupported, cannot be discounted.