cation programs and enrolled learners during the 12-month period 2001-2002.2 At the time of the survey, 3,108 adult education programs were offered in 29,424 learning sites. More than 1,200 adult education programs funded under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act participated in the survey. During this period, the median budget for a program was $199,000; with a median enrollment of 318 learners per program, the median expenditure per learner was $626.

According to the survey, adult education programs offer three main types of literacy instruction:

1. Adult basic education (ABE) provides instruction to adults who lack “competence in reading, writing, speaking, problem solving or computation at a level necessary to function in society, on a job or in the family” (National Reporting System for Adult Education, 2001, p. 25).

2. Adult secondary education (ASE) is “designed to help adults who have some literacy skills and can function in everyday life,3 but are not proficient or do not have a certificate of graduation or its equivalent from a secondary school” (National Reporting System for Adult Education, 2001, p. 25). Adults usually attend ASE classes to obtain a GED or adult high school credential.

3. English as a second language (ESL) instruction is “designed to help adults who are limited English proficient achieve competence in the English language” (National Reporting System for Adult Education, 2001, p. 25).

English as a second language serves the largest number of students, followed closely by adult basic education: 43 percent of adult learners receive ESL instruction, 40 percent receive ABE instruction, and 19 percent participate in ASE instruction. Most English language learners (85 percent) who attend a program attend ESL programs. Of native language learners, two-thirds attend ABE and one-third attend ASE programs.

Instruction is offered in many different places and programs that vary widely in size and number of learning sites. According to the AEPS, local education agencies are the major providers of adult education, offering 54 percent of the programs surveyed, followed by community-based organizations (25 percent), community colleges (17 percent), and correctional


2 The AEPS, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, was designed and conducted by the Educational Testing Service and Westat, Inc., with the involvement of staff of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education and the National Center for Education Statistics.

3Since these definitions for adult basic education and adult secondary education were produced, there has been a trend for jobs that pay above a poverty wage to require higher levels of literacy.

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