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Indicators for Adult Postsecondary Education and Training

“Adult postsecondary education and training” is a somewhat ambiguous and elastic category, noted Marshall Smith. It might encompass, for example, coursework at a community college that does not result in a certificate, studying for an occupational license, or informal online learning an individual does independently to boost his or her resume. The workshop focused on two broad categories: continuing education opportunities that allow adults to pursue areas of personal interest or build skills and knowledge for their careers, and formal adult basic education programs for adults who have not earned a high school diploma. The indicators suggested are listed in Table 5-1.

Allan Collins emphasized the importance of continuing education opportunities, noting that “we are in the midst of a major transformation in education in the United States,” that is mostly happening outside of school. Workplace simulations, business education in virtual high schools and colleges, for-profit learning centers, a proliferation of online courses and technical certifications, older workers starting second careers—all of these are part of a new education frontier for adults that is largely made possible by technology.

There is a growing demand for continuing education, noted David Stern. In a typical U.S. lifespan, the number of years spent in paid employment is approximately three times the number spent in formal schooling, so education that takes place in the context of employment meets a significant need. Stern added that such opportunities provide a clear benefit to workers (in terms of higher wages, for example), though the benefit to employers is less clear because employees may leave jobs before their employers have recouped the cost of training they provided. Thus, employers may be providing fewer such opportunities than would be optimal, Stern noted. Moreover, research has shown that white and highly educated employees receive more such opportunities than their African American, Hispanic, and less well-educated peers.

Employment-based education can best be seen as a continuum, Stern added, ranging from formal on-the-job training for specific purposes to spontaneous, unscheduled learning that takes place during informal interactions or online. For example, many employers have developed online learning systems that help employees acquire necessary skills or knowledge on an as-needed basis. Between the most and least formal sorts of work-based education, Stern added, is a very interesting array of semi-structured activities and practices—such as job rotation (where individuals experience different responsibilities in a workplace); skill-based pay; and cross-training (teaching an employee the skills needed for a job other than the one for which he or she was hired)—that are not classroom-based. In this context, basic indicators of availability and



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5 Indicators for Adult Postsecondary Education and Training “Adult postsecondary education and training” is a somewhat ambiguous and elastic category, noted Marshall Smith. It might encompass, for example, coursework at a community college that does not result in a certificate, studying for an occupational license, or informal online learning an individual does independently to boost his or her resume. The workshop focused on two broad categories: continuing education opportunities that allow adults to pursue areas of personal interest or build skills and knowledge for their careers, and formal adult basic education programs for adults who have not earned a high school diploma. The indicators suggested are listed in Table 5-1. Allan Collins emphasized the importance of continuing education opportunities, noting that “we are in the midst of a major transformation in education in the United States,” that is mostly happening outside of school. Workplace simulations, business education in virtual high schools and colleges, for-profit learning centers, a proliferation of online courses and technical certifications, older workers starting second careers—all of these are part of a new education frontier for adults that is largely made possible by technology. There is a growing demand for continuing education, noted David Stern. In a typical U.S. lifespan, the number of years spent in paid employment is approximately three times the number spent in formal schooling, so education that takes place in the context of employment meets a significant need. Stern added that such opportunities provide a clear benefit to workers (in terms of higher wages, for example), though the benefit to employers is less clear because employees may leave jobs before their employers have recouped the cost of training they provided. Thus, employers may be providing fewer such opportunities than would be optimal, Stern noted. Moreover, research has shown that white and highly educated employees receive more such opportunities than their African American, Hispanic, and less well-educated peers. Employment-based education can best be seen as a continuum, Stern added, ranging from formal on-the-job training for specific purposes to spontaneous, unscheduled learning that takes place during informal interactions or online. For example, many employers have developed online learning systems that help employees acquire necessary skills or knowledge on an as-needed basis. Between the most and least formal sorts of work-based education, Stern added, is a very interesting array of semi- structured activities and practices—such as job rotation (where individuals experience different responsibilities in a workplace); skill-based pay; and cross-training (teaching an employee the skills needed for a job other than the one for which he or she was hired)— that are not classroom-based. In this context, basic indicators of availability and 45

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KEY NATIONAL EDUCATION INDICATORS TABLE 5-1 Indicators Suggested for Adult Postsecondary Education and Training CHARACTERISTICS OF INSTITUTIONS, SERVICE PROVIDERS, AND RESOURCES  Types of on-the-job training provided by employers, using a survey on such questions as whether employers support individual and group innovation and whether employees have individual or collective learning plans  Percentage of adults aged 25 or older who enroll in postsecondary education or training and who earn credentials:  Percentage of adults 18 or older who have left high school without a diploma but who obtain a high school diploma, GED certificate, or equivalent  Percentage of low-skilled adults who obtain a postsecondary or occupational certificate, credential, or degree  Percentage of instructors in adult education programs who are certified in an adult education field INDIVIDUAL OUTCOMES  Percentage of adults aged 18 or older who pass the examination to become naturalized citizens or  Percentage of adults aged 18 or older who vote for the first time  Participation by employed individuals in on-the-job training  Percentage of the adult population who believe they know how to learn and are motivated to exercise this skill CONTEXT  Adult literacy rates  Spending on adult education as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP)  Shortages of key skills in the labor market  Health of the support network for adult learning associated with occupational interests participation make sense, but it is likely too difficult to develop a standardized set of outcome measures for content that is “so varied, ephemeral, and often so specific to a particular learning environment,” Stern observed. Moreover, it is important for adults to be able transfer knowledge from one realm to another, but this capacity is difficult to measure. Formal adult education, in contrast, is largely funded by the U.S. Department of Education (under Title II of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998). This system is focused on assisting adults who have not earned a high school diploma or whose reading, writing, or mathematics skills are below the secondary level. Most adult education services are provided through local education agencies, community colleges, libraries, community organizations, and correctional facilities, and also include programs to engage adults in the community, support families, and promote work and learning (U.S. Department of Education, Division of Adult Education and Literacy, 2011). Other 46

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federal programs (including Title I of the same law and a job training program administered through the U.S. Department of Labor), as well as those of foundations; state and local governments; and private, for-profit organizations, also provide programs that serve low-skilled adults. These services, Judith Alamprese explained, span multiple ages and stages of learning, and it is challenging just to count how many people participate, estimate the cost, and track participants’ outcomes. The Department of Education's program serves approximately 2.5 million people annually, she noted, with the goal of preparing adults for postsecondary education, training, and employment (U.S. Department of Education and Division of Adult Education and Literacy, 2010). The need is great. Roughly 30 percent of adults aged 25 to 44 (or 30 million people), she noted, do not have a high school diploma (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010), although economists forecast that 63 percent of future jobs will require more than a high school diploma (Carnevale, Smith, and Strohl, 2010). It is important that a new indicator system capture all the facets of this sector, Collins noted, but it is fast changing and thus intrinsically difficult to monitor. CHARACTERISTICS OF INSTITUTIONS, SERVICE PROVIDERS, AND RESOURCES Types of On-the-Job Training Provided by Employers A basic measure of how much on-the-job training is available is important, in Stern’s view, and could be obtained relatively easily through a supplement to the ongoing Current Employment Statistics Program run by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That survey of establishments is conducted monthly, and a supplement could be included yearly to ask about whether employers offer classroom instruction, online resources, or other educational opportunities, and about the proportion of employees involved, the duration of the educational opportunity, and how frequently it is available. Marshall Smith also advocated a measure of the learning opportunities provided by employers, suggesting that surveys or other data collection methods be used to ask whether employers support individual and group innovation and whether employees have individual or collective learning plans. He noted that case studies of successful organizations indicate that they are places where employees continually learn and improve their work. Increased attention to this aspect of the work environment, he suggested, could encourage all employers to emulate the healthiest ones. Participation in and Credentials from Postsecondary Institutions Judith Alamprese suggested three indicators of the availability of adult basic education options because there is a range of circumstances that she believes should be captured. She noted that there are “denominator problems” with questions about the rates at which adults who need adult education services enroll in and complete such programs—that is, decisions about whom to count. Nevertheless, one possible indicator would be the percentage of adults aged 25 or older who enroll in postsecondary education or training. The second would be the percentage of adults 18 or older who 47

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KEY NATIONAL EDUCATION INDICATORS have left high school without a diploma but who obtain a high school diploma, a GED certificate, or the equivalent. The third would be the percentage of low-skilled adults who obtain a postsecondary or occupational certificate, credential, or degree. Sources for such data include state longitudinal databases that track students from adult education through postsecondary completion, the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, and the U.S. Department of Education. Certification of Program Instructors Few states have a required certification in the field of adult education, Alamprese noted, and few data are currently available to document the quality of instruction that is delivered in adult basic education programs (Smith and Gomez, 2011). However, many states are beginning to develop certification systems, and the U.S. Department of Education has planned to begin collecting data on the quality of teaching in adult education, so there will soon be baseline and progress data (U.S. Department of Education, Division of Adult Education and Literacy, 2012). Thus, one possible indicator would be the percentage of instructors in adult education programs who are certified in an adult education field. INDIVIDUAL OUTCOMES Becoming a Naturalized Citizen and Voting Civic and social outcomes are key goals for formal adult education programs, Alamprese noted, and she suggested two possible indicators: (1) the percentage of adults aged 18 or older who pass the examination to become naturalized citizens and (2) the percentage of adults aged 18 or older who vote for the first time. She noted that other indicators could also be used, but that data for her proposed indicators are available from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, the U.S. Department of Education, and other sources. Participating in On-the-Job Training In addition to assessing education opportunities employers say they offer, in Stern’s view, it is also important to track the on-the-job training opportunities employees say they have experienced. This could also be done by adding questions to an existing survey, he noted, in this case, the Current Population Survey conducted jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Knowing How to Learn It is important to understand how prepared the adult population is to take advantage of learning opportunities, Smith argued, because being prepared in this way is essential to success in a modern, high-skill job. He proposed an indicator of the percentage of the adult population who believe they know how to learn and are motivated 48

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to exercise this skill. He suggested that a survey question such as “how would you attempt to solve an unfamiliar problem?” or a short essay question could be used to measure this attribute, and that attention to this factor would encourage schools to focus on it. CONTEXT Adult Literacy Rates A critical basic question, for Alamprese, is how literate adults in the United States are, so an indicator of adult literacy rates is needed. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) has measured English literacy among U.S. adults 16 and older, as well as background characteristics, since 1992. The most recent data, from 2003, show what 43 percent of adults scored at the below basic (14 percent) level or basic (29 percent) levels (Kutner et al., 2007). Another assessment currently under way, the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, will provide international comparisons of adult literacy rates (Lemke and Gonzales, 2006). Spending on Adult Education A primary question, in Alamprese’s view, is whether sufficient resources are being expended to support high-quality services for adult education. The estimate for 2010, she noted, is that less than 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) was spent on federal, state, local, and private adult education. She said an indicator of spending on adult education is needed. Shortages of Key Skills in the Labor Market Stern proposed an indicator of shortages of key skills in the labor market. While this measure may be more of a labor market indicator, he noted, it is important to understand the demand for employment-related education and training, particularly because the demand evolves with technological and market changes. A measure of job openings in new and emerging occupations, could be used for this purpose, and ongoing surveys conducted by O*NET and online resource for a variety of occupational data, could provide this sort of information. Support Network for Adult Learning The organizations and services (e.g., internet resources, local tutors, friends, work colleagues, welfare-to-work training) that can support individuals in pursuing on their own learning that will be of benefit for current and future employment may have an important impact that is not well understood, Smith argued. Surveys could be used to assess the support network associated with occupational interests that are available in different regions and among different population groups. He also suggested a related question, regarding people’s proclivity to take advantage of opportunities they have. Measuring, for example, how frequently people report having gained knowledge or skills 49

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KEY NATIONAL EDUCATION INDICATORS related to their work outside the workplace or using professional networks could be an additional signal of equity issues or cultural differences that need to be addressed. ISSUES FOR ADULT EDUCATION AND TRAINING Lisa Lynch opened the general discussion with an overview of key messages from the presentations on adult learning. First, she noted, it is important to erase the sense of a boundary between education and training for adults and to treat both as important learning. Another key issue, she suggested, is that there is so much that we don’t know. Literacy assessments, labor force projections, and data on the proportion of national wealth spent on adult education are already available and provide a general indication of the need. These are not sufficient, in her view, to answer important questions about the extent of the need for more learning after formal education is completed, who has opportunities for learning, where those opportunities are housed, and they sorts of deficiencies for which learning opportunities are needed. Nor do they answer questions about the content of opportunities for adult learning, though this is likely to be an especially challenging area to measure. In addition, there are not readily available data on private-sector spending. Other important questions concern how adult learning is paid for and what sort of return the investment offers to employers or markets. “We don’t know enough about the leaning enterprise to be able to say,” she added, whether market failure accounts for the apparent shortage of opportunities for postschool learning, or whether it is too expensive, or whether it is too time-consuming. The brain is much more responsive to learning later in life than was once thought, Lynch added, and advances in cognitive science have expanded appreciation of possibilities for lifelong learning. Yet the thinking about developmental learning that has strongly influenced K-12 education has not had comparable influence on adult education. There are no clear ways of measuring the competence of training and learning institutions that serve older people or whether the individuals who provide the training “actually understand the most effective methods for training and educating adults,” she added. The discussion followed Lynch’s lead in focusing on the big picture and centered on two issues: the need for information about low-skilled and undereducated workers and the challenge of data collection. Information About Low-Skilled and Undereducated Workers For low-skilled and undereducated workers it takes a lot to come back into the system, noted one participant. A major goal of adult education is to inspire people to continue their own education, but many people have specific challenges that impede their progress. This is a very heterogeneous group, another noted, that includes recent immigrants who may have low English skills and may also lack knowledge of the education and work landscape in the United States. It may also include individuals with learning disabilities, recognized or not, who have not been successful in formal schooling. It would be useful, then, to have indicators particularly focus on these groups and also apply across age groups and life stages. 50

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One participant noted that society has a compelling interest in whether individuals perceive that they have careers, and whether they are progressing along some sort of track. Defining what constitutes a “career,” he continued, may be challenging, but sequence is the key word. Data Collection While there was little disagreement about the importance of any of the indicators suggested, one participant was struck by the daunting challenge of collecting data and developing indicators. The United States has a number of valuable data sources already, another noted, but different agencies ask the questions, and each one has to do it a little differently, so you cannot actually compare a lot of the data over time. Others lamented that the United States is often missing from international comparisons related to adult learning because data are not available that will work for these purposes. Nevertheless, several stressed that the United States has underused resources, such as the American Time Use Survey that was included in the Current Population Survey. That survey includes such information as participation in educational activities; work-related activities; and organizational, civic, and religious activities. Participants noted the simplicity of the European Lifetime Learning Indicators, a composite index covering European countries, which covers: learning to know (the formal education system); learning to do (vocational training); learning to live together (learning for social cohesion); and learning to be (learning as personal growth). More important, Chris Hoenig concluded, is that “there is a huge movement worldwide to share best practices on how to define progress in an amazing variety of areas.” There is much to be learned from international examples, several agreed. 51