A key focus for advocacy in 2022 will be reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), including Title II, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA). At the request of Members of Congress, NCL and several of its member organizations have provided recommendations for changes that will make the law more responsive to the current operating context for adult education. In this post, the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) outlines its recommendations and the reasons for them.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is a critical law that supports adult learners and adult education programs. Since WIOA was enacted in 2014, there have been significant changes in the economy and the workforce, as well as innovations in how we best serve and support adult learners. Congress is calling for recommendations on how to strengthen and modernize the law. The Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) has actively engaged with adult educators, adult learners, and adult education programs leaders on the following recommendations to improve supports and outcomes for adult learners.
COABE’s WIOA Recommendations:
Increase the supply of high-quality adult educators and promote the development and adoption of full-time staffing models. Demand for adult learning opportunities is growing and is expected to continue to grow. We must support growth in the supply of high-quality educators. To meet the supply needs, we must increase opportunities for adult educators to work full time. Full-time positions improve recruitment and provide adult learners more access to high-quality educational opportunities.
Support certification policies for adult educators to improve career pathways. Certification policies ensure that teachers have the necessary subject-matter knowledge and teaching skills to effectively provide learners with skills that match the demands of the workforce. Such policies also contribute to the professionalization of the adult educator profession, which can attract more high-quality teachers.
Ensure that adult educators are represented on workforce and other boards and are part of workforce planning processes. Adult Education representatives need to have a seat at the table in any discussions where they may be affected to ensure that policy and funding decisions will meet the needs of adult learners.
Authorize a pilot performance accountability system to allow innovation to lead the modernization of the accountability system. The current system doesn’t allow for experimentation or innovation, and the current metrics do not capture all that programs do. Because there is not yet consensus on the best way to revamp the system, the creation of a pilot accountability authorization will allow states to capture data on additional or different metrics that better reflect the experiences of, and outcomes experienced by, adult learners.
Ensure that data on adult education program outcomes is consistent, accessible, and reported in a timely manner. Having access to high-quality, consistent outcomes data allows adult education programs to make well-informed, continuous improvements to their programs and practices.
Support professional development as a separate line item for adult educators and technical assistance for adult education programs. The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed how we work and learn, from in-person, to virtual, to hybrid settings. Educators need to be equipped to help learners address the digital literacy and digital skills demands of today’s workforce. Professional development provides adult educators with the proper tools to teach the skills that learners desire.
Support the development of voluntary state certification and accreditation programs for adult education. Voluntary State certification and accreditation programs allow for adult education programs to have clear, attainable and measurable quality standards that programs should meet. With attainable goals, programs can retool to best attain the standards recommended by the state.
Encourage collaboration between state and local workforce boards and adult education programs to support the hiring of college and career navigators. College and career navigators are integral to a learner’s success. Navigators provide guidance, support and resources that learners may otherwise not receive. With more college and career navigators, more adult learners will have access to the supports and guidance that increase their chances of completion.
Incentivize states to maximize funding for adult education and ensure transparency regarding matching funds. Adult education is an underfunded, but important and effective, program in post-secondary education. In order to incentivize states to invest more in adult education, the federal government should provide a financial incentive to States that maximize funding for adult education programs.
Encourage the provision of integrated education and training (IET) concurrently with other adult education activities and services. IET is a proven, effective investment operating three programs in one comprehensive service: adult basic education, workforce preparation, and workforce training. We should encourage more funding for wider adoption of IET to ensure improved outcomes for adult learners.
The above recommendations will modernize federal support for adult education and will help adult learners develop the skills that the current and future workforce demand. COABE will continue to lead advocacy efforts for the field, including funding and reauthorization efforts. We will continue to reach out directly to Members of Congress, OCTAE, and related organizations.
We invite you to learn more about COABE’s mission and work at our website, and we hope that you will plan to join us for our National Conference, which will be held in a hybrid format so attendees can attend in person, virtually, or both. The conference will deliver more than 400 concurrent session over 3 days and is hosted by COABE in partnership with more than 36 national partnerships to deliver 15 conference strands including those highlighting advocacy and workforce development. Registration is open here.
COABE Advocacy Survey
We want to continue to do our important advocacy work, but we would also like to make sure we are advocating for the things that you (the field) want us to advocate for and/or prioritize.
We are asking you to take this short five-minute survey, and also to send it around to your colleagues and networks. We will report the results at the COABE Conference in April. We do ask participants if they are COABE members, but anyone can take the survey.