Section 101 (pages 1-2) lists changes to definitions.
Section 101 changes “basic skills deficient” to “has foundational skill needs.” NCL has advocated for this change for several years.
Section 101 does *not* include definitions for “concurrent enrollment” and “digital literacy skills,” two other changes for which NCL has advocated. In particular, NCL has suggested the need for a statement that the term “digital literacy skills” has the meaning given to it in Section 202 of the Museum and Library Services Act, to ensure coherence across related legislation.
Sections 301 and following (pages 9-10) pertain to the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (Title II of WIOA).
Section 303, Definitions, adds “digital literacy activities” and “digital skills” to the definitions for “adult education and literacy activities” and “family literacy activities,” and provides important amendments to the definitions for “integrated education and training” and IELCE. In particular, the IELCE definition is clarified to include a broader list of the types of activities that characterize the daily lives of adults. NCL has been advocating these changes for over two years.
Section 304 provides the draft authorization levels. The level for 2023 is $785 million, $46 million more than the President’s 2023 budget request ($739 million) and $81 million more than the enacted amount for 2022 ($704 million). The authorized amounts go up year by year, reaching $1 billion in 2028. Note that this is the authorization, not the appropriation, and that the amounts are subject to change during the markup process. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging to see that the committee has heard what NCL and many of its member organizations have been saying about the need for increased funding.
Section 305 institutes a demonstration program for development of new performance measures “that better capture the efficacy of adult education and literacy programs, compared to the existing performance measures required under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.” This provision also reflects the extensive advocacy work that NCL and its member organizations have been doing for quite some time.
Thank you to all who have worked so hard and so continuously to advocate for changes that will make federal law more responsive to the realities of the adult education field. The bill will undoubtedly change somewhat during markup, but know that your voices have been heard.
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.
As the new year begins, the NCL Board is looking back over the successes of 2021 and considering how to build on them for the important advocacy and awareness work that lies ahead. Here are some highlights of our advocacy initiatives from the past year.
Accomplishments in 2021
In April, NCL partnered with VALUEUSA and ProLiteracy to provide a virtual Hill briefing entitled Literacy to Leadership: Policies That Promote Adult Student Success. Introductory remarks were provided by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI); Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA-03), Chairman, Committee on Education and Labor; and Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY-03), Co-Chair, House Adult Literacy Caucus. The briefing speakers, including Kim Ford (CEO, Martha’s Table), Rachel DeVaughan (Deputy Executive Director, Mississippi Community College Board), Carlos Vasquez (Adult Education Instructor, Catholic Charities NM), and HollyAnn Fresa-Moore (Principal, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School), stressed the many ways that policy decisions can make a transformative difference in the lives of adult learners. The briefing elicited a lively chat exchange among the 200+ attendees; a video recording is available at https://youtu.be/L-jBquG17VI.
Senate HELP Committee and WIOA Reauthorization
In April, NCL submitted a memo to Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) in response to the HELP Committee’s request for comments on workforce development and WIOA programs. NCL’s memo contained six recommendations:
Recognize the centrality of adult basic education to the success of workforce training and economic recovery efforts
Recognize that full and effective participation in the workforce requires the application of broader life skills
Amend deficit-based language that leads to deficit-based programming
Reorient adult basic education accountability and outcomes reporting toward a competency-based approach
Provide support for remote instruction models and the use of technology in adult education
Invest in research on evidence-based AEFLA program models
In providing these recommendations, NCL noted that they were designed to “improve the legislation so that it more fully realizes its essential purpose of ensuring equitable access to quality education and training for all adults.” NCL has continued to promote these recommendations throughout 2021 in its work with Senator Reed’s office on revised language for the WIOA legislation.
Digital Equity Act
In June, NCL endorsed the bipartisan Digital Equity Act of 2021, which was introduced by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The Act, which provides for a five-year federal investment in digital equity, was passed as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was enacted by the 117th Congress and signed into law by the President on November 15. NCL had previously endorsed the Act in 2020 and has worked actively in support of its passage since then.
OCTAE and Department of Education Interactions
NCL participated in a series of invitation-only information-gathering sessions with OCTAE staff throughout the year. These sessions allowed NCL and other participants to update OCTAE on developments and activities in the field; the final session of the year was a face-to-face one-on-one meeting with Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal.
National Reporting System
In November 2020, NCL submitted comments on proposed changes to the National Reporting System. Our comments, which stressed the need to allow adult education programs to report outcomes for all learners across all types of measurable skill gains, aligned with those expressed by a number of our colleague organizations. OCTAE responded positively to these concerns, and in early 2021 issued a program memo providing revised guidance on outcome reporting in the pandemic environment.
Naturalization Civics Test
In December 2020, NCL submitted a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to express concerns about the development process, administration procedures, and preparation requirements for the revised naturalization civics test that USCIS released in November 2020. Similar concerns were expressed by many of our colleague organizations. USCIS responded positively, and in early 2021 announced that it would continue to use the prior version of the civics test.
Throughout the year, NCL continued its collaboration with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights as the Hub for adult education, addressing concerns related to finalization of data from the 2020 Decennial Census and signing on to several other civil rights and human rights related communications throughout the year.
NCL Board members provided advocacy-related presentations at major conferences throughout the year, including the annual conventions of TESOL International, COABE, AAACE, and the National Literacy Summit hosted by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in October.
Adult Education and Family Literacy Week
NCL’s 2021 National AEFL Weekactivities in September focused on the foundational role of adult education in solutions to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting recession and unemployment. In 2022, National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week will be observed from September 18 to September 24.
NCL completed its first full year with an Executive Director supporting the Board in its leadership role.
Plans for 2022
Every year, NCL actively pursues opportunities to promote adult education in policy-related matters. In 2022, we will
Improve adult education’s visibility and messaging as a key influencer to ensure our purpose and contributions to the U.S. education system are understood by policy makers, stakeholders, and the field
Increase awareness of the role adult education plays in digital equity, inclusive economic recovery, counteracting systemic racism, and social justice
Promote broadening of the options for accountability in adult education
Continue to work on organizational sustainability by increasing NCL’s membership base and securing external funding for our work
As always, we will conduct national public policy advocacy with Congress and keep our members connected with developments on Capitol Hill. NCL member organizations and individual friends will have opportunities to be involved in the national conversation on public policy through NCL’s semi-annual meetings, monthly public policy calls, conference panel discussions, and task groups.