Addressing College Costs for Adult Ed Transition Students

Panel shot of Mina Reddy, Vania Estanek, Brenda Dann-Messier at NCTN Conference 2013

Panel at NCTN Conference 2013 with Mina Reddy, Vania Estanek, Brenda Dann-Messier
Courtesy of Priyanka Sharma

What financial aid is available to adult education students transitioning to college and training? Several recent Ed.gov blogs on student loans and federal initiatives, including OVAE’s Adult College Completion Toolkit, are providing guidance.

This was also the question posed to a panel at the recent National College Transition Network conference in Providence, RI.
Adult education students often face steep challenges when transitioning to college: cost of tuition, books, and materials; child care and transportation; loss of income; lack of “college knowledge” of the system and expectations; and weak skills that require developmental education courses. The panelists discussed innovative ideas advocacy groups and adult education programs can do to prepare and support their students’ success in the postsecondary setting.

Mina Reddy, of the Cambridge Community Learning Center, spoke first. Reddy shared how and why her program had established a local scholarship fund to support transitioning students. Last year, they had 15 $1,000 scholarships to award. Reddy spoke of the power of even small scholarships to “validate” students’ efforts and achievements.

Vania Estanek is a graduate of the Cambridge program’s ESOL courses, and a scholarship recipient, and now a postsecondary student in a biotech certificate program. She participated in the panel to share her perspective of the value of the scholarship to propel her to higher levels of achievement and provide flexible funds in advance of any school-based aid.

Loh-Sze Leung, of SkillWorks, spoke of the public-private advocacy ventures she has been engaged with in Massachusetts to address adult education and skill development issues, with some legislative successes that funded aid and projects. Some of her tips from advocacy work were to “mobilize students to tell their own stories to legislators”, and “to track success and use data”, preferably local data.

Nate Anderson, of Jobs for the Future, spoke about Accelerating Opportunities, an effort that is underway in seven states to accelerate students without a high school credential through to post-secondary success.  He highlighted several creative solutions states were employing to fill the gap between adult education and credit bearing college courses, such as “braiding” federal funding streams to support the program, waiving tuition for the first semester of college for adult education students, or working strategically with untraditional partners such as the foster care fund. These ideas and others are in JFF’s Innovative Ideas Database, part of their Braided Funding Toolkit.

Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary of OVAE, was a respondent to the panel. She acknowledged the challenges faced by students, programs, and advocacy groups and celebrated the creative and innovative ideas the panelists had outlined. She shared several Administration initiatives that are underway to address some of specific challenges including the proposed College Rating System to make college costs more transparent, proposed loan defaults initiative, and proposed experimental sites for financial aid flexibility.

Watch the Ed.gov blog to stay up to date on these initiatives.

Youth CareerConnect Grant Opportunity Announced for Local Partnerships

Last week, the White House announced a new grant opportunity to build America’s next generation workforce. The grants require a local education agency and institution of higher education to partner with their local workforce investment system and an employer to improve and expand programs that enable high school students to gain an industry-relevant education while earning college credit. In addition, students will be able to participate in work based learning as well as receive individualized career and academic counseling.

The U.S. Department of Labor will make up to $100 million available from H-1B revenues for approximately 25 to 40 grants. The deadline for applications is January 27, 2014! You can find information about the Youth CareerConnect grant program and how to apply at http://www.doleta.gov/ycc.

Immigrant Integration Project: Call for Applications

UPDATE: Preliminary applications are due December 20! Here is a list of frequently asked questions and answers about the process and eligibility criteria.

The preliminary application process for the Networks for Integrating New Americans project has begun! This is a national initiative to advance immigrant integration through technical assistance. Learn more in the project’s fact sheet.

The project will select up to five forward-thinking community networks (also coalitions or initiatives) to receive technical assistance to address the linguistic, civic, and economic needs of immigrant adults. Organizational networks are key to this project because when organizations in both immigrant and receiving communities collaborate on immigrant integration, both communities contribute unique strengths and better address common needs.

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Join Kick-Off Session of the National Engagement Process to Improve the Skills of Low-Skilled Adults

Join as OVAE launches an engagement process to develop a national action plan to improve the skills of low-skilled adults. This event, held tomorrow, Wednesday, November 20, from 9:00am-11:30am ET, will be live streamed and virtual participation is encouraged. The event will focus on the recently-released data collected by the OECD as part of the PIAAC Survey of Adult Skills which indicates significant areas of weakness in the U.S. adult workforce.

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ED Launches Engagement Process Following Report on U.S. Adults’ Skills

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog.

Last month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released the findings of the international Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). The results showed that on the three domains (literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in a technology-rich environment), the U.S. average performance is significantly lower than the international average and the U.S. has large percentages of low performers in each domain.

Statistics Graphic

Clearly, we need to be more strategic and systematic and create learning opportunities for all low-skilled adults, beyond the 2 million per year we can reach through the current adult education program.  To that end, the Department asked OECD to take a closer look at the backgrounds of the U.S. low-skilled population, identify policy implications, and offer a broad set of recommendations that could provide a framework to help this country build on our strengths and systemically address some of our skill weaknesses.

Today OECD released their reportTime for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says. This report is the first report in a decade that quantifies the population of low-skilled adults and takes a closer look at who these low-skilled adults are. The findings are alarming and should concern us all.  They shine a spotlight on a part of our population that’s historically been overlooked and underserved—the large number of adults with very low basic skills.  OECD identified in this report that there are about 36 million adults ages 16-65 performing below Level 2.

If adults have trouble reading, doing math, solving problems and using technology, they will find the doors of the 21st century workforce closed to them.  And that will have severe consequences for all of us. That’s why all of us must find ways to help more adults upgrade their skills. Otherwise, no matter how hard they work, these Americans will fall short in the struggle to support themselves and their families, and contribute fully to our country.

PIAAC also identifies learning gaps among adults of different races and ethnicities; these indicate that the disadvantages and opportunity gaps of childhood often persist into adulthood. To combat and close these gaps, we must invest in our nation’s future workers from an early age. We must also do more to support today’s adults, who want and need to upgrade their skills to succeed.

The survey does affirm that the Obama administration’s overall reform priorities are the right ones— high-quality preschool for all children, college- and career-readiness standards, broadband access everywhere, high schools that engage students and introduce them to careers, commonsense immigration reform and affordable college degrees that lead to good jobs.

Another clear policy implication of these initial findings is that we must raise expectations for learners of all ages.

In short, the report provides ample evidence to support the Administration’s current reforms and investments, but calls for increased action in one area: significantly improving the preparedness of our low-skilled adult population, which has been overlooked and underserved for too long.

To better understand these challenges, inform the development of a national response, and gather input from a wide range of stakeholders, today I announced the launch of a national engagement process with the end goal of developing a national plan to improve the foundation skills of low-skilled adults in the United States. The Department wants feedback from individuals, state officials, education officials, businesses, industry, and labor leaders, researchers, data experts, education associations, philanthropies, policy leaders and others concerned with the health, well-being and democracy in America.

In particular, the Department wants the country’s best ideas and most creative thinking to addresses several key themes:

  • Expanding opportunities for adults to improve foundation skills by scaling up proven practices and using emerging technologies to personalize and accelerate learning for America’s low-skilled working population.
  • Building stronger partnerships among business, industry, labor, and state and local governments, and others, in order to sustain the nation’s workforce capacity, economic vitality, and democratic values.
  • Strengthening the connection between foundation skills and workforce readiness in ways that help adults gain basic skills, particularly in the STEM fields, and pursue specific occupations and credentials more rapidly.

Based on the results of PIAAC, it is clear that the U.S. needs a stronger, more comprehensive strategy to raise the skills of significant numbers of low-skilled adults.  This effort will require the sustained, systematic efforts – and the coordinated investments – of a wide range of partners from the public and private sectors, working at the national, state and local levels.

Our Department will use the feedback we receive to develop a national plan to improve the skills of low-skilled adults. And, we invite members of the general public to send their ideas and suggestions for the national plan that will be released this coming spring.  More information about the adult skills outreach initiative will be available on the Department’s website in the coming days.

Brenda Dann-Messier is the Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education.

What’s New At LINCS?

LINCS will be hosting discussions and trainings in the coming weeks on health literacy, the potential of badges, and how to get the most out of the Community. Join in!

LINCS Discussion Series: Health Literacy in the ABE Classroom

Health Literacy is more important than ever to today’s adult learners, and OVAE’s Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS) is hosting a series of discussions in the LINCS Community to help teachers enhance their students’ skills in this timely topic area.

The LINCS Community’s Health Literacy group invites all adult education teachers, health literacy professionals, and other interested individuals to participate in a series of connected weekly discussions beginning November 11 on the topic of health literacy in the adult education classroom. New discussions each week will focus on valuable resources and curricula, and successful examples of health literacy integrated into the classroom. Discussions will be facilitated by the group’s guest moderator, Julie McKinney. Please join the group to post your questions and thoughts on this hot topic! Visit the LINCS Community announcement for a comprehensive schedule of discussion topics.

LINCS Discussion Series: The Potential and Value of Using Digital Badges for Adult Learners

December 3– 9, 2013 LINCS will provide an online public discussion through the Technology and Learning Community of the newly released draft report for public comment - The Potential and Value of Using Digital Badges for Adult Learners.  This report examines the nature, value, and potential impact of digital badges, an emerging electronic form of recognition designed to certify an individual’s knowledge and skills. Badges can represent different levels of work and engagement, including more granular skills or achievements, marking in some cases small and/or very specific abilities. For this reason badges hold particular promise for adult learners in basic education programs, many of whom have few, if any, formal credentials (such as diplomas), but who are obtaining functional skills that would be valued in a hiring or work advancement situation if a mechanism for certifying those skills and knowledge was available. Please join us for an exciting discussion about digital badges facilitated by Steve Reder and David Wiley, two researchers who bring combined knowledge of adult education, technology, and digital badges to our forum.

Free Webinar: Maximize Your Professional Development in the LINCS Community

LINCS will host a live LINCS Community User Training on Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 1:30 PM ET. This webinar will allow current and potential members of the LINCS Community to learn about the community’s purpose, benefits, and technical features.

Members of the leadership team will present the purpose of the LINCS Community, and highlight the benefits of engaging in the community through a live walk-through of the features as well as a discussion with guest presenter Jackie Taylor. The webinar will culminate in a Q&A session and an overview of next steps that attendees can take in the community’s discussion groups. If you are not already a member of the LINCS Community, you should create a free account in order to follow along with the presentation.

Register for this free webinar at: https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07e8gf5snra61058e0&oseq=&c=&ch=. Upon registering, you will receive instructions on how to access the webinar.

Join the Release of OECD’s Report, “Time for the U.S. to Reskill?”

Join the Center for American Progress on November 12, 2013 when the OECD will release the new report, “Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says”.

At the event, Andreas Schleicher of the OECD’s Directorate on Education and Skills will present the findings followed by a response by the U.S. Department of Education and a panel discussion among thought leaders to examine the report’s themes and policy implications and recommendations.

The Survey of Adult Skills, collected by the OECD as part of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), shows that our highest-skilled adults are and remain on par with those in other leading nations, but that, on average, we trail our competitors by every other measure.  The international rankings show that in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in a technology-rich environment, the U.S. average performance is significantly lower than the international average.

The event is open to the public (RSVP here), and will be live-streamed over the Internet without reservations. Bookmark this page to tune in on November 12th.

Weekly OVAE Connection Recap

This week’s issue of OVAE Connection was devoted entirely to the release by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) of the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies, (PIAAC) results. PIAAC, also called Survey of Adult Skills, was conducted with nationally representative samples from 23 countries from adults ages 16 through 65. It assessed the cognitive and workplace skills needed for success in the 21st-century global economy. The results are designed to help public, private, educational, and philanthropic sectors work with a shared language and set of benchmarks to enhance cooperation around the development and implementation of economic, education, and social policies that strengthen adult skills. The results in literacy showed the U.S. to be somewhat below the international average. In numeracy, the U.S. scored well below the international level. To view the full article click here.

Sign up for OVAE Connection and other U.S. Department of Education newsletters here and access archived versions of OVAE Connection here.

Celebrating Connected Educator Month 2013

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog.


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

In support of President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology is proud to announce that October is Connected Educator Month. Throughout the month, educators will have opportunities to participate in online events, build personal learning networks, and earn digital badges by demonstrating technology skills.

Online communities help educators share effective strategies, reduce isolation, and provide “just in time” access to knowledge and expertise. However, many educators are not yet taking advantage of all the benefits of connected learning. Schools, districts, and states can dramatically enhance their professional development by integrating digital learning opportunities into their formal professional development and teacher quality efforts.

“One of the most important things we can do to support teachers and students is to put modern tools in their hands, and give them access to the limitless knowledge and connections that the Internet makes possible,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “That’s why President Obama has made a priority of getting our schools connected to high-speed broadband, and it’s also why I’m so enthusiastic about Connected Educator Month.”

Nearly 200 educational organizations are participating in Connected Educator Month. These organizations will provide a variety of interactive activities, such as webinars, live chats, open houses, contests, projects, and badges for connected educators to earn.

Activities and events will range from a design challenge, in which educators will develop strategies for helping kids develop creative confidence, to a webinar in which five U.S. organizations will team up with UNESCO to share insights about mobile learning around the globe. State and locally focused activities will also engage communities of educators across the nation.

“Connected Educator Month provides an opportunity for all educators across the country to join a vibrant community of teachers and leaders using technology to reimagine learning,” said Richard Culatta, director of the Office of Educational Technology.

Connected Educator Month events can be found at www.ConnectedEducators.org/events. The site will be updated continually to reflect new activities, as they are added throughout the month. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter using the #CE13 hashtag.

For more information about Connected Educator Month, visit http://www.ConnectedEducators.org.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

Our Teams are Back

Hello! I just wanted to let you know that our teams are back at work in OVAE and stand ready to continue working with the field to provide high-quality services to youth and adults in our CTE, community college, adult education, and correctional education programs. Please reach out to us when you need us–we’re here to assist you.

Brenda Dann-Messier is the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education