Health and Skills: Making the Connection

Adults with low literacy skills are four times more likely to report poor to fair health than adults with higher skills. This is two times the international average according to recent data from the Survey of Adult Skills (October, 2013), which is part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

This correlation between skills and health presents great challenges to both the individual and his or her healthcare providers to communicate and address the prevention, management, and treatment of disease and healthy behaviors. Poor literacy, numeracy, and problem solving skills adversely affect health care, health information access, health outcomes, and appear to limit engagement in positive, preventative behaviors. At a time when the U.S. is spending more than $2 trillion a year on healthcare ($2.5 trillion in 2009, according to the Surgeon General’s National Prevention Strategy), even a fraction of improved outcomes could save millions of dollars. As a reference, the U.S. federal investment in the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), which funds adult basic education and English proficiency classes, is $563 million.

U.S. adults ages 16-65 performed poorly on all measures of the Survey of Adult Skills, with average scores below international averages in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in a technology-rich environment. While there are high performers in each domain, the U.S. population has a greater proportion of adults of working age with low skills (defined as below Level 2 on a five level scale) than the comparison countries (see more about the findings here).

The relationship between skills and health provides a strong case for investing in upskilling adults. The economic returns to skill development are clearly demonstrated in the Survey through the correlation of skills to higher wages, more permanent employment, and greater use of skills on the job.  The returns to improved health are likely to be at least as important. A healthier workforce is more productive with fewer days lost to illness. The healthcare costs of poor health literacy is demonstrated through higher costs for service, more emergency room visits, and fewer preventative services accessed.

There is a great opportunity to think about addressing skills and health simultaneously in a more holistic approach, as called for in the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2010. Embedding opportunities for skill development and practice in community health efforts is an underutilized approach. While contextualizing literacy in the context of health has been a promising practice, see resources at the LINCS Health Literacy Collection, too little has been done to use community-based health interventions as the anchor for literacy and numeracy interventions.

Community health workers – whether in hospitals, health centers, private primary care practices or as part of home health care or visiting nurse services – can help low-skilled adults apply the skills they do have to the immediate situation. Health professionals can use plain language and teach back methods of communication, and work closely with local educational service providers to make referrals more seamless and less stigmatized. Similarly, adult education workers can assist individuals with accessing health care, finding insurance, following treatment instructions, applying literacy and numeracy skills to everyday practices, and providing navigation assistance to services that can enhance healthy behavior. Services could be co-located for greater coordination and impact. Cross-training or shared training and professional development within a community could strengthen relationships and referral networks.

The Survey of Adult Skills (OECD, 2013) is clear that skills and quality of life issues are deeply interrelated, especially in the United States. The findings echo a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health. Communities need to address these challenges as related, not separate issues, and find the means to take a holistic view of the quality of life issues faced by low-skilled, low-income, and low-English proficient populations when proposing solutions. Conducting a local health needs assessment and asset map of existing challenges, resources, and future growth projections can be a way to engage the community. Prevention and health safety campaigns are ideal opportunities to involve the full range of family-serving organizations in a community.

In November 2013, the U.S. Department of Education launched a national engagement effort to explore ways to increase our national capacity to improve the foundation skills of adults in the United States. Regional events have been held through the winter and communities are being asked to provide input and feedback from their own locally-hosted roundtable discussions to inform a national action plan.

In order to assist communities in hosting roundtable discussions, the Department created a set of resources and an online submission form. See www.TimetoReskill.org for the following tools:

  • Consultation Paper, a 10-page paper that can be shared in advance of an event to provide background on the skills issue and the framework for the national action plan.
  • Toolkit, a step-by-step guide to running a local roundtable from types of people to invite to the questions to pose.
  • Online feedback form for submitting feedback. (Please submit comments by March 14 to be considered in the Plan.)

We hope community health partners will be part of the solution! Consider hosting a roundtable discussion in your area and contributing to the national action plan.

Johan Uvin is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education 

LINCS Update: Community Reaches 10,000 Users!

The LINCS Community of Practice marked an important milestone as it surpassed 10,000 registered users last week. Thanks to all who have helped spread the word about how this vibrant community can support teachers and programs. Keep growing!

New course launched: Integrating Technology self-paced online course is designed for instructors who are at the beginner/intermediate level of technology integration in the classroom. It is available on the LINCS Learning Portal. This course helps teachers understand how technology can support their instructional goals and provides guidance on how to incorporate various popular tools. A certificate of completion for four hours is available.

Upcoming events in the Community:

  • February is Financial Aid Awareness month. Join the Financial Literacy and Postsecondary Completion groups from February 3- 14 for a special discussion in which adult education program managers, counselors, and teachers from a range of adult education programs will share their strategies and techniques for incorporating financial literacy into their adult education programs.
  • Teaching Strategies: Easing the Pathway for Adult Learners with Disabilities to Develop Competence in the Classroom and Beyond. Join the Disabilities in Adult Education group for a special discussion from February 3-14.
  • Digital Learning Day: Four-Part Technology Tools Webinar Series.  Celebrate Digital Learning Day on February 5 by pledging to acquire new knowledge about current technology tools used to advance education.  LINCS is partnering with the Literacy Assistance Center in New York City to offer a series of 30-minute webinars on how to use technology tools in education, held every Thursday in February, starting on February 13, from 3:00-3:30 PM ET.

LINCS at Upcoming Conferences

Silicon Valley Weighs in on Adult Education Challenges

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

If you want to engage the high-tech industry to help improve job readiness for the nation’s 36 million low-skilled adults, a good place to start is Silicon Valley.

That is just what the Wadhwani Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education did. In January, Wadhwani staff, led by Chief Executive Officer Ajay Kela, were joined by ED’s Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education; Johan Uvin, deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives; and Cheryl Keenan, director of the Adult Education and Literacy Division, for a listening-and-working session at Cañada College, in Redwood City, Calif.

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Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier (seated, second from left) and Wadhwani Foundation’s Gayatri Agnew (standing, left) are joined by colleagues at the adult reskilling session in Redwood City, Calif. (ED photo credit: Joe Barison)

This engagement event, “Time for the U.S. to Reskill,” brought more than 50 San Francisco Bay Area adult-education stakeholders together, with representation from local workforce, community, and advocacy organizations. The welcome by Wadhwani’s Kela, ED’s Dann-Messier, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Regional Administrator Robert Garcia described the magnitude of the low-skilled-adults challenge. The speakers emphasized how a worker’s low skill level directly affects life beyond employment, starting with a person’s health.

The format was “to put people in a room who may not typically come into a room together and convene unlikely stakeholders,” said Gayatri Agnew, Wadhwani’s program director for Race to a Job – USA.

The immediate goal, Dann-Messier said, “is a national plan to improve the foundation skills of the 36 million low-skilled adults in this country.” She explained her imperative to travel to California and to be in the room. “I need to hear what the folks are saying regionally, what the challenges are, what the solutions are, and it’s very important for me to hear all of that first-hand, and not have it filtered.”

Agnew moderated a panel comprised of adult-education stakeholders, followed by general discussion. The participants then dispersed to a half-dozen small rooms for a working lunch and creating the start of solutions. Later, during a break, participants talked about their reasons for attending the session and assessed how things were going.

“We’re trying to serve an issue here of equality, access issues, in both the field of Latinos moving up in the corporate world and in social equity,” said Luis Chavez, chairman of the board, Latino Institute on Corporate Inclusion, and a senior director for the Career Ladders Project.

Silicon Valley employers gave their perspectives as well. Kris Stadelman, director of the Nova Workforce Investment Board, said, “In education – I hear this from employers – your product is supposed to be a trained, ready, educated, prepared workforce.” In this light, she said, the day’s program was on the right track. “It was really good to start out with evidence, with the data, to really quantify what it is we’re talking about. I think the questions were all the right ones.”

This engagement session was one of five ED nationwide sessions, with others held in Philadelphia, Chicago, rural Cleveland, Miss., and the greater Boston, Mass. area. While each session is unique, Dann-Messier sees the Silicon Valley session as different from the rest. “If you’ve got 36 million folks – and federally we’re only serving two million – traditional means aren’t going to work,” she said. “We have to really make sure that we utilize technology-enabled solutions.”

Joe Barison is the director of communications and outreach for ED’s San Francisco Regional Office.

Time to Reskill: A Practitioner Engagement Event

Join the U.S. Department of Education, American Institutes for Research, and adult education advocates for a webinar on Thursday, February 13, from 1:00pm-3:00pm ET.

With the recent release of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies, (PIAAC) demonstrating the direct relationship between skills and economic security, health, and educational advancement, there is even more urgency to address the needs of low-skilled learners and equip the teaching workforce to help such students achieve their academic and economic goals.

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) launched a national engagement effort on November 20 (see archived announcement) to explore ways to increase our national capacity to improve the foundation skills of adults in the United States. OVAE is particularly interested in engaging with adult educators to solicit their input into a forthcoming national action plan.

This webinar will be an opportunity to receive a briefing on the PIAAC data, the OECD’s special report on America’s low-skilled population, Time for the U.S. to Reskill?, and engage in a focused discussion about the issues facing adult education.

To prepare for the webinar, see the Consultation Paper, which provides background on the skills issue and the framework for the national action plan. The discussion will continue online in various groups within the LINCS Community of Practice.

Register here for the webinar and help us spread the word among practitioners!

CCR Standards Implementation Institute Registration Opens

Registration is now open for the College and Career Readiness (CCR) Standards Implementation Institutes. The two-day institute will be offered three times:

April 1-2, New Orleans LA

April 30-May 1, Phoenix AZ

June 4-5, Washington DC

The goal of these training institutes is to provide adult education program staff with understanding of the fundamental advances in instruction and curriculum materials specified by the CCR standards, and to offer new ways to incorporate these techniques and materials into adult education programs.

States and programs are encouraged to send a team of three to five staff, so that instructional leaders in literacy and mathematics as well as program administrators and professional development staff will benefit from the sessions. There is no fee for registration, attendance, or materials. Interested teams will be responsible only for their travel, meal, and hotel costs.

OVAE Engages with Libraries

In a recent blogpost, OVAE and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) invite libraries to provide input into the national action plan for improving the foundational skills of America’s adults. We know that libraries are where adults often turn in their communities for unique literacy services such as one-on-one tutoring, English conversation groups, homework assistance, family literacy programs, classroom space, computer and Internet access, and more. We look forward to hearing from libraries and their patrons on this important skills issue. See the recent on IMLS’ blog, UpNext.

 

Parents: Tips To Help Your Child Complete the FAFSA

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

Parent Blog Image

If you’re a parent of a college bound child, the financial aid process can seem a bit overwhelming.  Who’s considered the parent? Who do you include in household size?  How do assets and tax filing fit into the process? Does this have to be done every year?  Here are some common questions that parents have when helping their children prepare for and pay for college or career school:

Why does my child need to provide my information on the FAFSA?

While we provide over $150 billion in financial aid each year, the federal student aid programs are based on the assumption that it is primarily your and your child’s responsibility to pay for college.  If your child was born after January 1, 1991 then most likely he or she is considered a dependent student and you’ll need to include your information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM).

Who’s considered a parent when completing the FAFSA?

If you need to report parent information, here are some guidelines to help you:

  • If your legal parents (your biological and/or adoptive parents) are married to each other, answer the questions about both of them, regardless of whether your parents are of the same or opposite sex.
  • If your legal parents are not married to each other and live together, answer the questions about both of them, regardless of whether your parents are of the same or opposite sex.
  • If your parent is widowed or was never married, answer the questions about that parent.
  • If your parents are divorced or separated, follow these guidelines.

More information on who’s considered the parent can be found here:http://1.usa.gov/1fdcCy2

Who’s considered part of the household?

When completing your child’s FAFSA, you should include parents, any dependent student(s) and any other child who lives at home and receives more than half of their support from you in the household size.  Also include any people who are not your children but who live with you and for whom you provide more than half of their support.

Do I need to wait until I file my income taxes?

In some states there are deadlines for additional monies so you’ll want to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st.  You do not need to wait until you file your federal tax return.  If you haven’t done your taxes by the time you complete the FAFSA, you can estimate amounts based on the previous year if nothing has drastically changed.  After you file your taxes, you’ll need to log back in to the FAFSA and correct any estimated information.  If you’ve already filed your taxes, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically pull in your tax information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA.

Do I need to do this every year?

Yes, you and your child need to complete the FAFSA each year in order for your child to be considered for federal student aid.  The good news is that each subsequent year you can use the Renewal Application option so you only have to update information that has changed from the previous year!

What else do I need to know before I begin?

You’ll need to get a PIN and have all the necessary documents before you begin.  Here’s a handy checklist: http://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/filling-out

Susan Thares is Digital Engagement Lead at the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.

Addressing the Opportunity Gap: Reengaging Out-Of-School Youth

Last month, as a part of OVAE’s work with the Interagency Forum on Disconnected Youth, I had the opportunity to attend a national Reengagement Plus convening in Los Angeles, California. I return from that event renewed and inspired by the work going on across the country to reengage youth back into education and employment. In recent years, efforts to prevent students from dropping out have significantly improved graduation rates both nationally and locally. Unfortunately, there are still approximately 1.8 million young adults ages 16-21 that are not enrolled in school or have not finished their high school education. Research shows that many out-of-school youth want to return to school, but are uncertain how to do so and are fearful they will not succeed once they get there. Helping these young people find alternative pathways to graduation and meaningful employment opportunities is a critical challenge facing municipal leaders today.

Read More

CCR Standards Implementation Institute Dates Announced

OVAE is pleased to announce an exciting opportunity for adult education staff at both the state and local levels to receive hands-on training at the upcoming College and Career Readiness (CCR) Standards for Adult Education: Implementation Institute. The Implementation Institute will be repeated in three regional locations:

  • April 1-2 in New Orleans, LA
  • April 30-May 1 in Phoenix, AZ
  • June 4-5 in Washington, DC

The institute will bring together expert coaches in literacy and mathematics to provide training and individualized support to teams of educators on how implementation of CCR standards would impact instruction and curriculum. Throughout the 2-day institute, attendees will develop a practical and transferable understanding of:

  • The CCR Standards for Adult Education (2013)
  • The fundamental shifts in instruction and curriculum that the standards indicate
  • Alignment between current state standards and the demands of CCR standards
  • Different approaches for how to implement CCR standards successfully
  • Concrete steps to begin to transform instructional and curriculum approaches and materials

Susan Pimentel and StandardsWork, Inc. are conducting this institute, on behalf of OVAE, as a way to assist programs—no matter where they are on the continuum of standards implementation—with creating a sustainable model for advancing CCR standards-based reform. To provide a rich training experience, states and programs are encouraged to send a team of two or more staff members. The team should include instructional leaders or administrators who are responsible for literacy and mathematics, program management or professional development. States/programs will be responsible for supporting the travel and hotel costs for each team member.

Watch for more information about the CCR Standards for Adult Education: Implementation Institute, including how to register, in early 2014.

Tomorrow: Attend an OVAE Engagement Event via Live Stream

OVAE and The Joyce Foundation are co-hosting a regional engagement session in Chicago, IL tomorrow, Wednesday, December 18, as part of the series of events announced November 20 in response to the PIAAC Survey of Adult Skills results.

The morning presentations and panel discussion (10:00am – 12:00pm CT) will be live streamed. RSVP if you would like to join via the live stream. Moderated by Whitney Smith, Employment Program Director at the Joyce Foundation, panelists will discuss “New Models for Reaching Students in the Workplace and Through Technology” and include:

  • Erick Ajax, Co-owner, EJ Ajax Metal Forming Solutions
  • Marilyn Chapman, Director of Organizational Development, Mercy Hospital
  • Sameer Gadkaree, Former Director of Adult Education, City Colleges of Chicago
  • Jenifer Vanek, University of Minnesota