Public Comments Received on Career Pathways

On April 23, 2014, the Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (DOL) issued a Request for Information on Adoption of Career Pathways Approaches for the Delivery of Education, Training, Employment, and Human Services in the Federal Register. The request asked commenters to respond to 13 different questions regarding the design and implementation of career pathways systems. The comment period closed on June 9, 2014 and generated an impressive 142 public comments.

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Posted by
Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
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Posted by
Policy Analyst, OCTAE
Posted by
Director, Policy, Research, and Evaluation Services Division, OCTAE

Age 50: The Great Society and Adult Education

On August 20, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed Public Law 88-452. The omnibus act is cited as the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The law created the Office of Economic Opportunity aimed at attacking the roots of American poverty by providing job training, small business loans, Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and an Adult Basic Education Program.

The section, in the law, established the program sought to remedy inequities of educational disadvantage by offering persons 18 years of age and older (revised to 16 years of age and older in 1970) the opportunity to develop reading, writing, language, and arithmetic skills to enable them to obtain or retain employment and otherwise participate more fully as productive and responsible citizens. The Office of Economic Opportunity provided funds to the U.S. Office of Education to administer the Program until the Adult Education Act of 1966 placed the Program entirely in the U.S. Office of Education (U.S. Department of Education in 1979).

During these 50 years the nature and extent of Federal attention to the needs of adult learners have varied, the Government, from its earliest days, has provided funds to establish, encourage, and expand programs to assist adults in overcoming those educational deficiencies that would hinder their productivity and responsible participation in the life and growth of the nation.

Happy 50th Birthday Adult Education….those 50 years have been a time when people conducted impactful work. From the White House to Congress to Federal officials, to adult educators, to the state and local learning environments, lives have been changed through a common passion for adult education and the adult learner.

Renewing Economic Opportunity for All

UPDATE September 22, 2014: In recognition of Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, September 22-28, 2014, we revisit this blog post recognizing the role of adult education in the economic and social health of our nation. This week allows us to spotlight the many practitioners and volunteers who improve their communities through education and applaud the commitment of learners to improve themselves, their families and their communities through increased education, English proficiency, and workforce preparation.  Get involved and recognize Adult Education and Family Literacy Week in your community. Join the online celebration by including the #AEFLWeek and #AESuccess hashtags in your daily Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts.

“For the one million young men and women who are out of school and who are out of work, this program will permit us to take them off the streets, put them into work training programs, to prepare them for productive lives, not wasted lives […] It will help those small businessmen who live on the borderline of poverty. It will help the unemployed heads of families maintain their skills and learn new skills. ”

Photo of President Johnson signing the EOA in a ceremony in the White House rose garden surrounded by onlookers.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.

These words were spoken by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 20, 1964 as he signed the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA), a keystone of the “War on Poverty.” The EOA created several programs across a number of federal agencies that aimed to “eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this Nation by opening to everyone the opportunity for education and training, the opportunity to work, and the opportunity to live in decency and dignity.” EOA was a legislative milestone that highlighted the need for investments in high quality education for youth as well as adults. In addition to programs like Head Start, Job Corps, and VISTA, EOA authorized federal grants for adult basic education, which marked the beginning of federal statutory involvement in adult literacy. This Law set the stage for other crucial adult education legislation to address the issue of illiteracy such as the Adult Education Act of 1966 and the National Literacy Act of 1991.

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Invitation to Comment on Implementation of Title II and Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

This is a joint blog post from OCTAE and OSERS.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) invite you to submit comments and recommendations to help us implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed by President Obama on July 22. This new law seeks to maximize opportunities for youth and adults, with and without disabilities, to succeed in postsecondary education and in high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs in the 21st century economy. Specifically, we seek your comments to assist us as we begin the process of implementing the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that were made by Title IV of WIOA and of the new version of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), in Title II of WIOA.

Your input can help us identify issues and concerns that we need to address in order to fulfill the expectations of WIOA, particularly as we develop draft regulations for public comment. While OSERS and OCTAE encourage you to respond to the specific questions that are set out below, we also encourage you to identify other issues that you believe are significant, and to provide your recommendations on how we should address them.

Please submit comments below by Friday, August 29, 2014. Submitting comments is voluntary and subject to ED blog comment policies.

OSERS is particularly interested in comments on any or all of the following questions:

  1. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?
     
  2. In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?
     
  3. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?
     
  4. Section 109 of the Rehabilitation Act made significant changes regarding the provision of services to employers, including the requirement for performance measures related to the effectiveness of services to employers. How can OSERS best implement these new provisions?
     
  5. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?

OCTAE is particularly interested in comments on any or all of the following questions:

  1. In issuing definitions of performance indicators under Section 116, what should be considered in regulation or guidance when applying these indicators to adult education participants? How can the use of “measurable skill gain” best support services to low-skilled and limited English proficient individuals?

  2. WIOA emphasizes the importance of connecting job seekers and workers with the needs of employers and the regional economy. States will be required to report on their effectiveness in serving employers. What factors should OCTAE consider when defining how adult education and literacy programs may effectively serve employers?
     
  3. WIOA requires states to implement adult education content standards that are aligned to their standards under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. What are the timeline and implementation issues that should be considered in supporting this requirement?

  4. AEFLA adds new activities to adult education and literacy services, including integrated education and training and workforce preparation. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on these new activities?

The comment period has ended.

OCTAE is Working to Get Everyone On!

62 million Americans are not online. Millions of families do not have home Internet access for learning, civic engagement, connecting with family, or employment searches. Read on to learn how OCTAE’s coordination with national partners is creating solutions.

Everyone On (www.everyoneon.org) is a national non-profit that aims to eliminate the digital divide. Through Everyone On, individuals are able to find Internet service as low as $10 a month, low-cost computers, and free digital literacy courses.  In 2013, Everyone On launched a three-year, multimedia, bilingual Ad Council campaign to “help motivate the millions of Americans who do not have the digital literacy skills they need to succeed become connected and take advantage of free digital literacy training in their communities.”

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) has entered an agreement with Everyone On to pre-qualify enrolled students, teachers, and programs for its computer and Internet offers through a unique hub located at EveryoneOn.org/adulted. This allows students to take full advantage of the opportunity to get Internet access in their homes, while assisting programs to create hot spots of wireless connectivity in classrooms on a flexible and portable basis.

How can you get involved?

See what offers are in your area! At EveryoneOn.org/adulted, enter local zip codes in the search box and answer the question that pops up. This information about whether there are children in the household on National School Lunch Program determines whether you will be eligible for cable Internet deals from companies like Comcast and Cox.

Adult education students, teachers, and programs are pre-qualified for wireless deals from Mobile Beacon, Mobile Citizen, and FreedomPop, regardless of family status. To see only the wireless deals, reply No to the question.

In addition to viewing the Internet service offers, EveryoneOn.org will present offers for affordable, refurbished devices and information about digital literacy training sites – including adult education sites, American Job Centers, and local libraries.

Help is also available at a call center, 1-855-EVRY1ON.

Note: Due to the regional nature of cellular and cable service markets, there is not full-country coverage of these offers. Rural areas in particularly have sparse coverage. Everyone On continues to expand the offers to new areas and new providers. To view all of the Internet service offers, search the eligibility page at http://www.everyoneon.org/offer-and-eligibility-overview/.

Who is eligible?

  • Students: Adult education students and their families can purchase a router for home use (either one that connects a single device or one that connects up to 8 devices), sign up for unlimited Internet service for $10 a month with no long-term obligation, and purchase devices such as high-end Android tablets for as little as $150.
  • Teachers: Adult education teachers and their families can also take advantage of this offer, so that more teachers can integrate technology into their teaching.
  • Programs:The purchase routers, service, and devices through this offer, so that more classrooms and learning spaces can become “hot spots” to support the integration of technology into  adult education programming, is an allowable use of AEFLA funds. Programs are also strongly encouraged to update their contact information in America’s Literacy Directory (https://www.literacydirectory.org/), which coordinates with the Everyone On Locator Tool.

While this offer is unique to adult education students, teachers, and programs, Everyone On serves all low-income families and adults. Residents of local housing authorities have a similar arrangement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For blog readers who are not attached to adult education or housing programs, you can learn more about Everyone On and how to partner with them by visiting EveryoneOn.org/partner.

Office of Vocational and Adult Education Becomes Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

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

Students in a studio

Technology is a critical tool for career readiness at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington, DC.

February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) month, and what could be more fitting than to announce that the name of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education has been changed to the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). Vocational education was recognized as a national priority with the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917. “Career and Technical Education” has now replaced “vocational education” as a more accurate term to describe what and how students are studying to be career ready.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said, “The president and I believe that high-quality CTE programs are a vital strategy for helping our diverse students complete their secondary and postsecondary studies.” He acknowledged that those on a CTE track are helping our nation meet our economic and workforce challenges. “In fact, by implementing dual enrollment and early college models, a growing number of CTE pathways are helping students to fast-track their college degrees.”

Natalie Tran, a Future Business Leaders of America chapter president at River Hill High School in Clarksville, Md., told ED, “[In CTE] over time, you gain confidence—you know what you are doing, you know that you are able to go into the workforce . . . And it’s all about—knowledge is power, and that’s what CTE provides us.”

In 2012, the Obama Administration released Investing in America’s Future, A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education. The Blueprint calls for effective, high-quality CTE programs aligned with college- and career-readiness standards. These programs provide work-based learning opportunities that enable students to connect what they are learning to real-life career scenarios and choices. Students participating in effective CTE programs graduate with industry certifications or licenses and postsecondary certificates or degrees that prepare them for in-demand careers within high-growth industry sectors.

Student with headphones

A CTE student at the Veterans Tribute Career Technical Academy in Las Vegas, Nev., explains her project to OCTAE Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier

Alvon Brown, a student from The Edison Academy at Edison High School in Alexandria, Va., studied to become an HVAC technician in CTE. He told ED, “. . . instead of just staying with being an HVAC technician, I want to become an engineer and work with HVAC, because I like creating stuff, and I like working—not only do I like working with my hands, I like thinking about what I can do with my hands.”

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education has had a rich history of being in the forefront of career, technical and adult education, providing funding and technical assistance to the career pathways movement, for instance. OCTAE continues to be the office in ED responsible for administering federal CTE programs, as well as the partner adult education programs. The Congressionally-mandated change in name to OCTAE acknowledges the CTE reality and looks to the future as it advances the priorities around preparing all youth and adult students for success in college and careers.

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

Host a Roundtable about How Skills Matter in Your Community

On November 20, OVAE launched an engagement process that will result in a National Action Plan for improving the skills of low-skilled adults, a part of the Department’s response to the U.S. performance on the PIAAC Survey of Adult Skills. See the archived footage of that event here.

We want to hear from your community! To assist you in your efforts to coordinate a regional or local roundtable on the topic of adult skills, OVAE has 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, after you’ve run a roundtable, we want to know how it went and what you learned! Please submit your comments by March 14 to be considered in the Plan.

Stay tuned to the blog for updates from OVAE’s regional sessions as well.

 

 

 

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.

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.