ProLiteracy’s research journal Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy publishes research on adult basic and secondary education to inform practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and funders about best practices in adult literacy, numeracy and English language education. This week we are highlighting the article titled “Are Transitions a Sufficient Goal for ABE Students or Programs?” by Bob Hughes, Seattle University, and Christine Knighton, Highline College.
An excerpt of “Are Transitions a Sufficient Goal for ABE Students or Programs?” is highlighted below.
Reading the Federal Register announcement (U.S. Department of Education, 2016) of Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) offers a glimpse of WIOA’s priorities. These priorities are important because they drive funding allocations for adult basic education in the nation; and that funding, in turn, determines how funded programs operate in order to receive that funding. As the largest funder of adult basic education (ABE) in the nation, providing over $600 million through its Basic Grants to States (U.S. Department of Education, 2019), WIOA drives ABE policies and practices.
A review of the announcement on Title II shows how much the concept of transitioning beyond basic skills has become critical. The phrase “transition to” is repeated 46 times throughout the document and is clarified with language that brings the importance of transitions to the forefront. Basic skills learners attend classes not as an end, but rather as a point that takes them forward to something else, as noted in this explanation:
WIOA retains and expands the purposes of AEFLA [Adult Education and Family Literacy Act]. Under WIA [the legislation that WIOA supersedes], AEFLA aimed to help adults improve their educational and employment outcomes, become self-sufficient, and support the educational development of their children. Under WIOA, AEFLA’s purposes have been expanded to include assisting adults to transition to postsecondary education and training, including through career pathway programs. Further, WIOA formalizes the role of adult education in assisting English language learners to acquire the skills needed to succeed in the 21st- century economy. (U.S. Department of Education, 2016, Subpart A—Adult Education General Provisions 463.1, p. 55529)
The shift described above should not be overlooked. The unapologetic emphasis is on education for learners’ economic gains. While WIOA-funded ABE can support parenting development, civic engagement, and other ancillary outcomes, transitions for economic impact provides a significant focus. Basic skills have become primarily about “transitioning to” to benefit learners’ career and economic needs.