Connecting Highest Degree Earned to Cognitive Skills

The following is the introduction to a post that appears on the National Center for Education Statistics Blog

Categories of educational attainment – or highest degree earned – are often used in social science research as an indicator of a person’s knowledge and skills. This measure is objective and readily available, easily understood by survey respondents as well as by consumers of research and survey data, strongly tied to policies (such as those promoting high school graduation and college completion rates), and widely used in the labor market by employers. Moreover, strong connections between educational attainment and positive life outcomes, such as employment, earnings, health, and civic engagement, are well established.

The article compares the direct measures of cognitive skills with the highest level of educational attainment as reported in the 2012 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey. You can read the full story on the National Center for Education Statistics Blog.

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

White House Launches the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign

This article is cross-posted from ED’s Homeroom Blog, in recognition of all the immigrants and refugees and their teachers in our programs celebrating Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. Read the full post here.

On Thursday, Sept. 17, President Obama launched the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign, which invites local communities to commit, collaborate, and act on a set of principles to aid new American integration. These principles focus on building inclusive, welcoming communities that advance efforts in the core areas of civil, economic, and linguistic integration. The campaign recognizes the significance of local efforts given that each community has unique circumstances and opportunities. We ask that communities heed the call to create welcoming environments for new Americans in their own schools, neighborhoods, homes, agencies, and institutions. Encouraging broader participation in civic life, providing hubs where skills and job training can be developed, and supporting English language acquisition are clear steps that communities can take to ensure that new Americans feel accepted and supported in the places they call home. Enabling each other to succeed is the cornerstone of all successful communities.

To support these efforts, we will continue to provide critical resources and information to help schools, communities, state and local education agencies, institutions of higher education, and educators better serve this population and their families. One such resource, a Department-sponsored webinar series, focuses on key areas of the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign.

Learn more about how you can welcome, engage, and enhance the lives of new Americans (pdf).

Read the full blog here.


Throwing Down the Gauntlet for Professional Development

Co-authored post by Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary of Education, OCTAE, researcher and teacher; and Gail Spangenberg, President, National Council for Adult Learning

Moving PD Closer to the Top was the theme of an August 25th blog hosted by the National Council for Adult Learning. A group of prominent Adult Education leaders contributed essays to that blog. They were Mary Ann Corley, John Fleischman, Daphne Greenberg, David Rosen, Cristine Smith, Jackie Taylor, Randy Whitfield, and the co-authors of this essay. They gave their perspectives on the high importance of professional development in our field and suggested many excellent priority actions in PD to meet current and future demands for outreach and effective service.

It is time to throw down the gauntlet for PD.  A serious conversation and commitment to Adult Education professional development is long overdue.  We should be talking more extensively and with higher-level commitment about the conditions we need to create for work and learning in our field, for the good of adult learners and our nation.  All the more so as we work together to prepare for a full and robust implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  NCAL’s blog was a start.  We hope the following discussion will add usefully to that beginning and encourage others to weigh in with their own ideas.


A recent report from The New Teacher Project concludes that school districts spend an average of $18,000 per teacher annually on professional development.  The report summarizes the results of a survey of over 10,000 teachers and 500 school leaders in three large public school systems, as well as the results of interviews and analyses of teacher ratings. This huge investment produced underwhelming outcomes. Only 30% of teachers saw improvements in their practice over a 2-3 year period. The report also notes that no particular approach helped teachers get better, and among teachers who did improve success was not linked to any systemic efforts by the districts.

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LINCS Learner Center Launched for Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

LINCS Learner Center Topic Icons

LINCS Learner Center Homepage


OCTAE has launched an online center to direct adult learners to free, high-quality resources related to education, job and life skills. The LINCS Learner Center complements OCTAE’s priority goal to make on-demand learning available for teachers and students.

A call to action in OCTAE’s February 2015 report, Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States, identified the need and potential to reach more low-skilled adults through online, on-demand tools.

The Learner Center, opening during the 2015 National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, #AEFLWeek, is a gateway to resources from many federal agencies and organizations. Resources accessed through the site can help adult learners improve their reading, writing, math, science, and English skills; build job skills; acquire an understanding of American government and history to obtain citizenship; and find a nearby adult education, computer training, or postsecondary education or training program.

Developed to be mobile-friendly, the site brings resources to learners in class, on the go, and at home. This feature can extend users’ learning time and accelerate their skill development.

Share the site with your teachers and learners and re-tweet alerts from @LINCS_ED. Help amplify OCTAE’s reach by posting the following message to your own social media network:

Help #adultedu learners improve their English, get job skills & more. Point new users to free resources at the Learner Center!

The initial site is a beta version, designed to join the national conversation about digital tools for adult learners. Future phases will incorporate more tools, features, and partners. OCTAE applauds ongoing work to stimulate the marketplace and ed-tech development. Stay tuned and get involved!


From Teacher to Advocate: A Guest Blog Celebrating Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2015

Photo of Heather Ritchie

Guest Blogger Heather Ritchie, MAACCE President and Professional Development Specialist, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School

I am a teacher. I am a trainer. I am an educator. I am an administrator. These are the words I use to describe myself when someone asks what I do for a living. Then there is “I am an advocate for adult education.” This is a phrase I never used to use but find myself utilizing more often these days. It is the most powerful of the phrases and I wish all of my colleagues would add it to their titles too.

As many people have done, I did not plan a career in adult education, I evolved into it. I worked in communications and nonprofits. I loved travel and celebrated the unique nature of different cultures locally and abroad. Reading has always been one of my pleasurable pastimes; it is a gateway to information and ideas I never knew existed. Then, I learned about opportunities in my local area to teach adults. (As you’ve probably noticed, my impetus was all about me up until this point.) Then, I started teaching and year by year, my focus has been less about me and more about the students.

The students – amazing individuals who balance family with work at multiple jobs, some of whom have come from other countries and left so much behind, who have dreams of brighter futures for their children and sometimes themselves. The students changed the way I thought about our work. Instead of looking only inside the classroom to see what I could do to best support them, I began looking outside to the broader community and realized how much was hidden from the broader public – our neighbors, our politicians, and businesses.

Whenever advocacy is mentioned and volunteers are called for, the truth is, people usually turn the other way or look at their phones. Why is this? Probably, because it is an unknown experience or it is misunderstood. Most people are afraid this means talking with politicians or public speaking. Advocacy can be those things, but it is so much more! It is getting the message out to anyone and everyone, so that adult students, who are also our neighbors, can have more access to quality opportunities for education.

When I call myself an advocate these days, here is what I think of and hope that you will too:

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The Challenge and Opportunity Ahead for our Criminal Justice System

In 2014, the National Research Council, the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, released “The Growth of Incarceration in the United States, Exploring Causes and Consequences,” which pointed out that U.S. incarceration rates are 5-10 times higher than rates in Western Europe and other major democracies. It noted the staggering racial disparities in incarceration, and called for a significant reduction in rates of imprisonment saying that the rise in the U.S. prison population is “not serving the country well.”

This report didn’t make a huge splash in the press, but it cemented an emerging recognition that our criminal justice policies – our school discipline, “war on drugs,” “truth in sentencing,” and “three strikes and you’re out” policies – of recent decades resulted in unprecedented and costly U.S. incarceration rates that are both ineffective as a crime reduction strategy and harmful to our social fabric. It is safe to say that this is not how we want to be known in the world community. Instead, we should be known for how we engage at-risk populations, how we reinvest in people who deserve a second chance, and how we support the successful transition of justice-involved individuals back into our communities.

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Request for Comments on WIOA Performance Information Collection

The Departments of Labor and Education are soliciting comments concerning a collection of data that will be used to demonstrate that specified performance levels under the WIOA have been achieved. The WIOA Performance Management, Information, and Reporting System fulfills requirements in section 116(d) (1) of the act for the development of report templates for 1) the State Performance Report for WIOA’s six core programs; 2) the Local Area Performance Report for the three Title I programs; and 3) the Eligible Training Provider Report for the Title I Adult and Dislocated Worker programs.

A copy of the proposed Information Collection Request with applicable supporting documentation may be accessed at by selecting Docket ID number ETA-2015-0007. The comment period is open for 60 days and closes on September 21, 2015. Any comments not received through the processes outlined in the Federal Register will not be considered by the departments.

Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Acting Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – One-Year Anniversary

Last Wednesday marked one year since the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law by President Obama. OCTAE sent a special anniversary message to our State Directors. That message included a video from Secretaries Duncan and Perez who jointly commemorated the anniversary of WIOA’s passage. We wanted to share these messages with all of you.

Making a Shift in the Public Workforce System

This article is cross-posted on the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services website, the Department of Labor’s WIOA website, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ website.

Today, July 1, 2015, marks the day that many of the provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) take effect. This new law has the potential to make a tremendous difference for tens of millions of workers, jobseekers and students across this country. WIOA’s transformation of our publicly-funded workforce system means that all of us—federal and state partners, governments, non-profits and educational and training institutions, must be pressing for innovations to ensure:

  • the needs of business and workers drive our workforce solutions
  • one-stop centers, also known as American Job Centers (AJCs) provide excellent customer service to both jobseekers and employers and focus on continuous improvement; and
  • the workforce system supports strong regional economies and plays an active role in community and economic development.

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Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Acting Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

Leveraging Local Partnerships to Support Immigrant Integration

June is Immigrant Heritage Month. In recognition of the work the adult education community is doing to support the diverse linguistic and cultural assets of immigrants, OCTAE is featuring the following blog by Nancy Fritz, Assistant Coordinator at the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative.

My journey in adult education began in 1986 when I signed up as an adult literacy volunteer with Literacy Volunteers of America. With a longstanding interest in languages and having previously taught high school civics and history, I immediately loved it and I knew I wanted to work on the field of adult education and enrolled in some graduate classes. Like many ESOL instructors, I pieced together my work through part-time positions for several adult education agencies including at a public library.  Luckily, I was able to obtain a full-time position at one agency as a teacher and then as an Education Director.

For the past 4 years, I have worked for the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative (RIFLI). RIFLI was founded sixteen years ago when libraries began receiving increasing requests from recent immigrants for English as a Second Language (ESL) services. The Providence Public Library (PPL) responded by implementing a family literacy program at one branch library. The program has grown significantly since then and RIFLI now provides classes in six library systems, in the public schools to the parents of children, in businesses for employees, and in our local One Stop employment center.  We offer ESL, Citizenship, Digital Literacy, Transition to College and Career, Math, and Conversation classes.  RIFLI serves approximately 300 adults per year.

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