Responding to the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults

It is an unfortunate truth that our country incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation.  There are an estimated 2.2 million people incarcerated across the United States, compared to 500,000 just 30 years ago. The vast majority of incarcerated individuals will eventually leave prison and jail and reenter our society.  Becoming productive members of society, is just another challenge for a formerly incarcerated person to overcome in an increasingly competitive economy.  Today’s job market requires more advanced skills and industry recognized credentials than ever before. While no single solution may exist to assist justice involved individuals with reentry, correctional education has proven to be an effective tool.  In addition to helping individuals gain the skills they need for reentry, evidence suggests participating in correctional education programs decrease their chances of recidivating by 43%.[1]

On Tuesday, November 15, 2016, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), released a report, Highlights from the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults: Their Skills, Work Experience, Education, and Training: Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2014, assessing the skills, education and training of our incarcerated population.  This report provides us with fresh data on the current state of literacy and numeracy competencies of incarcerated adults in state and federal prisons in the U.S.  The data demonstrates the continued need to nurture rigorous and effective correctional education programs not only as a means for individuals to improve their situation, but also as an effective public safety measure.

Read Secretary King’s Dear Colleague letter to learn more about the report, and to find out about other measures ED is taking to ensure incarcerated and justice-involved individuals have a fair shot at a successful reentry.

[1] Davis, L. M., Bozick, R., Steele, J.L., Saunders, J. & Miles, J. N. V. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A MetaAnalysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2013. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR266.html

White House Encourages More Virtual and Augmented Reality in Education

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy added their voice to the national conversation on leveraging virtual and augmented reality to improve education. The blog mentioned the $680,000 EdSim Challenge that prompts virtual and augmented reality developers to create learning tools to support career and technical education that are “… as compelling as the best video game.”

The blog was published in advance of the EdSim Challenge Informational Webinar scheduled for Wednesday, November 16 at 3:00pm Eastern Time. You can find more information about the EdSim Challenge on the challenge website and register for the webinar here.

Six Federal Agencies Commit to Make College Access and Completion a Reality for More Americans

Today, Secretary of Education John King announced the release of a federal interagency letter, Aligning Federal Supports and Program Delivery for College Access and Completion. The interagency letter highlights the latest guidance and resources that clarify how existing provisions within federal programs of the U.S. Departments of Education, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Treasury can be better aligned for postsecondary access and completion. Secretary King made the announcement at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities’ annual meeting in Austin, Texas, an event that gathered over 1,300 senior leaders from public higher institutions from across North America.

By 2020, an estimated two-thirds of job openings will require some postsecondary education or training. Studies have shown that college graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn about 66 percent more than those with only a high school diploma and are far less likely to face unemployment. Over the course of a lifetime, the average worker with a bachelor’s degree will earn approximately $1 million more than a worker without any postsecondary education. However, too many students fail to complete their education due to resource constraints. Because now, more than ever before, a college degree is a necessity for individual economic opportunity and competitiveness, alignment of federal programs and policies towards completion is essential. The strength and long-term success of our nation’s economy weighs on a robust higher education system that helps all students succeed.

The interagency letter lists actions taken by each of the six agencies to better help individuals make one the most important investments one can make in his or her future a reality. For example, the U.S. Department of Education recently issued guidance clarifying requirements that designated public school district homeless liaisons inform all unaccompanied homeless youth identified by the district of their eligibility for independent student status on the FAFSA, and this guidance is linked within the letter. Independent status can help homeless students access more aid to cover tuition and books, as well as help secure reliable room and board. Another example is guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicating that students attending an institution of higher education through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) Employment and Training program at least half-time are exempt from the SNAP student rule and, as a result, potentially eligible for SNAP.

In addition to the joint interagency letter, the U.S. Department of Education released the Innovating and Partnering to Support Completion and Success in Higher Education fact sheet spotlighting the results of initiatives made under the Obama Administration that have helped thousands of Americans enroll in and complete college. Such investments have helped Black and Hispanic students earn over 270,000 more undergraduate degrees in 2013-14 than in 2008-09; and a million more Black and Hispanic students enrolled in college in 2014 than in 2008.

The Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, along with its federal partners, is committed to ensuring that federal provisions and other initiatives fulfill their promise of breaking down barriers to accessing the knowledge and skills needed to attain a well-paying job, support a family, and contribute to our community. With the help of state and local partners, together we can strengthen coordination of programs that connect more people to postsecondary opportunities and leverage federal policies that more effectively serve our communities.

Posted by
Special Assistant Office of the Assistant Secretary OCTAE

Tune in Tomorrow to the EdSim Challenge Webinar

Remember to register for the informational webinar!

Graphic with text that reads: EdSim Challenge, Calling for next generation education simulations. $680,000 in cash awards plus additional sponsor prizes. Learn more at edsimchallenge.,comThe EdSim Challenge is moving forward after a fantastic launch and we are excited to host an informational webinar tomorrow, Wednesday, November 16th from 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Eastern Time. The webinar will include an overview of the EdSim Challenge and a live Question and Answer session. Join the webinar to learn more about the vision of the U.S. Department of Education for educational simulations, as well as the Challenge timeline, submission process, eligibility, awards, and criteria.

Please register here to receive connection and login information in advance of the session. For those unable to attend the webinar, a recording of the webinar will be posted later on the Challenge blog.

We look forward to a sharing information on the EdSim Challenge and expanding virtual and augmented reality in education!

EdSim Challenge Launched to Bring Virtual Reality to CTE

OCTAE is excited to launch the EdSim Challenge with a cash prize pool of $680,000 and additional sponsor prizes from IBM, Microsoft, Oculus, and Samsung. The Challenge calls upon the virtual reality, video game developer, and educational technology communities to submit concepts for immersive simulations that will prepare students for the globally competitive workforce of the 21st century.

Successful simulations will pair the engagement of commercial games with rigorous educational content that strengthens academic, technical, and employability skills.


Simulated environments, such as virtual and augmented reality, 3D simulations, and multiplayer video games, are emerging approaches to deliver educational content. Research indicates that simulation-based learning provides students with enriched experiences in information retention, engagement, skills acquisition, and learning outcomes.

Those interested in entering the Challenge should submit their simulation concepts at edsimchallenge.com by January 17, 2017.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our informational webinar on November 16, 2016 from 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST to hear an overview of the Challenge and ask questions.

You can also view the complete Federal Register Notice here.

We look forward to seeing what innovators from around the country envision for the future of learning!

Opportunity@Work and OCTAE Announce Partnership

It Is Time to Rewire the Labor Market, Particularly for Those Americans Who Get Overlooked Too Often

The current system of hiring- where employers hire for open positions based on a person’s education and job history- is outdated, overlooks millions of people, and leaves too many jobs unfilled. Opportunity@Work and a growing number of public and private agencies are working to transform these outdated hiring practices by proving to companies that they can hire based on mastery rather than pedigree by giving everyone a chance to show what they can do. If you have the skills to fill a vacant job, then you should get the job.

Tess Posner, Managing Director of TechHire for Opportunity@Work, Kim R. Ford, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Management, Carmen Drummond, Chief of Staff, Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, and Yolanda Townsend, Senior Vice-President and General Counsel for Opportunity@Work take a moment to celebrate the agreement between the U.S. Department of Education and Opportunity@Work to support TechHire and other communities interested in using demand-side approaches to get more Americans to work.

Tess Posner, Managing Director of TechHire for Opportunity@Work, Kim R. Ford, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Management, Carmen Drummond, Chief of Staff, Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, and Yolanda Townsend, Senior Vice-President and General Counsel for Opportunity@Work take a moment to celebrate the agreement between the U.S. Department of Education and Opportunity@Work to support TechHire and other communities interested in using demand-side approaches to get more Americans to work.

“If employers want to solve the skills gap, the solution is to hire for skills mastery rather than resume history.” — Byron Auguste, CEO and Co-Founder, Opportunity@Work

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Improved Reentry Education Grantee Recognized by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council

The Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) is an industry-led, training, assessment and certification system. Their mission is focused on advancing the core skills and knowledge needed by the nation’s front-line production and material handling workers to allow workers the opportunity to demonstrate that they have acquired the skills needed for technology intensive jobs. MSSC recently highlighted work being done to help incarcerated individuals who are returning to their communities secure jobs, increase public safety, and save money.

OCTAE is pleased that one of the Improved Reentry Education grantees, Washburn Institute of Technology, was highlighted as an organization which features a MSSC pre-release program. The program allows students to obtain a Certified Production Technician credential, thanks to a partnership between Washburn University, the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Kansas Department of Corrections, and the Kansas Workforce Center. These programs help individuals acquire certifications and credentials, allowing them to succeed in the labor market and break the cycle of incarceration.

An important part of this programming is tracking student outcomes to help ascertain success, and the Washburn students excelled in the program. Of 184 students who participated in the program, almost 1,000 credentials were earned, including over 500 full Certified Production Technician credentials.  Since March 31, 2016, 70 students had been released, with 60% of them obtaining gainful employment after reentering, and only 12% of students re-incarcerated.

Learn more in the following linked resources:

OCTAE’s Office of Correctional Education

The Reentry Education Toolkit, designed to help programs and communities improve services for returning citizens

A Community Practice for Correctional Educators, with over 700 participating members

Nondegree Credentials in Correctional Education: Status, Challenges, and Benefits (Department of Education, 2016)

OCTAE Celebrates Historic Educational Achievements

On October 17, 2016, the White House released a fact sheet that summarized the many remarkable achievements in education accomplished by the Obama Administration. OCTAE celebrates our teachers’, leaders’, and students’ contributions to these accomplishments, including

  • America’s high school graduation rate reaching a record new high of 83.2 percent
  • a narrowing of the achievement gap between white and minority populations
  • a vision of Next Generation High Schools
  • work to develop and support great teachers
  • work to promote college success

See President Obama’s full remarks at a Benjamin Banneker Academic High School Washington, D.C. high school.

Read the full fact sheet.

No More Blank Resumes

I remember my first job well. I tended to greenhouses and operated machines. It taught me so much. I learned how to show up on time every day. I learned how to get tasks done irrespective of whether they excited me or not. I developed relationships with adults and learned how to work in a team and resolve conflicts. I learned how to receive and respond to feedback. I learned about consequences of mistakes. I learned about accountability and rewards. I appreciated the structure my first job brought to my life. And, as a young man, I sure appreciated the extra cash. But, perhaps most importantly, I ended up with some experience I could put on my resume or on an application form.

All young people need a first-job. It gives them some experience, increases their confidence, and allows them to develop their networks. But not all are getting it. One in seven young people aged 16 to 24 are both out of school and out of work – a population that is disproportionately young men of color.  That is why, on Tuesday, the White House launched the #FirstJob Compact of Best Practices for Hiring, Recruiting, and Supporting Young People —a set of best practices that were designed with leading companies in hiring and promoting young people who are not in school or working. The #FirstJob Compact will accomplish several things including identifying jobs and internships for youth with no experience and developing a plan to support these youth once hired. It also calls on nonprofits, school districts, workforce development boards, and others to help recruit these youth.

Nearly 40 major companies have signed on as Founding Members of #FirstJob Compact. Gap Inc. is one of these companies and has committed to expanding its life skills and paid internship program. This Way Ahead is the name of Gap’s program that gives 16 to 24 year olds from low-income communities training and in-store work experience. Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy will recruit five percent of all entry-level store employees from graduates from this program by 2025, or approximately 5,000 hires per year.

I am calling on employers in the education sector to do the same. There are approximately 13,500 school districts and almost 100,000 public schools, 2,300 adult education programs, and more than 7,000 institutions of higher education in the U.S. If each of these institutions offers just one young person their first job, then we will have made an important step in the right direction. Let’s work together to end resumes that have blanks in the experience section.

Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Johan E. Uvin is the Deputy Assistant Secretary (delegated the duties of the Assistant Secretary) for career, technical, and adult education at the U.S. Department of Education.

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2016 Roundup

Thank you to everyone who helped make Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2016 so vibrant and far-reaching! Check out some of the great tweets we caught during the week on #AEFLWeek.