What We’re Watching: Why 36 Million American Adults Can’t Read Enough to Work — and How to Help Them

PBS NewsHour looks at adult basic education programs aimed at boosting the employment prospects of millions of adults who lack the reading or math skills to succeed in the workplace or who do not speak English.

In the Spring 2019 issue of Education Next, Beth Hawkins looks at the challenge of providing high-quality adult basic education and at one city offering a model program.

She writes,

Typically, adult basic education (ABE) programs offer classes in English, basic academics and job skills, and preparation for taking the GED or U.S. citizenship exams. Often poorly staffed and wedged into makeshift facilities, the programs rarely bestow bragging rights on the institutions that run them.

But five years ago, educators in Rochester, Minnesota forged a partnership between Rochester Public Schools and the Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) that enables adults to simultaneously learn English, learn to read if they lack that ability, and acquire credentials for living-wage jobs. Dubbed Bridges to Careers, the free program keeps its students enrolled until they have mastered the community college’s entry-level coursework and earned a first-rung job certification—usually as a certified nursing assistant, personal care assistant, or administrative clinical assistant. Participants have earned hundreds of industry certifications in health care and other fields.

Federal spending on adult basic education has fallen in recent years. In 2010, the most recent year for which complete data are available, the states invested $1.6 billion in the enterprise, with the federal government kicking in $617 million, Hawkins found.

Read more in “Adult Education Comes of Age,” by Beth Hawkins in the Spring 2019 issue of Education Next.

— Education Next

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