OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
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Transitions to Postsecondary Education

Research and Evaluation | Noteworthy Practices | Additional Links

Advancing the goals of adult basic education (ABE) from high school completion or its equivalency to college- and career-readiness is central to the Office of Vocational and Adult Education and its vision of adult education in the 21st century. As the skills and education required to obtain employment and maintain a living wage have increased, the value of a high school credential continues to diminish. In modern times, adults cannot succeed and be economically self-sufficient without some level of postsecondary education. About 90 percent of the fastest growing jobs of the future will require education or training beyond high school. Certain states and programs have moved to develop information and procedures for linking ABE and adult secondary education (ASE) with postsecondary education and occupational training. Most ABE and ASE programs, however, primarily teach only those skills needed to complete high school or to pass the GED tests, without providing real connections to further education and training. Promising practices must be pursued and challenges must be addressed to make transition services available and effective.

Research and Evaluation

  • Adult Basic Education to Community College Transitions Symposium Proceedings Report (2007) download files PDF (2.01MB) recaps a national, interactive dialogue on issues related to the transition of adult education students to community colleges.

  • Adult Education and Postsecondary Education and Postsecondary Success (2007) download files PDF (350K) compares the long-term postsecondary education outcomes of GED recipients to those of their counterparts who have a high school diploma or who lack one. The author recommends ways to expand the adult education system to improve college readiness and success.

  • Bridges to Opportunity for Underprepared Adults: A State Policy Guide for Community College Leaders (2008) download files PDF offers tools and strategies for addressing the need to provide large numbers of working-age adults with education and training that will allow them to have access to real opportunities for social mobility in American society.

  • Building Bridges to Postsecondary Training for Low-Sill Adults: Outcomes of Washington State’s I-BEST Program (2009) briefly summarizes findings from a study on the outcomes of students participating in I-BEST, a program designed to increase the rate at which basic skills students enter and succeed in postsecondary occupational education and training.

  • Building Pathways to Success: Lessons for Community College Policy and Practice from a Longitudinal Student Tracking Study (2005) a widely cited study, reported that adults with low—level skills tend to experience serious barriers to college participation and degree completion.

  • Closing the Expectations Gap, 2010 download files PDF reports state progress on implementing the American Diploma project policy agenda—the alignment of high school policies with the demands of college and careers.

  • Creating Postsecondary Pathways to Good Jobs for Young High School Dropouts: The Possibilities and the Challenges (2008) download files PDF looks at strategies for connecting out-of-school youths (16-24 years of age) to pathways to postsecondary credentials that have value in the labor market.

  • A Cross-Case Analysis of Career Pathway Programs that Link Low-Skilled Adults to Family-Sustaining Wage Careers (2007) download files PDF (1.2M) presents demographic and educational characteristics of students enrolled in pathway programs, and examples of curriculum, instructional approaches and support services.

  • Educational Outcomes of I-BEST, Washington State Community and Technical College System’s Integrated Basic Skills Training Program: Findings from a Multivariate Analysis download files PDF (CCRC Working paper No. 16) (2009) presents the complete findings from a study on the outcomes of students participating in Washington state's I-BEST program.

  • Envisioning the Future: Career Pathways as a Systemic Framework Fully Implemented in the Community College (2008) download files PDF reflects the results of a facilitated session focused on the question: What would a community college that fully implemented career pathways look like?

  • Helping Adult Learners Make the Transition to Postsecondary Education (2005) download files PDF (101K) discusses the challenges ABE programs must address to develop and implement transition services, provides examples of emerging efforts, and discusses the implications of this transformation for policy and practice.

  • Increasing College Success: A Road Map for Governors download files PDF (2009) reports on a 2008 forum for governors on college and career success, and the four broad actions states can take to raise college attainment rates that participants suggested.

  • Lessons Learned from Breaking Through (2009) download files PDF discusses results from the evaluation of the Breaking Through demonstration project provided in four areas: implementation of programs and practices, student participation and outcomes.

  • Opening the Door to the American Dream: Increasing Higher Education Access and Success for Immigrants (2007) download files PDF describes the demographic and educational characteristics of the U.S. immigrant population and discusses barriers faced by legal immigrants seeking to enroll in postsecondary education. The report focuses on older immigrants, who confront significant challenges because they did not attend American primary and secondary schools.

  • Policies to Promote Adult Education and Postsecondary Education (2007) download files PDF is a brief focused on helping adults with lower skills and limited English proficiency earn postsecondary credentials that can open doors to family-supporting jobs. The brief examines obstacles to moving toward this goal, and policy and action recommendations are given.

  • Postsecondary Education Transition: A Summary of the Findings from Two Literature Reviews (2010) download files PDF focuses on the various types of transition interventions being implemented, the barriers to success, the limited rigorous research on transition interventions, and what research is needed to determine which, if any, are effective.

  • Reach Higher, America: Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce (2008) download files PDF calls for a revamped education system with the capacity to effectively serve 20 million adult annually by the year 2020.

  • Strong Students, Strong Workers: Models for Student Success through Workforce Development and Community College Partnerships (2009) download files PDF reviews a range of efforts by community colleges and states to increase enrollment and completion rates among disadvantaged students, and the extent to which such efforts are “proven.”

  • Systemic Reviews of Research: Postsecondary Transitions – Identifying Effective Models and Practices download files PDF focuses on transition programs for youth to postsecondary education.

  • Transitioning Adults to College: Adult Basic Education Program Models download files PDF (267K) provides a survey of adult education centers with transitions components designed to capture and categorize emerging models of ABE-to-college transition programs.

  • Using Longitudinal Data to Increase Community College Student Success: A Guide to Measuring Milestone and Momentum Point Attainment (2008) download files PDF is intended to help researchers in colleges and state agencies use longitudinal student unit data to create simple and meaningful statistics on student achievement.

  • Working Learners: Educating our Entire Workforce for Success in the 21st Century download files PDF discusses the national significance of educating today’s workforce and the failure of our current systems to enable the necessary mix of learning and work.

Noteworthy Practices

  • The Adult Basic Education Career Connections project supported the involvement of five local adult education programs in career pathways initiatives during 2007-2009. The project produced a manual to demonstrate how ABE programs can operate within career pathways to prepare students for college courses leading to a degree or occupational certificate targeted toward an industry important to a regional economy. The manual is scheduled for release in late 2010.

  • Career Pathways Toolkit (2007) download files PDF was created as a technical assistance resource for state and local leaders working to advance career pathways development.

  • Bridges to Careers for Low-Skilled Adults: A Program Development Guide (2005) download files PDF (717K) provides guidance on how to develop and implement “bridge programs” to prepare adults who lack basic skills to enter and succeed in postsecondary education and training leading to career-path employment.

  • Breaking Through promotes and enhances the efforts of community colleges to help low-literacy adults prepare for and succeed in occupational and technical degree programs.

  • Charting a Path: An Exploration of the Statewide Career Pathway Efforts in Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin (2009) download files PDF explores the efforts underway in these states to institutionalize career pathways to prepare students for postsecondary courses leading to a degree or occupational certificate targeted toward an industry important to the regional economy.

  • Maine College Transition Programs incorporate career planning, instruction in college preparation coursework, the development of peer cohorts and/or coaching system, case management and data collection.

  • Ohio Stackable Certificates: Models for Success (2008) download files PDF discusses the framework for delivering pre-college academic preparation and for-credit job training to adults whose skills fall between a 6th grade level and a high school credential.

  • Oregon Pathways for Adult Basic Skills Transition to Education and Work initiative is working to build a pipeline of prepared Adult Basic Skills learners to enter post-secondary education, training programs and jobs in high wage, high demand career areas, and to initiate a basic skills system change that is sustainable and that develops formal connections to post-secondary education and to the One Stop Centers.

  • Ready for College download files PDF is a discretionary grant program that assists four States and 25 local adult education programs in successfully transitioning adult secondary students into postsecondary educational opportunities. Participant programs are enhancing and expanding on instructional and programmatic strategies that help achieve high school equivalency, demonstrate college readiness and transition to postsecondary education. States’ results are expected to include curricular, counseling, scheduling, and professional development innovations that will be packaged for dissemination nationally by the end of 2010.

  • Shifting Gears is helping states implement systemic changes to institutionalize innovation in adult education, workforce development and postsecondary education.

  • The Workforce Strategy Center Toolkit is designed to be a reference portal for policymakers and practitioners with tools, examples and lessons learned organized according to their career pathways five-step process.

Additional Links

  • Career Pathways Instructional Materials Library includes materials to help educators develop and implement career pathways and work-based programs for adult learners.

  • College for Adults is designed to help with career planning and the college selection and application processes. The interactive site includes resources on financial assistance and preparation for college-level work.

  • Federal Student Aid is a source for free information, guidance and tools for federal student assistance—from the U.S. Department of Education's office of Federal Student Aid.

  • Improving Lives: State and Federal Programs for Low-Income Adults provides an overview of programs that affect low-income adults and their ability to enroll and succeed in postsecondary education. Includes detailed descriptions of programs selected as exemplars of effective state and federal policy.

  • The National College Transition Network features resources for program planners, teachers, counselors, researchers, and policy-makers interested in developing transition services for ABE students.

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Last Modified: 04/19/2010