Speeches and Testimony

Statement by

Patricia W. McNeil
Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education

Before the

U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations

On the

Fiscal Year 2001 Request for Vocational and Adult Education and Community Technology Centers

March 15, 2000

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. Our fiscal year 2001 budget request includes $1.184 billion for Vocational Education, $555.5 million for Adult Education, $12 million for Incarcerated Youth Offenders, and $100 million for Community Technology Centers, which is requested under the Education Reform account.

Five decades ago, America began moving toward an information-based economy. Few realized what a revolutionary challenge this would bring to our Nation and our institutions of government, education, and business. In education, we are struggling to develop the "schoolhouse" of the future and to find new ways of educating adults. Our challenge today is to prepare all students with the knowledge and skills to participate in a society and economy rich in technology, awash in information, and globally connected.

There is widespread agreement now that youth and adults need a much higher level of academic knowledge, different technical skills, and competency in problem-solving, information analysis, team work, and communications. Youth need to be prepared for postsecondary education and, with information doubling every 5 to 7 years, all Americans need to be continuous learners throughout their lives.

The strategy to restructure vocational and adult education is straightforward. Establish clear goals for what students need to learn in high school, college, and adult education programs; redesign institutions and programs to better achieve these goals; develop teaching materials and assessments of student performance that reflect those goals; recruit the highest quality teachers and administrators; use new technology to enhance learning; provide extra help for students that need it to achieve their goals; form strong partnerships between schools, colleges, parents, and communities; and focus on accountability for results. Our Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) objectives and this budget request support these strategies.

Clear Goals and Accountability for Results

The vocational and adult education laws set out clear goals: improve student achievement; increase their attainment of diplomas, certificates and degrees; and increase their entry into further schooling, employment or the military. Our most important task over the past year has been to develop accountability systems that measure progress on these goals and capture the results of Federal investments. We have worked in partnership with State directors, local educators and researchers to design effective accountability systems to guide adult and vocational education in the future.

In adult education, much groundwork for an accountability system was laid prior to the passage of new legislation. Therefore, all States were able to provide some information on past performance, set goals, and reach agreement with us on levels of performance for 1999. In December 2000, we will have data on States' first-year performance. Full implementation of the new accountability system, including agreements on performance levels for 2000 and 2001, will begin in July. States are now learning how to collect and use these data and we will soon have on-line training for local service providers.

In vocational education, we started almost from scratch in building an accountability system. Prior to the new legislation, States had very different accountability systems, and some had no system at all. As a result, there are very little data from prior years on the performance indicators in the new Act. This year we have worked with all 50 States and performance experts to build a new system. We conducted a pilot project with eight States to evaluate State capacity to provide data on the performance of secondary students. Twelve States have begun a similar project for postsecondary indicators. We have held two institutes at which 25 States brought together their workforce, adult, secondary and vocational education representatives to develop strategies for working across systems. By July 2000, each State should have a proposed achievement goal for each performance indicator. We will have some performance data by December 2000. More complete data from all States will be available in December 2001.

We are now working to set guidelines for the quality, validity and consistency of the States' data. As you can see in our 2000 GPRA program plan, we have aligned our GPRA measures with the core indicators in the legislation so that, beginning next year, the information from the States will inform the Federal plans and performance reports. In 2000, we will begin to reserve funds from the vocational education, adult education, and Workforce Investment Act Title I grants for States that exceed their skills, educational, and employment goals.

A New Vision for Preparing for High Tech Careers

Vocational education was designed for an industrial economy. It needs to be replaced with a new vision. The performance indicators in the legislation signal this new vision: to prepare students to meet rigorous State academic standards and technical skill requirements, and to enter college or be placed in high skill careers, not entry level jobs. Technical education is moving this direction. Studies of New American High Schools, Career Academies, and High Schools that Work show promising ways to improve achievement, college going, graduation rates and safety in high schools. In fact, the proportion of students in vocational programs taking the "new basics" core of four English credits and 3 credits each in math, science and social studies increased from 19 percent in 1990 to 45 percent in 1998. Continued support for these reforms is the basis of our FY 2001 request. We are requesting $306 million for Tech-Prep-an increase of $200 million over FY 2000 and $855.6 million for Vocational Education State Grants.

In many States and communities, Tech-Prep is a key strategy for making major changes in high schools. For example, the State of South Carolina has replaced the vocational and general tracks in high schools with Tech-Prep. Tech-Prep is designed to incorporate the same academic content as college prep, but students learn algebra or physics in the context of a technical career. They have internships that link their classroom work to experiences outside the classroom. They take more technical coursework, and they pursue a course of study that creates a clear pathway from high school to a technical, community or 4-year college and then to a high tech career. Other components of a comprehensive tech-prep program include educational technology and training for teachers and counselors. We have over 1,000 tech-prep consortia of high schools and colleges throughout the Nation, but many of the consortia have not been able to implement all the components because the grants have been small since the program began. Our proposed infusion of funds will allow consortia to make their existing programs more comprehensive, create programs in new career areas, increase the number of students involved and enhance high school reform efforts.

Our request of $17.5 million for National Programs will support efforts to improve Tech-Prep and change vocational education. We are investing in the development of career clusters, quality teacher training, high school reform, and accountability systems to move vocational education toward the new vision. With the States, we identified 16 "clusters" of related industries as the basis for vocational program improvement. We are supporting education-business partnerships to develop materials and certificates for clusters in the health, manufacturing, information technology, transportation, and communications career areas, and plan to expand this work to cover all 16 clusters. We are helping to train new and current teachers to use instructional strategies that make learning more relevant to students by connecting what they learn to real-life situations. We are also supporting the expansion of Teacher Academies to attract more young people to careers in education. The New American High School initiative, which recognizes and assists schools wanting to make reforms, is part of the Department's efforts to make high schools more effective. National Programs resources also support our research centers, the national assessment, and the development of the accountability system.

The $120 million request in the Education Reform account for the Small, Safe, and Successful High Schools initiative is an important component of our support for high schools. This initiative is jointly administered by my Office and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Small Schools grants will help high schools become more effective and supportive places.

Carl D. Perkins Act resources also provide vital support to community colleges and technical institutes. In addition to serving recent high school graduates, these postsecondary institutions provide training for college graduates and working adults who find they need another degree or more technical training to advance in their careers. About 35 percent of Vocational Education funds go to community colleges. The quality of teachers, technology and courses at these institutions are an important focus of our efforts to upgrade technical education. We also provide funding for the Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Vocational and Technical Institutions, which have limited resources apart from their Federal grants. Their funding increased to $4.6 million in FY 2000, and we continue this level in our proposal. These institutions serve a great need by providing technical education to economically disadvantaged students living on isolated reservations.

The School-to-Work Opportunities Act will continue to provide support to States and communities through 2001. The Act has been instrumental in supporting high school reform, providing diverse learning opportunities for students, and linking education to a wide range of other initiatives in the community including workforce development. The program's authorization terminates on October 1, 2001. As envisioned in the Act , States are working to sustain school-to-work through other resources; some States are enacting laws and appropriating funds. I thank the Committee for its support.

Basic Skills and English Literacy

The FY 2000 appropriation for Adult Education State Grants was an historic increase of $85 million, including funds dedicated to an increase for English Literacy and Civics Education. Still, there are 44 million Americans that are eligible to participate in adult basic education. States continue to have lists of adults waiting to enroll in these programs, and we must continue to increase this investment to meet their needs. For FY 2001, we propose $460 million for Adult Education State grants and an additional $75 million for English Literacy and Civics Education under National Leadership Activities.

Adult basic education is a passport to further education. Two-thirds of adults that take the GED want to pursue postsecondary education and training. Each step adults take to improve their literacy skills helps them get, keep, or advance on the job. The average weekly earnings of full-time workers with literacy skills in the middle level of the National Adult Literacy Survey prose competencies scales were 50 percent higher than their counterparts in the lowest level. Over the past 5 years, 1.4 million adult education participants reported that they met their goal for participating by getting a new job or advancing in their careers. The literacy level of the parent also affects the performance of a child in school. An adult who is a poor reader is unlikely to read to her child or be able to help with homework.

States will use much of the increase in their adult education State grants to serve more students and increase the quality of their programs. We estimate that more than 500,000 additional adults will be able to enroll as a result of last year's increase. States are using part of the increase to improve the quality of the education those adults receive. New technologies, for example, are allowing adults to improve their literacy through computer systems and videos in the classroom and at home. Professional development opportunities for adult education instructors are strengthening a teaching workforce that has for too long had few opportunities to learn the latest technology and teaching tools. Our 5-year goals for the adult education system include increasing the number of full-time teachers by 20 percent, tripling the number of computer stations in adult education programs, and doubling the number of class hours that the average student completes. Each of these improvements will help participating adults increase their literacy skills faster.

The FY 2000 English Literacy/Civics Education program will reach an estimated 85,000 immigrants that need to learn English as a second language and American civics in order to become citizens and effectively participate in the education, work, and civic opportunities of this country. Over one-third of recent immigrants do not have a high school diploma, and most need assistance with English and civics before applying for citizenship. Our request for $75 million for FY 2001 will triple the number of participants in the integrated English and civics courses.

For other adult education National Leadership Activities, we request $14 million, the same as in FY 2000. These funds address issues confronting adult education programs. For example, reaching adults in rural and isolated areas or parents that are home with small children has always been a challenge. Through distance learning, videos, and computers we are opening new learning opportunities to adults that cannot travel to a classroom. National Leadership funds also support the adult education accountability system, national research on literacy levels, and evaluation of adult education programs. Our request for the National Institute for Literacy is $6.5 million, an increase of $500,000 over FY 2000. The increase will support the growth of the "LINCS" on-line literacy information system, implementation of standards-based program improvements, and a new research-based effort to improve reading instruction for adults.

Community Technology Centers

Many of us already take for granted the opportunities available to us because the Internet and technology are part of our daily lives. But those who have the most to gain from new access to information and learning rarely have access to computers. Community Technology Centers (CTCs) have found that putting computers in publicly accessible places draws children working on homework and adults improving their computer skills. Our first CTC grant competition drew nearly 750 applications from organizations wishing to create these centers. We awarded 40 grants, which will create or expand 100 centers. For FY 2001, our request to triple our investment will put 1,000 technology centers in communities across the country.

My colleagues and I will be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

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Last Updated -- [3/14/2000] (mjj)