A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Biennial Evaluation Report - FY 93-94

Chapter 410

Adult Education--Grants to States

(CFDA No. 84.002)

I. Program Profile

Legislation: Adult Education Act, P.L. 89-750, as amended, (20 U.S.C. 1202 et seq.) (expires September 30, 1995).

Purpose: To improve educational opportunities for adults and to expand and improve the delivery system for adult education services that enable educationally advantaged adults to acquire the basic literacy skills necessary for literate functioning, to profit from employment-related training, obtain or retain productive employment, and complete secondary school.

Funding History

Fiscal Year Appropriation Fiscal Year Appropriation
1967 $26,280,000 1986 $ 97,579,000
1970 40,000,000 1987 105,981,000
1975 67,500,000 1988 115,367,000
1980 122,600,000 1/ 1989 136,344,000
1981 100,000,000 1990 157,811,000
1982 86,400,000 1991 201,032,000
1983 95,000,000 1992 235,750,000
1984 100,000,000 1993 254,624,000
1985 101,963,000 1994 254,624,000

1/ Includes one-time funding of $5 million for services to Indochinese immigrants and refuges and $17.6 million for services to Cuban and Haitian entrants.

II. Program Information and Analysis

Performance Indicators

To meet the accountability and evaluation requirements of the Adult Education Act, performance indicators have been developed for every phase and level of program operations. Key indicators stress recruitment of high-need members of the target population, retention of students to ensure opportunity of high-speed members of learning gains, and collection of information on student outcomes, including changes in employment status and further participation in educational programs.

Population Targeting

The Adult Education State- Administered Basic Grant program continues to target its services on adults with less than a high school education. Census data (1900) indicate that 46 million persons comprise this target population, of whom 4.5 million failed to go past the fifth grade. The program, through a cooperative effort between the State and the Federal Government, offers persons 16 years of age or older or who are beyond the age of compulsory school attendance under State law, the opportunity to attain reading, writing, and computational skills through the secondary school level of competence. Opportunities are also provided for adults to overcome English-language deficiencies.

States must give preference to local service providers who have demonstrated or can demonstrate a capability to recruit and serve educationally disadvantaged adults. This group of adults is defined generally as those who demonstrate basic skills equivalent to or below the fifth-grade level.

The Adult Education Act directs special attention to programs for incarcerated and other institutionalized adults, by requiring that each State use at least 10 percent of its Federal grant for this population.


In the 1992-1993 program year, States reported serving more than 3.8 million adults. Seventy-four percent of these participants were in Level 1 (below grade 8 and English-as-a Second-Language programs). Nearly 62 percent of the FY 1991 expenditures were directed at this level. Instruction was provided by approximately 18,100 full-time and 81,00 part-time teachers. Almost 99,500 literacy volunteers participated, two-thirds of whom served as tutors. The remaining volunteers served in various supportive roles, providing outreach, transportation, child care, and clerical services.

Preliminary estimated from the National Evaluation of Adult Education Programs suggest that State reports of adults served over a 12-month period may involve substantial double-counting, due to the lack of client records systems at the local level and reliance on classroom attendance reports. Also contributing may be the inclusion in State reports of individuals who enrolled but failed to attain the federally prescribed threshold of 12 hours of instruction. (III.5).

New information on the provision of support services was included in the National Evaluation's First Interim Report (III.4). Generally, local programs feel they are doing a good job of meeting client needs with respect to counseling, and to a lesser extent in providing job-search assistance. In contrast, most programs report that they are unable to provide help with finances, health needs, and child care.

Program Administration

Programs of adult education are administered by State education agencies and, in five States, by community college boards. Local projects, conducted by local education agencies and by public or private agencies, organizations, and institutions, are approved by States on the basis of need and resources available. The States agency is responsible for providing federally required plans and reports, reviewing and processing applications from local delivers of adult education services, coordinating programs serving adults, providing technical assistance, and evaluating programs.

With the FY 1991 allotment, States were required to contribute 20 percent for adult education programs. For the FY 1992 allotment and thereafter, the States' matching share is 25 percent. In FY 1991, States contributions for adult education amounted to over 80 percent of total program expenditures, or more than four times the Federal contribution. Most States report somewhat higher average costs for Level I participants. Average costs for adults who persist in the program long enough to make substantial learning gains are undoubtedly much higher.


Information from annual performance reports submitted by the States (III.3) indicates the following educational and economic outcomes:

Additional information on outcomes is expected from the National Evaluation of Adult Education in 1994, based on analysis of test score data and on telephone followups of a national sample of former clients.

Management Improvement Strategies

Strategies for program improvement resulting from the National Literacy Act of 1991 include:

III. Sources of Information

  1. Adult Education Act.

  2. Program regulations (34 CFR, Parts 425 and 426).

  3. Annual Performance, Financial, and Evaluation Reports submitted by States.

  4. First Interim Report: Profiles of Service Providers, (Arlington, VA: Development Associates, March, 1992).

  5. Secondary Interim Report: Profiles of Client Characteristics, (Arlington, VA: Development Associates, September, 1993).

IV. Planned Studies

  1. Evaluation of effective programs for low-literate ESL students. The study will identify promising programs and evaluate them to assess their effectiveness in serving low-literate ESL students.

  2. Analysis of Longitudinal Data on Adult Education Clients. This study will plan and carry out further analyses of data collected during the National Evaluation of Adult Education Programs (NEAEP) with a view to producing three reports--one on national policy implications, one on findings with implications for local program operations, and one which provides technical assessments of the NEAEP data.

  3. Surveys of non-traditional providers-community-based organizations. Community-based organizations (CBO's) are reputed by the research literature to attract and serve adults with the lowest literacy levels and multiple needs (educational, social, and economic). The participants they serve are not counted in State or Federal funds, and many of these organizations may choose not to participate in Government-sponsored programs. This study will provide information on clients served, methods of instruction, support services provided, and innovation practices, through a survey of existing CBOs.

  4. Survey of instructional practice in adult education. A survey of instructional practice in local education programs will provide needs information on the national, regional, State, and urban/rural distributions of instructional practice, as well as detailed information supplementing findings from current national studies underway, such as the National Evaluation of Adult Education Programs.

  5. Development of national adult education data system. The Department has already begun analysis of its data analysis needs in adult education, and has a project to develop and test both a national information network for State directors plus the capacity for transmission of data reports via modem or on diskette. The study will focus on methods of improving local and State data collections.

V. Contracts for Further Information

Program Operation:
Ron Pugsley, (202)205-9872

Program Studies:
Rob Barnes, (202)401-3630

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