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 413

Adult Education--National Workplace Literacy Program

(CFDA No. 84.198)

I. Program Profile

Legislation: Adult Education Act, Part C, Section 371, P.L. 91-230, as amended by the National Literacy Act of 1991, P.L. 102-73, (20 U.S.C. 1211) (expires September 30, 1995).

Purpose: To support effective partnerships between education organizations and business and community groups for adult education programs that provide literacy training to meet workplace needs.

The National Workplace Literacy Program (NWLP) funds competitive demonstration grants for programs involving partnerships between business, industry, labor organizations, or private industry councils and education organizations, including State education agencies, local education agencies, and schools, (including area vocational schools and institutions of higher education, employment and training agencies, or community-based organizations). Each partnership must involve at least one business, industry, or labor organization, or private industry council, and at least one education partner listed above.

Funding History

Fiscal Year Appropriation
1988 $ 9,574,000
1989 11,856,000
1990 19,726,000
1991 19,251,000
1992 21,751,000
1993 18,906,000
1994 18,906,000

II. Program Information and Analysis

Performance Indicators

Each NWLP project is held accountable for meeting Federal requirements as well as performance standards related to both project and learner outcomes established in each funded application. The subject of performance indicators for workplace literacy programs will be further investigated in the Department's national evaluation of the NWLP.

Population Targeting

This program serves adults who need to improve their literacy skills to improve job performance. The U.S. Bureau of the Census reported that in 1987, there were 87,700,000 adults, ages 25 to 64, who were employed. Of these, 12,297,000, or 14 percent, had not completed high school. In fact, 2,576,000 or 3 percent, had completed less than the 8th grade (III.1).

In addition, data from the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey indicate that 90 million adults--about 47 percent of the U.S. adult populations--demonstrate low levels of literacy. While findings show that the vast majority of these Americans do not know they are at-risk, adults with lower literacy skills were far less likely to work full-time or earn high wages. These adults were far more likely to live in poverty and to be left behind in the rapidly changing American workplace.


Projects must provide services that relate directly to the improvement of literacy skills needed in the workplace. These may include adult basic education; adult secondary education; English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) training; education to upgrade basic literacy skills to meet changes in workplace requirements or processes; education to improve speaking, listening, reading, and problem solving; and support services for those receiving basic skill instruction including education counseling, transportation, and child care.

This program was funded for the first time in FY 1988. There is considerable interest in the program on the part of education organizations and business partners, and many more highly rated applications were received than could be funded. In September 1988, $9.5 million in competitive grant awards were made for 37 projects in 25 States and the District of Columbia. In April 1989, $11.9 million in competitive grant awards were made for 39 projects in 26 States and the District of Columbia. Awards for FY 1990 were made in March 1991 when $19.7 million in competitive grant awards were made to 73 projects. Awards for FY 1991 were made in June 1992 when $19.2 million in competitive awards were made to 55 projects in 30 States and the District of Columbia. In June 1993, 57 competitive grants awards, totaling $21.7 million, were made to 31 States and the District of Columbia.

Awards were made primarily to public organizations including community colleges, colleges, and universities; State and local education agencies; and community-based organizations. Each award involved one or more business or labor partners as well. Projects included training in such areas as:

More than half the new projects funded offered release time for literacy training. Nearly two-thirds of the projects had an ESL component.

Program Administration

Each project is required to have a project director employed by the partner designated as the grantee for the partnership. Projects may also employ other administrative personnel that are necessary and reasonably required to carry out the project's scope of work effectively.

In the FY 1993 round of grants, 57 awards were made. Of those, six awards went to partnerships headed by States and 51 went to partnerships headed by local education organizations, businesses or unions. The estimated administrative costs for the six State projects totaled $200,000 for the 3-month start-up period allowed under regulations then governing the program. The balance focused primarily on training and totaled $18,100,000 for the 51 projects.


Final reports submitted by the projects indicated that workers participating in NWLP projects do make learning gains as measured by standardized tests. Further, final reports relay quantitative and qualitative data indicating that workers participating in NWLP projects experience work-related gains. For example, supervisors often report increases in participating employees' team work, understanding of company policies and procedures, safety, attendance, suitability for promotion and productivity. In addition, some projects had reported that work-related basic skills training supported by the NWLP has been associated with outcomes outside of work such as the increased ability of employees to manage their money, help children with school work, and continue their own education.

Management Improvement Strategies

The Department has recently issues new regulations implementing a 3-year grant cycle for the NWLP. This change is expected to allow projects more time for curriculum development and to demonstrate results such as basic skills improvements and work-related outcomes. In addition, Department personnel will have more time to focus on monitoring for accountability and on technical assistance activities for the field.

During the 3-year period, the Department will enhance project management by bringing project personnel to three annual national training sessions in Washington, D.C., to discuss workplace literacy and project management issues. Included in these meetings will be business, labor and education partners as well as each project's evaluator and a student representative.

III. Sources of Information

  1. Education Attainment in the United States: March 1987 and March 1986 (Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-20, No. 428, August 1988).

  2. A Review of the National Workplace Literacy Program Survey (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 1991).

  3. Adult Literacy in America: A First Look at the Results of the National Adult Literacy Survey (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 1993).

  4. Program files.

IV. Planned Studies

The Department is currently conducting a study of "what works" in workplace literacy by taking a detailed look at workplace literacy projects funded in FY 1993 under the National Workplace Literacy Program. A final report will be available in 1997.

V. Contacts for Further Information

Program Operations:
Sarah Newcomb, (202) 205-9872

Program Studies:
Sandra Furey, (202) 401-3630

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