April 26, 2023

Young, Reed Offer Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Research in Adult Education & Learning

WASHINGTON – Adult education programs, including reading, math, and other core subjects, equip learners with the skills they need to find good-paying jobs and help ensure businesses and communities can achieve their workforce development goals.  But despite the economic value of adult education, the area has been chronically under-researched.  Two U.S. Senators are working on a bipartisan basis to change that.

In an effort to improve adult education in the United States, enhance access to learning opportunities, and create more employment opportunities for adults left behind by the traditional education system, U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) are teaming up to introduce the Strengthening Research in Adult Education Act.

This bipartisan legislation would help gather data needed to expand the national education research base to improve the effectiveness of adult education programs, and in turn will enhance workforce development strategies and narrow the skills gap.  Furthermore, the bill will provide a strong foundation for improving the reach and results of adult education programs by amending the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) to include adult education in research priorities.

Data from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies show an urgent need for action in adult education with an estimated 19 percent of adults in America ages 16-65 performing at the lowest levels of literacy; 29 percent at the lowest levels of numeracy; and 24 percent at the lowest levels of digital problem solving.

“As our nation seeks to grow our talent pipeline and remain globally competitive, adult learners are a crucial part of our workforce and have great potential. Our bipartisan bill will invest in adult learners and ensure adult education programs are built to help students succeed in the modern economy,” said Senator Young.

“America is facing a skilled-worker shortage and one of the best ways to effectively address that is through better adult education programs.  Adult education offers a pathway to opportunity.  But we as a nation need to do a better job of reaching and teaching adult learners.  By collaboratively gathering data, and listening to and learning from adult educators, we can develop new policies and protocols to strengthen America’s workforce and economy. It is estimated that nearly 65,000 working age Rhode Islanders have limited English proficiency and more than 84,000 have less than a high school education. Yet, we are reaching just over 5,000 through existing programs.  Reaching more people and improving their skills will also improve their wages and economic outlook.  The Strengthening Research in Adult Education Act is a needed step in the right direction.  It will help formulate innovative, research-based methods to boost impact and reach more adults in Rhode Island and nationwide,” said Senator Reed.

Specifically, the Strengthening Research in Adult Education Act will require the Institute for Education Sciences and the National Center for Education Statistics to carry out research in communities across the country and collect data on:

  • Successful state and local adult education and literacy activities;
  • The characteristics and academic achievement of adult learners, and;
  • Access to and opportunity for adult education, including digital and information literacy skills development.

This legislation is supported by the Coalition on Adult Basic Education and National Coalition for Literacy.

“The 79,000 adult educators and nearly 1 million adult learners have been left out of our national research system for too long. We need to prioritize research on best practices in adult education instruction to ensure that educators, stakeholders and policymakers have relevant and recent research to guide their decision-making. The Strengthening Research in Adult Education Act does just that. COABE is greatly appreciative of Senator Jack Reed and Senator Todd Young’s engagement with the adult education field to develop this bill and is proud to announce its strong support of the bill,” said Sharon Bonney, CEO of the Coalition for Adult Education (COABE).

“The bipartisan Strengthening Research in Adult Education Act addresses a critical omission in the Education Sciences Reform Act by ensuring that adult education and family literacy will be fully included in federal research on successful educational models. The National Coalition for Literacy commends Senator Reed and Senator Young for their dedication to expanding the research base in ways that will increase options and opportunities for all adults,” said Deborah Kennedy, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Literacy.