OVAE Connection Issue 173 - November 12, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                               OVAE Connection Issue 173 - November 12, 2013

OVAE Connection Community College Section

Dear Community and Technical College Presidents,

My name is Mark Mitsui and I am the new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges at the U.S. Department of Education, in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education. Welcome to the Community College Section of the OVAE Connection newsletter. This section will be included from time to time in order to provide you with information that we hope will be helpful to your institution. 

In this issue you will find links to resources and information about a growing and important student population, returning veterans. We invite you to join the expanding list of institutions that support the 8 Keys to Success for student veterans. You will also read about an important new report “Time for the United States to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says”. This report, which summarizes the findings in the Survey of Adult Skills by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), outlines the levels of literacy, numeracy and complex problem solving skills in a technological environment in the adult population in 23 countries including the U.S. After reading this report, I think you will agree there are some very important findings and implications for all of us in our work improving adult skill levels. Finally, we have also included an announcement about negotiated rulemaking on gainful employment. 

As always, if you have comments or feedback on our newsletter, please send them to ovaenewsletter@ed.gov

Thank you for all that you do for our students and our colleges. 

Mark Mitsui

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges

Office of Vocational and Adult Education

US Department of Education

202 245 7812


Helping Veterans Succeed on Campus: ED Initiatives, Programs and Resources

In honor of Veterans Day, OVAE has assembled the Department’s initiatives that foster postsecondary education opportunities for veterans and returning service members. Much of this work builds on Executive Order 13607 (EO), Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members, issued by President Obama on April 27, 2012. The goals of this EO are to help service members and veterans to access high-quality and affordable postsecondary learning options and to establish principles of excellence for postsecondary institutions serving service members and veterans. 

A recent initiative that supports this EO is 8 Keys to Success, which highlights ways that colleges and universities can help veterans reach their education and employment goals. The 8 Keys to Success on campus are: 

  1. “Create a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community to promote well-being and success for veterans.
  2. Ensure consistent and sustained support from campus leadership.
  3. Implement an early alert system to ensure all veterans receive academic, career, and financial advice before challenges become overwhelming.
  4. Coordinate and centralize campus efforts for all veterans, together with the creation of a designated space (even if limited in size).
  5. Collaborate with local communities and organizations, including government agencies, to align and coordinate various services for veterans.
  6. Utilize a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information on veterans, including demographics, retention and degree completion.
  7. Provide comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to veterans.
  8. Develop systems that ensure sustainability of effective practices for veterans.”

If your institution supports these eight keys, has efforts underway to help veterans succeed on campus, and would like to be added to this list of 8 Keys to Success Sites, please send an email to Marc Cole at Marc.Cole@ed.gov or call (202) 453-6358 to learn more. 

The Veterans Upward Bound program has been in place for many years as part of ED’s Federal TRIO programs, which provide discretionary grants for disadvantaged students. “Veterans Upward Bound motivates and assists veterans in the development of academic and other requisite skills necessary to gain entrance and achieve success in postsecondary education institutions. The program provides the assessment and enhancement of basic skills through counseling, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction in the core subject areas in an effort to increase the rate at which participants enroll in and complete postsecondary education.” 

To further veterans’ success in higher education and employment, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is expanding its VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) and Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) programs, which connect veterans to VA resources. Hundreds of colleges and universities are developing or expanding their veterans success centers as a result of VSOC and VITAL. VSOC is currently established at 32 campus sites in 16 states and is expanding to additional campuses. 

In 2012, OVAE published the Adult College Completion Tool Kit, targeted to, among other groups, a veteran student population. The tool kit is a collection of resources designed to connect state and local policymakers to strategies, resources, and technical assistance tools to increase the numbers of students who obtain degrees or certificates.

Time for the United States to Reskill?

The overview and main findings of the Survey of Adult Skills were released on October 8 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and presented in Issue 171 of OVAE Connection on Oct. 31. This direct assessment, part of the Program of International Assessment of Adult Competencies, (PIAAC), was conducted with nationally representative samples in 23 countries, among adults aged 16 through 65. Based on the survey, OVAE requested OECD to prepare the report, Time for the United States to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says. This report analyzes data from the survey and details the status of American adult competencies within our economic, demographic, and social structures and makes policy recommendations to boost adult skill levels.  

Time for the United States to Reskill? will be released today, Nov. 12, in a special event hosted by the Center for American Progress in partnership with the OECD. Andreas Schleicher of the OECD’s Directorate on Education and Skills will present the report’s findings followed by a response by the Department and a panel discussion among thought leaders to examine the report's themes and policy implications and recommendations. Assistant Secretary for Adult and Vocational Education Brenda Dann-Messier will speak about the national engagement effort the Department is launching to increase our capacity to improve the foundation skills of adults. She will also introduce a series of upcoming meetings that will be held across the country to aid in this effort and ask for the feedback and involvement from all interested stakeholders. The live-streamed discussion can be accessed here. 

The Survey of Adult Skills shows that our highest-skilled adults remain on par with those in other leading nations, but that, on average, American students are behind other nations in every other measure. The international rankings show that in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in a technology-rich environment, the U.S. average performance is significantly lower than the international average. The data also show that the skill levels of U.S. adults have remained stable over two decades, and that our youngest learners are not improving their skill levels. In some other countries, young adults score well above older ones and also outpace their American peers. This shows that the disadvantages children face often persist into adulthood and learning gaps, fueled by opportunity gaps, exist among American adults.  

Importantly, the report findings shine a spotlight on a portion of our population that has historically been overlooked and underserved: the large numbers of adults with very low basic skills. Adults who have trouble reading, doing math, solving problems, and using technology will find the doors of the 21st-century workforce closed to them. The OECD report offers general recommendations as to how the U.S. can be more strategic in our reforms for the low-skilled adult learner population.  

The report offers seven broad policy recommendations for the U.S. to consider. The first is to “take concerted action to improve basic skills and tackle inequities affecting sub-populations with weak skills.” This recommendation addresses the fact that there are significant weaknesses in the skills of the U.S. population, particularly among identified subgroups, where the long-term consequences of the achievement gap can be seen in the adult population. For example, Hispanics and blacks are three-to-four times more likely to have low literacy skills than whites. While the achievement gap in K–12 schooling has been closing steadily, it is not erased and the adult population’s skill profiles still bear the signs of early inequities. The OECD calls on the United States to coordinate and align federal, state, private and philanthropic efforts to improve workforce development efforts and maximize the effectiveness with which efforts reach the scale and efficacy required to make real and lasting changes to the current skills profile.  

The second recommendation, to “strengthen initial schooling for all....” also derives from the long-term effects of poor K–12 schooling, which remain a drag on adults’ skill proficiencies. Current education reforms, such as attention to early learning, dropout prevention, and adoption of more rigorous standards, should be strengthened, accelerated, and evaluated for their continued effectiveness in preparing students with strong skills. The OECD points to the experiences of other countries, such as Korea and Finland, that leveraged early PISA findings (an international skills survey conducted among 15-year-olds) as a wake up call to marshal education reforms that have yielded lasting improvements. The reforms undertaken and the measures of their success are described in a previous OECD report: Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United States

“Ensure effective and accessible education opportunities for young adults” is the third recommendation. It echoes President Obama’s call for more Americans to complete at least one year of postsecondary education and training in order to succeed in the 21st century global economy. It also reflects the efforts that are underway to reform high schools by making career and technical pathways available to more students. The OECD recognizes that although the pipeline to education exists, many low-skilled and low-income youth and adults are not able to complete their degrees or training programs. Reforms to college access, cost, and developmental education are urgently needed.  

Link efforts to improve basic skills to employability.” This fourth recommendation draws on previous OECD work in career and technical education, recognizing that the integration of basic skills and work-based learning can be a powerful accelerator for disengaged or low-skilled youth and adults. It opens what OECD calls a “virtuous cycle” of synergistic learning and motivation. This recommendation requires cooperation with employers and industry groups to embed work experiences of all kinds into education pathways and to keep job-specific skills updated in the curriculum.  

“Adapt to diversity,” the fifth recommendation, notes that within the U.S. adult profile is a range of distinct sub-populations with a variety of needs, including young immigrants with language barriers, disconnected youths, adults with learning disabilities, and dislocated workers facing digital literacy challenges. Accordingly, the adult low-skilled population is not homogenous. The OECD recommends developing a range of interventions specifically targeted to the needs and strengths of the various learners and their capacities to engage in education and training.  

The sixth recommendation, to “build awareness of the implications of weak basic skills among adults, their links with other social factors…” refers to those social factors linked to skills as revealed in this survey. These include positive civic behaviors such as voting and volunteering, as well as improving health status and prevention behaviors. In the U.S., the correlation between poor health status and low literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills is twice as strong as the international average. In fact, U.S. adults with low skills are four times more likely to report only “fair” or “poor” health. This combination presents great challenges to both the individual and the health providers to communicate and address the prevention, management, and treatment of disease and unhealthy behaviors.  

The final recommendation, to support action with evidence,” recognizes that the U.S. capacity for research and evaluation is unsurpassed and calls on the research community to pay more attention to the education and training of low-skilled youths and adults to identify a repertoire of effective, replicable, and scalable practices. To jumpstart this focus, the OECD and the Educational Testing Service are co-sponsoring a researcher training on the dataset and analysis tools this week (registration is full). The Department has also committed to further training opportunities for researchers. Future issues of OVAE Connection will give information on how to participate in these opportunities.  

Stay up to date with all the PIAAC-related publications, briefings, and events at www.piaacgateway.com.

Notice About Negotiated Rulemaking Concerning Gainful Employment Released

The following notice is a portion of 34 CFR Chapter VI, Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, Notice of Change to Schedule of Committee Meetings—Title IV Federal Student Aid Programs, Gainful Employment in a Recognized Occupation.  

On June 12, 2013, we announced our intention to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to prepare proposed regulations to establish standards for programs that prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. We also announced the schedule for committee meetings. Because of the federal government shutdown due to a lapse in appropriations, we are rescheduling the second session of committee meetings to November 18–20, 2013. In addition, the last day of the second session will end at 5:00 p.m. instead of at noon.  

The entire notice may be found here.