Issue 524 OCTAE Connection November 17, 2016

OCTAE Newsletter

November 17, 2016

OCTAE Hosts First Advancing Equity Symposium

On Oct. 31, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education hosted its first Advancing Equity Symposium to support the increased emphasis the Obama Administration is giving to equity for all populations across the education spectrum.  The symposium featured a keynote address by Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., a discussion with senior Department of Education officials on advancing equity through federally funded initiatives, a variety of smaller sessions addressing issues and concerns regarding equity, a discussion of “implicit bias” and “systemic inequities,” and a panel of students on their experiences with equity. 

A number of central themes were presented; beginning with Secretary King’s opening remarks emphasizing the need for enhancing equity of access, quality, and results in order to help more Americans achieve their academic, career, and civic goals.  This, the secretary acknowledged, is a formidable challenge because equity concerns affect many diverse groups of students—first generation and low-income students; students of color; older students facing the challenge of juggling jobs, families, and education; and returning students intent on completing their education goals. 

The symposium also focused on how best to serve these various groups of students.  Several speakers acknowledged that while much has been done to promote equity in access, quality, and results, much more remains to be done.  Inequity persists in many dimensions of education.  Students in poverty attend high-poverty schools at a much higher rate than their more affluent peers.  Less experienced and less qualified teachers often are concentrated in schools and districts serving low-income students.  High-poverty schools tend to offer less well-rounded curricula and fewer advanced courses.  It therefore is no surprise that affluent students attend and graduate from college at significantly higher rates than their lower-income peers.  Access is not enough.  Access without quality perpetuates the inequity that low-income students encounter.  

Matters that affect low-income students overlap with those facing first generation students; students with limited English language proficiency; students with disabilities; older students; and other groups that struggle to achieve the same access, quality, and results as their more-advantaged peers. The disparities persist beyond schooling.  Employer-provided training tends to focus on college graduates, with much less training provided to those employees with limited college experience or only a high school diploma, or those who did not complete secondary schooling.  Adult education, while available to a limited number of those needing assistance, does not have the capacity to make up the large differences that exist. 

Symposium participants pointed to efforts that are being made to overcome the equity gap, but as a whole, these efforts remain inadequate in both scope and quality.  Both the need and the challenge are great.  Achieving equity of access, quality, and results are key goals to our success as a nation and to the success of all Americans. 

For more information, click on this link to all the plenary sessions, Advancing Equity Symposium Videos and this link to OCTAE’s Advancing Equity Community of Practice, 

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National Governors Association Releases New Brief on State Strategies to Scale Quality Work-Based Learning

According to the National Governors Association (NGA), preparing a workforce with the skills necessary to make states more economically competitive is a top priority for governors across the United States. This priority is discussed in a new NGA report, State Strategies to Scale Quality Work-Based Learning. The report discusses ways to prepare the workforce with demand-driven skills to meet the needs of businesses and make states more economically competitive. It may be of interest to programs and entities responsible for the learning needs of individuals already in the workforce and those looking to upgrade their skill levels. 

According to the report, industries across all states are struggling to find qualified applicants for jobs at the same time that job-seekers are finding they do not have the skills needed to enter the workforce or progress along a career pathway. Thus, there is a growing mismatch between the needs of industry and the skills of American workers that has resulted in a significant negative impact on the economic competitiveness of a state. 

Information was drawn from a roundtable of experts in work-based learning convened by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) in late 2015. It highlights the experiences of the six states participating in an NGA Center policy academy focused on scaling work-based learning programs in high-demand, middle-skills science, technology, engineering, and math careers. 

According to the NGA, governors—working with their industry, education, and workforce partners—are uniquely positioned to scale and sustain participation in high-quality, work-based learning. They are able to achieve this by elevating high-quality, work-based learning; implementing state-led pilots; building an infrastructure to scale and sustain efforts; and providing incentives to host and support work-based learning opportunities.

To learn more about state strategies to scale up the quality of work-based learning, please access the full brief.

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Sustainability Toolkit Launched by the U.S. Department of Labor

The new Sustainability Toolkit was released recently by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration as part of its technical assistance for Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grantees. It provides a framework that can be used by a wide range of grantees.  The tool kit allows for self-assessment in six areas that support the sustainability of programs and innovations developed by grantees. 

To access the TAACCCT Sustainability Toolkit, please visit the TAACCCT Community of Practice on Workforce GPS at

You can also listen to the TAACCCT Sustainability Toolkit Launch Webinar on Workforce GPS here, It includes examples of how TAACCCT grantees are actively engaged in sustainability planning.  

Back to Top Your Place for Finding Over 6,500 Free Workforce Development Resources

Looking for free resources to aid in designing, managing, and expanding courses for career training? SkillsCommons is an online repository hosting thousands of free and openly licensed course and educational program support materials being developed by nearly 700 colleges across the U.S., funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s TAACCCT grant program. 

More than 6,500 resources are already available for download, featuring curricula for both short and long-term courses leading to industry-certified credentials in 16 high-demand fields, such as manufacturing, healthcare, energy, and information technology. While there are multiple repositories of open educational resources (OER), SkillsCommons is the world’s largest OER project featuring job-driven workforce development materials, with more resources being added continually. All teaching, learning, and supporting materials on SkillsCommons are available under a Creative Commons license (CC BY) that allows others to use and adapt the materials for free, including commercial use of derivatives. To date, the site has already generated more than 150,000 downloads. 

SkillsCommons has implemented seven types of “makeover strategies” to illustrate how innovative technologies can be applied to the site’s content to create engaging, interactive educational materials tailored to the needs of students. The strategies provide “before” and “after” views of content using different designs and highlighting the advantages of the new derivative works. These strategies include support for interactive content (including games, quizzes, and mobile-friendly content), learning management systems, eBooks, and much more. is designed and managed by California State University (CSU) and its Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) program under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor. Extensive user support resources are available on the website, and the SkillsCommons CSU-MERLOT team of leaders, librarians, educators, and developers are available to assist anyone interested in using and adapting the OER on SkillsCommons. 

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Highlights from the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults: Their Skills, Work Experience, Education, and Training

On Nov. 15, 2016, the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics released the latest installment of findings from the Survey of Adult Skills, part of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). This report, Highlights from the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults: Their Skills, Work Experience, Education, and Training, presents new data collected from a nationally representative sample of incarcerated men and women, ages 18–74, in 98 state and federal prisons in 2014. It describes the literacy and numeracy levels of these adults by age, gender, and ethnicity and compares these findings to the general household population, which was surveyed in 2012 and supplemented in 2014. The survey’s background questionnaire, adapted for the incarcerated population, provides a rich profile of background data, work experiences, and education and training participation patterns while in prison.

Listed below are key findings in literacy and numeracy from the report:

  • The average literacy score for the U.S. prison population was lower than the average literacy score for the U.S. household population, and a higher percentage of incarcerated adults (29 percent) were low-skilled (scored below PIAAC’s Level 2) in literacy compared to adults in the U.S. household population (19 percent).
  • While the average literacy score for incarcerated white adults was lower than the average score for white adults in the U.S. household population, the average literacy scores for incarcerated black and Hispanic adults were not measurably different from the average literacy scores for black and Hispanic adults in the U.S. household population.
  • The average numeracy score for the U.S. prison population was much lower than the average numeracy score for the U.S. household population, putting a higher percentage of incarcerated adults (52 percent) in the low-skilled range compared to adults in the U.S. household population (29 percent). 

Echoing findings on skill levels and skill-use patterns in the household survey, incarcerated adults’ skills showed the following interesting findings related to adults’ prior and current work history:

  • Around two-thirds (66 percent) of inmates reported that they were working prior to their incarceration—about half (49 percent) were employed full-time, with another 16 percent working part-time.
  •  Adults who were employed prior to their incarcerations had higher average numeracy scores.
  •  Incarcerated adults holding a prison job had higher average literacy scores than their peers who did not have a prison job.  Yet many incarcerated workers reported that their jobs did not require the use of literacy and numeracy skills on a regular basis.
  • Those with skills certifications scored higher on literacy and numeracy than their peers without such certifications.

Previous research from the Rand Corporation and the U.S. Department of Education has shown the value of education and training in prison and the value of industry-recognized credentials to reduce recidivism. The U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults sheds light on how incarcerated adults are participating—or not—as follows:

  • Fifty-eight percent of incarcerated adults completed no further formal education beyond the level they had on their entry to prison, and 21 percent obtained a high school credential during their current period of incarceration.
  • For incarcerated adults, more education completed was associated with higher skills in both literacy and numeracy.
  • Twenty-one percent of incarcerated adults were studying for a formal degree or credential.
  • The most desirable educational programs for incarcerated adults who wanted to enroll in academic programs were those which offered a certificate from college or trade school (29 percent). High school completion (18 percent) and associate’s degree programs (18 percent) were the next most popular.
  • Seventy percent reported that they wanted to enroll in an academic class or program, but twenty-five percent of these adults were on a waiting list for academic classes or programs of study in 2014.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 600,000 individuals are released from prison each year in the United States. From the Highlights from the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults, more than half of incarcerated adults had two years or less remaining on their sentences (54 percent), with about one in five (19 percent) having fewer than six months left to serve.All related PIACC survey reports are available at

All related PIACC survey reports are available at

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