Maryland Workforce Creation and Adult Education Transition Council
Promising Practices Research Briefs: Executive Summary
In support of the work of the Adult Education Working Group and the Maryland Workforce Creation and
Adult Education Transition Council, SRI International has reviewed state and national initiatives to identify
promising practices for integrating state adult education and workforce development programs. The case
for closer alignment of adult education and workforce development systems is clear. Increasing adult
education services within a seamless adult learning system is vital to future workforce creation in
Key recent policy documents describe three converging forces that make workforce creation a priority for
all states. The first is the divergent skill distribution - the wide disparity in literacy and math skills among
our school-age and adult population, unevenly distributed across groups defined by race/ethnicity,
country of birth and socioeconomic status. The second is the changing economy - changes that have
resulted in globalization and a profound restructuring of the U.S. workplace. To keep good jobs from
leaving the U.S., many more adults will require at least some postsecondary education or training. The
third force is sweeping demographic changes. As baby boomers retire, our population will become
increasingly older and more diverse, with immigration having a significant impact on the composition of
the workforce. Unless the education of less skilled adults, youth and immigrants is significantly ramped
up, there simply will not be enough skilled workers to meet the need in Maryland.
The review of national and state-level research indicates a compelling case for the need to 1) more
closely link education and workforce strategies with economic development and employer needs and 2)
increase postsecondary access and success rates of low-wage and low-skill adults. SRI reviewed
strategies and promising practices that states are using to accomplish these two goals. These findings
are summarized in a set of six Promising Practices Research Briefs covering the following topics:
Promising Practices Research Topics
1. Expanding access of low income adult learners and out-of-school youth to learning opportunities
and credentials through: flexible instructional services; increased instructional time; support
services; technology and distance learning; fiscal and other supports to remove barriers to
continuing education; and accessible information on employment and education opportunities.
2. Expanding model programs that support successful transitions between adult education,
postsecondary education and training, and employment.
3. Building public awareness, increasing demand for adult education services, unifying initiatives
and reporting progress on key goals linked to targeted economic and social outcomes.
4. Developing a seamless adult learning and workforce development system through
coordinated state, regional and local partnerships, including strong business and postsecondary
5. Integrating adult, workforce and postsecondary data systems and using data to measure
progress against short- and long-term targets linked to key outcomes.
6. Enhancing professional development and communication among adult education
practitioners and coordinating program improvement with workforce development providers,
business and industry and postsecondary educators.
SRI International – Promising Practices Research Briefs: Executive Summary 1
Promising Practices Research Brief 1: Expanding Access
Meeting the 21 century demand for adult learning in Maryland will require expansion of access and
participation in adult learning services. Research Brief 1 summarizes data on access to the current adult
education system by key target populations and highlights promising practices in expanding access to
adult learning in Virginia, Kentucky, and New York. Topics include:
Clarifying access for primary target populations for adult education.
Providing flexible services, support services, and distance learning options.
Increasing access to the GED and high school credentials.
Improving adult learner recruitment and retention.
Maryland Adult Learning Needs
According to population estimates from the 2007 American Community Survey, of Maryland’s
3,598,475 working age adults (ages 18 – 64), 2,149,003 have not completed a 2-year, 4-year, or
postgraduate degree. Among these working age adults without a postsecondary degree in
778,800 (36.2%) have completed some college, but have not earned a degree
991,285 (46.1%) have a high school degree but have not entered college
378,918 (17.6%) have not completed high school or the equivalent
Limited English proficiency is another important factor affecting job opportunities and earnings.
116,199 (3.2%) of Maryland’s working age adults (ages 18 – 64) speak little or no English.
Promising Practices Brief 2: Model Programs that Support Transitions
Innovative adult learning programs no longer simply focus on basic language and literacy skills
acquisition and high school completion. Though these goals remain at the core of adult education
programs, successful programs must also help adult learners acquire work readiness and readiness for
the postsecondary education and training required for entry to life-sustaining career pathways. Research
Brief 2 highlights promising practices in aligning adult education with access to higher education, work
readiness and high-demand jobs in Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and
Washington. Topics include:
Working with partners in workforce development, postsecondary education, and business
to develop regional industry-based career pathways.
Developing programs that accelerate advancement from adult basic education and ESL
courses into postsecondary education.
Concurrent learning through dual enrollment, apprenticeships, work-study and other
options that combine adult and postsecondary education or adult education and work.
New approaches to contextualized work readiness.
Pairing ABE/ESL and Technical Instructions: The I-BEST Model
Washington adult and workforce educators have had considerable success in improving college-going
rates among adult basic education and ESL students through their I-BEST approach. ABE/ESL instructors
and community college technical instructors co-teach courses that contextualize basic skills and job
training within the same class. Integrating basic skills into technical education shortens the length of time
it takes to earn college credentials, allows students to earn dual credits and provides intensive guidance
for students on meeting the demands of college. Evaluation studies reveal students learn faster and are
15 times more likely to complete training.
SRI International – Promising Practices Research Briefs: Executive Summary 2
Promising Practices Research Brief 3: Building Awareness and Setting
Building broad public understanding of the long-term labor shortages and economic benefits of educating
adults and setting clear goals and achievable targets will be an important early and on-going aspect of
expanding access to adult learning services. Research Brief 3 contains information on national initiatives
and promising practices in Michigan, Kentucky, and Washington designed to build public awareness of
the value and benefits of adult learning. Topics include:
Making the case for investing in adult learning and workforce development.
Documenting the need for adult learning services.
Organizing initiatives around a few key measurable goals linked to targeted outcomes.
Reporting regular progress toward the goals to build on-going support.
Kentucky Adult Education Report Card 2005
In 2000, only 5.0 percent of the 996,000* adult Kentuckians functioning at the lowest levels of literacy
were participating in adult education programs. (*Kentucky Adult Literacy Survey, 1997)
Kentucky measures its success in adult education with five questions.
Are more Kentuckians participating in adult education programs?
Are more adult education students meeting their educational goals?
Are more adult education students advancing on to postsecondary education?
Are more adult education students prepared for employment?
Are Kentucky’s communities and economy benefiting?
Promising Practices Research Brief 4: Developing a Seamless Adult
Learning and Workforce Development System
Throughout the nation, state leaders are responding to the pressing need to better coordinate and align
adult learning and workforce development systems. Research Brief 4 highlights best practices,
recommendations and lessons that can be learned from other states and national policymakers who have
addressed the issue of creating a seamless adult learning and workforce creation system. Models from
Kentucky, Washington, Massachusetts, and Oregon are highlighted. Topics include:
State-wide planning to promote alignment and fiscal support around a common vision,
goals and targeted outcomes.
Strengthening local, regional and state partnerships that support adult education, workforce
development, and integration with community college systems.
Industry support for regional sector strategies and planning to create career pathways
Innovative approaches that create seamless transitions from adult to community college
education and training and increase affordability and access for low-income adults.
Washington Skill Panels
To address its pressing skill shortage, Washington drew upon the key stakeholders in its workforce
development system, including organized labor, business, and education, to establish industry Skill
Panels. The Skill Panels are public-private partnerships among labor, education, and business
representatives who are charged with improving career opportunities for workers and responding to
employer needs for an efficient, productive workforce. Each Skill Panel in a region is coordinated by and
receives staff support from a community college, a local workforce board, a local Chamber of Commerce
or some other workforce intermediary. The Washington State Workforce Training and Education
Coordinating Board provides each Skill Panel with a small investment that often leverages other financial
support from local, regional, federal, and private-sector sources.
SRI International – Promising Practices Research Briefs: Executive Summary 3
Promising Practices Research Brief 5: Integrating Data Systems
Improvements in data management and use are needed to create the basis for data-informed decision-
making. Research Brief 5 highlights promising models for data systems in Florida, Tennessee, and
Washington. Topics include:
Sharing information across agencies and programs.
Tracking participants in adult learning and workforce development over time.
Using data to monitor and plan program quality and improvement.
Florida’s K-20 Education Data Warehouse
Florida’s K-20 Education Data Warehouse (EDW) is operated and maintained by the Florida
Department of Education. Using data mining technology, the EDW system extracts data from multiple
sources and makes it available at the state level. The EDW provides a single source for data
concerning students in the K-20 public education system. Student data collected includes
demographics, enrollment information, courses, test scores, financial aid, awards, and employment.
The EDW is linked to the Florida Education and Training Placements Information Program (FETPIP), a
source for information on employment, earnings, postsecondary education, welfare, incarceration, and
licensure. State-of-the-art analytical capabilities provide easy access to information and longitudinal
tracking of state education and workforce development participants through EDW.
Promising Practices Research Brief 6: Enhancing Professional Development
State systems moving toward integration of adult education, workforce development, and postsecondary
preparation all share a strong commitment to enhancing professional development. Recent trends among
states include increased minimum professional development time, and required professional development
plans and orientation for new teachers. Research Brief 6 highlights promising practices for professional
development in Tennessee, Ohio, and Massachusetts. Topics include:
Improving professional communication and collaboration by using a well-developed and
frequently updated state website and by establishing statewide or regional professional
development centers that coordinate a menu of professional development activities.
Increasing the amount of paid professional development time and paid time to participate in
program and state improvement efforts, requiring new teachers to participate in induction and
orientation activities rewarding more experienced teachers, and requiring annual program-level
professional development plans.
Establishing new requirements for teachers to be credentialed or certified and conducting
annual evaluations of the teaching workforce and of the scale and impact of professional
Tennessee’s Adult Education Professional Development
Framework and Tracking System
Developed by the Center for Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee, the tracking system allows
practitioners to document professional development and accumulate points towards level designations and
incentives for teachers completing each of three levels of professional expertise.
SRI International – Promising Practices Research Briefs: Executive Summary 4