The Houston Center for Literacy, Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, as part of an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) research-practitioner partnership with researchers at the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy at Pennsylvania State University, will develop new foundational tools and collaborative approaches that support the implementation of effective adult career pathways across diverse adult education systems in large urban areas. Specific objectives include:
1) Developing an online communications platform, initially targeting literacy practitioners, such as community colleges, school districts, community-based organizations, libraries, and workforce agencies, in three cities;
2) Engaging national advisory partners and local practitioners to help identify and promote promising urban practices through the website, which will feature relevant resources (such as curriculum, program models, and implementation guides) and evidence-based research findings; and
3) Expanding resources for the sustained research and evaluation of promising urban practices in adult literacy in a manner that engages other cities and builds organizations abilities to adopt, replicate, and further refine effective strategies.
The city leads and Penn State researchers will jointly achieve these objectives through in-person meetings, virtual tools, and field-testing the new communications platform in the three cities. The partners will meet as a steering group over the two-year timeline to develop, share, and review work products (i.e., the online platform, engagement activities, and participation in IES research tasks).
The prototype website will initially serve as a tool to inform local practitioners in the three cities about the research goals and tasks needed to complete the IES research plan, helping prepare the site to ultimately serve as a forum for other cities interested in strengthening promising practices for urban adult pathways. Within each city, lead agencies will activate their networks and reach out to constituent organizations around this new initiative, via email and in-person events that draw attention and bring traffic to the website. Additional website enhancements may include the profiling of urban-specific needs and policy issues, the use of webinars, and the development of city-specific areas of the site to support the exchange of practices within urban areas.
Fall 2015 Multi-city meeting at National Career Pathways Network (NCPN), where key partners will determine the scope, purposes, and technical needs of the website, including at minimum the uses to support IES research activities and communicate consistent messages across diverse systems in three cities.
Winter 2016 First CGI report re: initial website development and local outreach activities, including plan for further development of online features and necessary financial resources.
Spring 2016 Multi-city meeting at Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE), addressing plans to improve engagement of local and national partners (including fundraising).
Fall 2016 Multi-city meeting/presentation at National Career Pathways Network (NCPN), providing visibility for urban research/practitioner partnership goals, progress, and resources.
Winter 2017 Second CGI report re: expanded website and engagement of local and national advisory partners.
Spring 2017 Multi-city meeting/presentation at Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) to update and inform the field on urban research/practitioner partnership goals and resources, including initial findings from the research project.
Winter 2018 Final CGI report assessing accomplishments, future potential for the initiative, and next steps to advance research on promising practices across systems and cities.
Research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that one in six American adults have less-than-basic literacy and nearly one in three have less-than-basic numeracy skills. To remedy this situation, there is increasing consensus that the alignment of adult education to career pathways is critical for this segment of the American population. Making adult education more career-oriented can motivate unemployed and under-employed adults to gain the basic skills needed to navigate employment pipelines. In addition, the recently passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) calls for broad adoption of a career pathways framework across both the adult education and workforce development fields, creating a supportive context for new solutions to be pursued.
In achieving this alignment, urban literacy systems present unique challenges and opportunities. Cities have significantly higher concentrations of low-skilled adults, a complex mix of demographic needs and economic strengths, and a wider range of adult education and workforce development providers. Urban practitioners serve a disproportionate share of adult and workforce training needs, both within their states and nationally. For example, while Chicagos Cook County, Houstons Harris County, and Miami-Dade County are collectively home to 20 percent of the adult populations in their states, they have fully 25 percent of the adults without diplomas and over 35 percent of the adults who speak limited English. In the national context, these three urban areas are home to over five percent of the nations adults without a high school degree, and nearly ten percent of all U.S. residents with limited-English proficiency.
Still, major gaps in actions remain when it comes to realizing the potential of adult education. In a major assessment, the National Research Council concluded that adult literacy is critical to national economic prosperity, yet its practices vary widely, lack alignment, and suffer from a striking absence of relevant research. From the practitioner perspective, the demand for sharing promising practices across peer providers and cities was formally endorsed by five multi-agency teams during the Great Cities Summits on Adult Education, convened by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 and 2011, but no comprehensive effort to date has attempted to meet this need.
The commitment-makers are seeking $75,000 in matching funds and in-kind technology and marketing expertise to strengthen the capacity and quality of the new, multi-city online platform, to strengthen the active engagement of diverse local practitioner agencies through targeted activities in each city, and ultimately to develop high-quality profiles and video documentation of selected career pathway practices for the website.
The commitment-makers are also seeking national and regional partners willing to share and help develop urban-focused research findings and promising practices relevant to adult education and career pathways. Partners with relevant research will be encouraged to share content via the online platform, as well as disseminate content, research findings, and ongoing project activities via other networks and media platforms, so as to elevate and extend the impact of the initiative. By the end of the two-year period, advisory partners will help to provide information to strengthen a plan for sustained, long-term research on promising urban practices, including but not limited to larger-scale IES research projected by the initial core partners, extending the impact of the urban strategy to other cities and research partners.
As a practical matter, the two-year action plan will be sustained in large measure by a grant award for a multi-city research plan. Specific assets related to this commitment include the following. Financially, the budget reflects direct funding for biannual meetings and ongoing coordination services (i.e., grant sub-awards to the city lead agencies, Aug. 2015-July 2017).
Additionally, though not included in this budget, value will be added to the online platform through joint research work with university partners (i.e., the initial mapping of diverse delivery systems and adult career pathway innovations), which will provide content for the online platform and form a second phase of collaborative work. Beyond the grant, the agencies bring goodwill assets to the project including the earlier designation as Great Cities lead agencies for the three cities, the initial national advisory partners (Jobs for the Future, Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, and Literacy Powerline), and relationships with strong urban partners (including past Great Cities colleagues in New York City and Los Angeles).