Certifying Adult Education Students: A Survey of State Directors of Adult Education on Certificate Programs in Use

This paper reports on survey findings on certificate programs in use by states.

Murphy, G.
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

A growing practice among adult education programs nationwide is the issuance of certificates, other than the GED, that attest to a certain level of academic attainment. This attainment may be for generic academic achievement or for the application of academic skills to employment settings. In order to learn more about this trend, as part of a larger project on student certification in adult education and workforce skills, the Council for the Advancement of Adult Literacy (CAAL) commissioned this survey. It was administered online between June and November 2010 to the state directors of adult education in the 50 states and District of Columbia. The goal was to determine from the state ABE perspective which states were awarding certificates and how they were managing their certificate programs.

This paper reports on survey findings. The certificates examined are those for which basic and employment standards have been set by valid and independent testing organizations such as those profiled in A Survey of Selected Work Readiness Certificates or by state agencies. They are not certificates awarded by proprietary institutions for successful coursework completion.

Benefits and Uses

Certification programs have a significant potential for growth across the country, but lack of data may be a major impediment. For example expanding eligibility, in effect, by changing the law to include adults age sixteen or older with high school diplomas, while retaining the exclusion of in-school youth. Critical audiences for that data could be the President, Congress, local and state executives and legislators whose support is needed for funding. Data may also be needed to demonstrate return on investment to businesses, chambers of commerce, and workforce investment boards - to show the value of hiring certificated potential and incumbent workers. Data on instructional approaches could result in improved practice. Data on the populations already served could lead to appropriate targeting.

This resource was reviewed and vetted through the Policy to Performance: Transitioning Adults to Opportunity initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education under Contract No. ED-04-CO-0051/0007.

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