Better Together: Realigning Pre-College Skills Development Programs to Achieve Greater Academic Success for Adult Learners

This report examines three partnerships between adult education programs and developmental education in community colleges and provides recommendations to help adult learners develop skills to be successful in postsecondary education. 

G. Mwase
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Jobs for the Future
National Council for Workforce Education
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

This report, a publication of the Better Together initiative, provides a background and rationale for aligning two separate systems: adult education and developmental education. In the report, three initiatives are described in which partnerships have been created and alignments made between adult basic education programs and developmental education in community colleges that seek to enable low-skilled adult learners to enter into and succeed in community college. These partnerships include:

  • Kentucky – the Educational Enrichment Services Program, a collaboration between Jefferson County Community and Technical College and Jefferson County Public Schools Adult and Continuing Education
  • North Carolina – Achieving College/Career Entry (ACE), an initiative designed to create a seamless transition from basic skills to credit courses for college students with low skills at Davidson County Community College, and
  • Oregon – a collaboration between Portland Community College and the Adult Basic Skills Program.

As a result of these collaborations and alignment efforts, several program enhancements have been documented and include:

  1. Expansion of pre-college skills development through Adult Basic Education Programs
  2. More instruction focused on skills gaps
  3. Greater supportive services to promote persistence and retention of learners, and
  4. Shared instructional and other resources.

The publication also provides discussion of challenges encountered in these collaborations in terms of policy actions and policy barriers and concludes with recommendations for state-level policymakers.

What the experts say

This report examines three partnerships between adult education programs and developmental education in community colleges and provides recommendations to help adult learners develop skills to be successful in postsecondary education. Recommendations are provided in the report for aligning services and practices of the two systems, rather than merging them. As funding for adult education programs and postsecondary institutions decreases, there is a need to align the services that each provides so that resources are utilized more efficiently and duplication of services can be avoided. As states look to be more economically competitive and maintain a competent and skilled workforce, the alignment of these two systems has economic advantages in promoting efficient uses of education dollars.

Program administrators, instructors, and state staff can benefit from the descriptions of three partnerships which align adult education services with developmental education. The diverse governance and policies and practices of each featured program provide a view of how alignment can take place in a variety of circumstances and challenges. Yet amid this diversity, the author points to program enhancements which have emerged through the alignment process. These include innovative instructional practices, shared resources and professional development, improved support services for students, and enhanced computer-based instruction.

The details of the three case studies might help program administrators to identify relationships that they can foster or programs that they might implement to facilitate student success for transitioning. State staff will also find the policy actions taken by the three programs instructive. The recommendations for state policymakers may be of particular interest as scarce public resources must be stretched to build capacity for pre-college skill development.

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