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The Impact of ABS Program Participation on Long-Term GED Attainment

This report utilizes Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning (LSAL) data to examine long-term impacts of Adult Basic Skills (ABS) program participation on GED attainment.
Author(s): 
Stephen Reder, PhD.
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation: 
Department of Applied Linguistics, Portland State University
NOVA Research Company
Published: 
2014
Resource Type: 
Research
Number of Pages: 
8
Abstract: 

The Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning (LSAL) compared adult literacy development among program participants and nonparticipants across multiple contexts and over significant periods of time to provide a life-wide and lifelong perspective on adult literacy development and a better assessment of program impact on a range of outcome measures. LSAL randomly sampled about 1,000 high school dropouts and followed them for nearly a decade from 1998–2007. LSAL followed both participants and nonparticipants in Adult Basic Skills (ABS) programs, assessing their literacy skills and skill uses over long periods of time, along with changes in their social, educational, and economic status, offering a rich picture of adult literacy development.

Research Question: This report, the third of a series of Research Briefs that utilize LSAL data to examine long-term impacts of ABS program participation on a range of outcome measures, considers the following research question: What is the impact of participating in an ABS program on subsequent GED attainment?

Results: The rate of GED attainment was higher among individuals who participated in ABS programs (35%) than among nonparticipants (25%). Although individuals used a variety of methods for GED preparation, including ABS program participation, GED attainment rates for all groups appear to have been elevated substantially by program participation. A variety of treatment effects models were used to match groups of ABS participants and nonparticipants and compare their rates of GED attainment. All models estimate significant impacts of ABS participation on GED attainment.

Limitations: The treatment effects models use propensity score matching to control selection bias in comparing ABS participants and nonparticipants. Although these methods match groups reasonably well in terms of their observable individual characteristics, they do not control for differences in unobserved individual characteristics between the groups.

Benefits and Uses: 

Although ABS program evaluation and accountability reports typically show small gains for program participants in test scores and other outcomes, these studies rarely include comparison groups of nonparticipants, and most studies that do include such controls have not found statistically significant ABS program impact. Research is needed that compares long-term outcomes among program participants and nonparticipants across multiple contexts and over significant periods of time to provide a life-wide and lifelong perspective on adult literacy development and a better assessment of program impact on a range of outcome measures.

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