Investing in Quality: A BluePrint for Adult Literacy Programs and Funders

This report details 14 "Building Blocks" of a comprehensive, community-based adult literacy program, identifies the resources needed to fully implement the Building Blocks, and includes an operating budget for a local program implementing this model.

Sierra Stoneman-Bess
Ira Yankwitt
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Literacy Assistance Center
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Product Type
Target Audience

Investing in Quality was created as a tool for programs and funders to use in a variety of ways: (a) to inform new program design or development; (b) to spur program reflection and continuous improvement; (c) to understand and articulate quality program practices; (d) to identify key areas for professional development; (e) to delineate and benchmark program costs; and (f) to pave the way for funding levels that fully support sustainable, comprehensive, quality adult literacy programs and adult literacy infrastructure.

The report is divided into four main sections plus an Introduction that provides the background and context for the project. The first section summarizes the "14 Building Blocks for a Quality Adult Literacy Program" for easy reference. The second section describes each "Building Block" in detail. The third section, "Key Elements for Investment," outlines the critical areas that programs need to invest in to create high-quality, sustainable adult literacy services. Finally, the "Defining Costs" section presents a sample operating budget for a hypothetical mid-size adult literacy program that incorporates all of the Building Blocks and Key Elements for Investment.  

What the experts say

This report outlines a robust cost model of a hypothetical adult education program based on research from the question “What are the defining features of a quality literacy program and what does it cost to run one?” The authors conducted a review of the literature going back more than 20 years, and collected feedback from experts, providers, and students to identify the key features of successful adult education programs and develop the 14 Building Blocks. Adult education programs can use the sample operating budgets to compare and consider the cost of their programs.

The blueprint is intended to be used by programs and funders in a variety of ways including informing program development and continuous improvement; understanding quality practice; identifying areas for professional development; and outlining program costs. Rather than use to predict future outcomes, the authors suggest a better use would be to use the "Building Blocks" and "Key Elements" to analyze what is needed now.

Although the report is focused on New York City, its content is relevant to adult education programs in general because it is not a rigid prescription for a program; rather, the report presents a wide variety of elements from which to choose. The “blueprint” outlined in the report is flexible and adaptable based on the needs and abilities of each program, and provides a roadmap for continuous improvement. 

Resource Notice

This site includes links to information created by other public and private organizations. These links are provided for the user’s convenience. The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this non-ED information. The inclusion of these links is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse views expressed, or products or services offered, on these non-ED sites.

Please note that privacy policies on non-ED sites may differ from ED’s privacy policy. When you visit, no personal information is collected unless you choose to provide that information to us. We do not give, share, sell, or transfer any personal information to a third party. We recommend that you read the privacy policy of non-ED websites that you visit. We invite you to read our privacy policy.