State strategies to facilitate adult learners’ transitions to postsecondary opportunities

An analytical research study of six Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest Region states and their respective National Reporting System for Adult Education (NRS) data.


Hector-Mason, A., Narlock, J., Muhisani, H., & Bhatt, M. P.
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This research study explores how six Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest Region states support low skilled adults and their individual transition to postsecondary education through exploration of some of the local programs’ specific approaches, or policies. The second area of analytical discourse of this study focuses on the types of outcome data states collect and report to the NRS.  This study seeks to identify areas that could be considered for future research, justify the need for linked data systems to support decision making, and provide information on tangible alignment of best state practices that work to create more valid reporting.

Interviews were conducted with six adult education state directors from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio, and subsequently with six local adult education programs (one from each state)  to discuss strategies and hybrid program- or policy-specific sub strategies in their state, that they perceived as supporting adult learners’ transitions to postsecondary opportunities. The themes from the interview data were then categorized by state, in chart format, to give vivid examples of the similarities and differences of services offered.  Coupled with data from the NRS reports, the statistics deduced whether, or not some state strategies were more impactful on their outcomes than others based on likenesses of services provided, as well as clarified the adverse impact that standardizing NRS data can have on states because of their different policies and approaches.

Benefits and Uses

This study is an insightful resource for adult education local program administrators, researchers, policy makers and state staff. The interviews and data outlined provide pivotal examples of workable approaches. As a source of comparison for transition strategies, when linked with the NRS benchmarks in correlating categories for corresponding program years, the information the six local programs and their respective states reported, highlighted areas of strength and deficiency in service approach.

The study proposes concepts that states and local programs can use to build upon existing, or develop new collaborations for streamlining information and services (i.e. through interchangeable longitudinal data systems), as well as serves as a baseline for future research. As noted in the study, the emergence of new and unique combinations of sub strategies and hybrid strategies between the passage of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Workforce Innovation Act of 1998 suggests the need to collect and analyze more data on how states are effectively supporting the transition of adult learners to postsecondary education.

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