[AAACE-NLA] What should we do about federally-funded adult education research?

David Rosen DJRosen at theworld.com
Fri May 14 15:01:42 EDT 2010

Advocacy colleagues,

Tom Sticht wrote:
> I wonder if anyone recalls the following message which started
> the strand labeled Pre- and Post-NIFL Agenda and if so are there  
> thoughts
> about advancing the research and dissemination agenda for the Dept.  
> of Ed.
> after NIFL disappears this Fall?

We no longer have funding for an independent adult literacy education  
research center. We no longer have research funded by the National  
Institute for Literacy. Instead, I believe, there is a small amount of  
money -- if I recall correctly, about $2 million -- which the U.S.  
Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences (IES) is  
supposed to use for adult literacy education research. Adult Education  
is one of the 15 areas of research listed at http://ies.ed.gov/funding/ncer_progs.asp

Here's a description from that web page of what that research is  
supposed to do:
Program Announcement: Adult Education CFDA 84.305A
Program Officer:
Dr. Elizabeth Albro
(202) 219-2148
Elizabeth.Albro at ed.gov

Through its Adult Education research program, the Institute intends to  
contribute to improvement of basic reading, writing, and mathematics  
skills of adult learners by: (1) exploring malleable factors1 (e.g.,  
adults' skills, instructional practices, curricula) that are  
associated with better student outcomes, as well as mediators and  
moderators of the relations between these factors and student  
outcomes, for the purpose of identifying potential targets of  
intervention; (2) developing innovative interventions (e.g.,  
curricula, instructional practices, and technology) for improving  
reading, writing, and mathematics skills of adult learners; (3)  
evaluating fully developed interventions for improving reading,  
writing, and mathematics skills of adult learners through efficacy or  
replication trials; (4) evaluating the impact of interventions that  
are implemented at scale; and (5) developing and validating  
assessments for use in adult education settings.

The long-term outcome of this program will be an array of tools and  
strategies (e.g., assessments, instructional approaches, programs)  
that have been documented to be effective for improving reading,  
writing, and mathematics skills of adult learners

1 By malleable factors, we mean factors that can be changed and are  
potential targets for intervention.

On April 8th IES issued a two-round Request for Applications, with  
Letters of Intent due in April and July, and Applications due in June  
and September.

Right now, that's what we have for federally-funded adult literacy  
education research, and, as far as I know, only that. Some researchers  
I have talked with are concerned that:

1) there is now only a very small amount of money for federally-funded  
adult education research, a fraction of the funding that existed when  
NIFL and NCSALL or NCAL were in operation.
2) because the research is now directly administered by the Department  
of Education's IES (this was not the case for NIFL, NCSALL or NCAL)  
that some kinds of research, for example independent research or  
evaluation on the effectiveness of the National Reporting System, will  
not be funded.
3) there is lack of information about how the research agenda was  
formed, what independent adult education research experts may or may  
not have been consulted in forming the agenda, how the IES is/isn't or  
will/won't be guided by Adult Education Research expertise, and that
4) the U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse, after  
having removed adult education as one of its  topic areas a few years  
ago, presumably because there was no research that passed muster, the  
topic area has not been restored. Presumably there is not yet any  
research worthy of being included in the What Works Clearinghouse for  
Adult Education. If that's the case, then drastically cutting federal  
money for adult education research does not appear to most researchers  
to be a good solution to this problem.

There may also be other concerns that I am not aware of.

To answer your question, Tom, I think we need to:

1. advocate the return to a model of federal funding for an  
independent (university/ies-sponsored) adult education research center
2. urge the National Coalition for Literacy, and all its voting  
national member organizations (COABE, State Directors, ProLiteracy,  
TESOL, and others) to make a well-funded, independent research center  
one of its top three priorities
3. include this as a high priority in our field's federal advocacy work.

David J. Rosen
Adult Literacy Advocate
DJRosen at theworld.com

On May 11, 2010, at 6:27 PM, tsticht at znet.com wrote:

> Colleagues: I wonder if anyone recalls the following message which  
> started
> the strand labled Pre- and Post-NIFL Agenda and if so are there  
> thoughts
> about advancing the research and dissemination agenda for the Dept.  
> of Ed.
> after NIFL disappears this Fall?
> Tom Sticht
> Pre- and Post-NIFL Agenda
> tsticht at znet.com tsticht at znet.com
> Thu Apr 8 14:32:23 EDT 2010
> Colleagues:
> In July 1991, the President of the United States signed Public Law  
> 102-73
> which, among other things, established the National Institute for  
> Literacy
> (NIFL). The law called on the NIFL to conduct basic and applied  
> research
> and demonstrations. Though the actual agenda for the NIFL was not
> specified, examples of questions to be addressed were given. These
> included:
> 1. How do adults learn to read and write and acquire other skills
> (listening, speaking, reasoning, etc.)?
> 2. How does the literacy level of the parents affect the skills  
> development
> and schooling of the parent's children?
> 3. What are better ways to assess literacy skills?
> 4. How can better instructional programs be developed?
> 5. What are good methods for assisting adults and families to acquire
> literacy skills, including the use of technology; methods for adults  
> with
> special learning needs (learning disabilities), and limited English
> proficient (LEP) adults?
> 6. How can the most disadvantaged be effectively reached and taught  
> literacy
> skills?
> 7. How can technology be used to instruct and to increase the  
> knowledge
> base?
> 8. How can research effort of others be built on?
> 9. How can the field attract, train and retrain professional and  
> volunteer
> teachers?
> We are now in 2010, 20 years after the NIFL was established, and  
> approaching
> the disestablishment of NIFL in 2011. I am wondering what adult  
> literacy
> professionals think of these questions:
> A. were they appropriate for the work of the NIFL, if so,
> B. how well have they been addressed, and
> C. if there were other questions that took priority and were  
> addressed by
> the NIFL,
> D. and how any one or all of these activities have improved the  
> field of
> adult literacy education up to now.
> Are the orginal questions the NIFL aimed to address the ones that the
> Division of Adult Education and Literacy should address going forth  
> from
> now? Are there new questions moving forward from now?
> Tom Sticht
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