IES grant to enable study of large-city, adult-education career pathways programs
College of Education associate professor Esther Prins has been awarded a two-year, Institute of Education Sciences grant worth nearly $400,000 in order to help augment adult education career pathways programs in three major cities.
Researchers will work with representatives of adult education programs in Chicago, Houston and Miami to identify the short- and long-term outcomes adult education agencies report for career pathways participants, particularly immigrants and adults with limited education or skills.
The program is designed to help adult education agency staff learn about each other’s programs, data measurement systems and outcomes.
Prins’ co-principal investigator is Carol Clymer, co-director of Penn State’s Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy and Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy. Three other co-PI’s are Sheri Foreman Elder of the Houston Center for Literacy, Mark Needle of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Rebecca Raymond of Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition and Blaire Willson Toso, a College of Education research associate.
“This grant is exciting because there is so little funding available for adult education research, and the adult basic education system is so fragmented,’’ Prins said. “The grant seeks to address the very fragmentation that we described in the proposal, chiefly by helping to map the landscape of adult education career pathways in three large cities.’’
The partnership process between city agencies establishes research as a backbone strategy to advance shared interests, according to the grant proposal. An Adult Education Great Cities Summit Project (2009-11) prompted a multi-city coalition to develop consensus on literacy and workforce solutions and speak with a unified voice to improve adult education outcomes. New York and Los Angeles have since removed themselves because those cities' were undergoing major changes that precluded their involvement, Prins explained.
Leaders from the Great Cities team sought the assistance of the co-directors of Penn State’s Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy/Goodling Institute at the 2013 National Conference on Family Literacy to form a researcher-practitioner partnership, Prins said.
Officials from the major cities involved recognized that an urban adult education partnership had considerable potential to research exemplary and effective practice, to understand systemic issues and challenges of implementing these practices in urban settings, and to test promising interventions.
Given the prominence and roles of the participating agencies, the partnership is also in a strong position to influence public policy that addresses common needs, the grant proposal said.
“The opportunity to learn more about career pathway accessibility for low-income populations is critically important in the current policy environment that emphasizes transitions to post-secondary education and employment for adult education students,’’ said Clymer, Prins’ co-principal investigator.
Jim Carlson (July 2015)