IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

New Data Explore Adults’ Nondegree Credentials

By Lisa Hudson

Despite a national interest in nondegree credentials—such as postsecondary certificates, occupational certifications, and occupational licenses—there hasn’t been comprehensive, national data on these programs. However, a new report from NCES fills this gap using data from our new Adult Training and Education Survey (ATES).

These data show that 27 percent of adults have a nondegree credential and that 21 percent have completed a work experience program (such as an apprenticeship or internship). The ATES data also show that the completion of degree programs and nondegree programs are related. For example, having a certification or license is more common among adults who have a college degree than among adults with lower levels of education.  

The ATES is one component of the NCES National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES), which collects information on education-related topics that cannot be addressed through school-based surveys. It includes a suite of surveys designed to capture data related to learning at all ages. This most recent NHES administration, conducted from January to September 2016, was the first administration of the ATES. This survey was completed by a national sample of about 47,700 adults between the ages of 16 and 65.

The data show that nondegree credentialing and work experience programs are particularly common in the health care field. In fact, health care was the most common field in which both certifications and licenses were held, and the most common field for which adults had completed a work experience program.

The ATES also found that adults perceive nondegree credentials to be useful for many labor market outcomes. For example, 82 percent of adults who have a certification or license reported that it was very useful for “getting a job”, 81 percent reported that it was very useful for “keeping you marketable to employers or clients”, and 66 percent reported it that was very useful for “improving your work skills” (see figure). 

The ATES data will be available to researchers in the coming months. Check the NHES website for updates.

Education and Training Opportunities in America’s Prisons

By Dana Tofig, Communications Director, Institute of Education Sciences

The latest results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) reinforce some of what we know about the connection between education and incarceration—adults in prison, on average, have less formal education and lower literacy and numeracy skills than adults living in U.S. households.  But what about the education and training adults receive while in prison?

A recent publication—Highlights from the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults—provides information about the education and training that is received inside prison walls, in addition to providing data on the skills of incarcerated adults. This information is important because more than half of the prisoners surveyed (54 percent) were scheduled to be released within two years of their participating in PIAAC and most will likely try to enter the work force.

A look at PIAAC

The PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults was conducted in 2014 and involved a representative sample of 1,300 prisoners who took assessments in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments. Most of them also completed a questionnaire that asked about their demographics and educational attainment, among other things. The results were compared to non-incarcerated adults in U.S. households who took the same assessments and completed a similar questionnaire as part of the national PIAAC program.  

The results show that 30 percent of incarcerated adults had attained less than a high school diploma—twice the percentage for U.S. households (14 percent). And more incarcerated adults scored at the lowest levels in both the literacy and numeracy assessments (see chart).


SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, U.S. National Supplement: Prison Study 2014, PIAAC 2012/14


Education and Training in Prison

The survey results show that at least some of the prisoners had opportunities to work, take academic classes, and receive job training and certification during their current incarceration. About 61 percent of those surveyed reported having a job in prison. But many prisoners reported that their jobs “never” needed them to use the type of literacy and numeracy skills which are important in the work force.

For instance, nearly half (47 percent) of incarcerated adults with jobs reported “never” reading directions or instructions as part of their current prison job, and 82 percent reported “never” working with fractions, decimals, or percentages. By comparison, in the household population surveyed as part of PIAAC, approximately 12 percent of adults reported “never” reading directions or instructions as part of their current job, and 34 percent reported “never” working with fractions, decimals, or percentages.

In terms of education, 70 percent of prisoners who were not currently taking an academic class or program said they wanted to participate in one. Among those prisoners, the programs they most wanted to participate in were to earn a certificate from a college or trade school (29 percent), a high school diploma/GED (18 percent), an Associate’s degree (18 percent), a Bachelor’s degree (14 percent), and a pre-associate education (13 percent).

However, despite the high interest in academic programs, most prisoners surveyed (58 percent) had not furthered their education during their current incarceration (see chart).


# Rounds to zero.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, U.S. National Supplement: Prison Study 2014, PIAAC 2012/14


Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of prisoners surveyed said they had participated in some type of job training during their current incarceration and another 14 percent were on a waiting list for such training. Among those who participating in job training, 63 percent said self-improvement was an important reason for participating and 43 percent said it was to improve their post-incarceration job opportunities (respondents could choose more than one answer).

Of those who had not participated in training and were not on the wait list, 30 percent said they were not eligible to attend, 19 percent said they were not interested in the programs offered, and 11 percent said they did not have the necessary qualifications.

The results of the 2014 PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults provide a tremendous amount of information that can inform the work of researchers, policymakers, and others who are interested in the skills, education, and training of America’s prison population. Anyone interested in exploring these data can do so online through the International Data Explorer (IDE) at http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/international/ide/. For more information on PIAAC, please go to http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/.

 

Education at a Glance 2016: Situating Education Data in a Global Context

By Lauren Musu-Gillette

Putting educational and economic outcomes in the United States within a global context can help researchers, policy makers, and the public understand how individuals in the U.S. compare to their peers internationally.  Education at a Glance, an annual publication produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), provides data on the structure, finances and progress of education systems in the 35 OECD countries, including  the U.S., as well as a number of partner countries. This type of data is important to understand as our students compete in an increasingly global society.

The recently released 2016 edition of the report indicates that the U.S. is above the average on some measures, but there are others presented in the report in which the U.S. lags behind our international peers.

For instance, the share of U.S. adults with a postsecondary education remains above the OECD average. In the U.S., 45 percent of adults, ages 25-64, have at least some postsecondary education, which is 10 percentage points above the OECD average. However, this advantage is shrinking because the postsecondary enrollment in other OECD countries is increasing more rapidly than in the U.S., where enrollment rates have begun to level off.

The United States continues to be a global leader in attracting international students to attend our postsecondary institutions at the postbaccalaureate level. In 2014, international students made up only 3.5 percent of students enrolled in bachelor’s or equivalent programs, compared with 9% in master’s or equivalent programs and 35% in doctoral or equivalent programs. The U.S., along with the United Kingdom and France, attract more than half of master's and doctoral international students worldwide.

In terms of labor market outcomes, gender disparities in earnings are wider in the U.S. than the OECD average. Among adults in the U.S. with postsecondary education, women earn only 68% of what men earn. This gender gap is larger than the gap for all other OECD countries except Brazil, Chile, Israel, Mexico and the Slovak Republic. Similar gaps exist for males and females in the U.S. across all levels of education.

This is just a small slice of the information that can be found in Education at a Glance 2016. You can also find a wealth of other data on topics of perennial interest, such as the percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education programs; working conditions of teachers, including time spent in the classroom and salary data; and education finance and per-student expenditures. A relatively new feature is an international comparison for states and other subnational units on key education indicators.

Browse the full report to see how the U.S. compares to other countries on these important education-related topics.

What Are the Characteristics of Students Who Have Ever Been Suspended or Expelled From School?

By Lauren Musu-Gillette

Suspensions and expulsions from school are often associated with negative academic outcomes, such as lower levels of achievement and higher dropout rates.[i] Using data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:2009), NCES recently published a new spotlight feature in Indicators of School Crime and Safety that shows that a greater percentage of students who are suspended or expelled have low engagement in school and are less academically successful.  

While there is a large body of research on this topic, this is the first time that the nationally representative HSLS study has been used to examine outcomes for and characteristics of suspended and expelled youth. The comparisons presented here cannot be used to establish a cause-and-effect relationship, but the longitudinal nature of the dataset could provide researchers an analytical path to understanding how these relationships have unfolded over time.

Research shows that students’ attitudes toward school are associated with their academic outcomes, and that schools with a supportive climate have lower rates of delinquency, including suspensions and expulsions.[ii] As part of the HSLS:2009 data collection, students reported on their school engagement[iii] and sense of school belonging[iv] in the fall of their ninth-grade year (2009). A greater percentage of students who were suspended or expelled between 2009 and 2012 were reported low school engagement entering high school. A similar pattern was seen with regard to a sense of belonging in school.


 Percentage of fall 2009 ninth-graders who were ever suspended or expelled through spring 2012, by school engagement and sense of school belonging: 2012

1A school engagement scale was constructed based on students' responses to questions about how frequently they went to class without homework done, without pencil or paper, without books, or late.

2A school belonging scale was constructed based on the extent to which students agreed or disagreed that they felt safe at school, that they felt proud of being part of the school, that there were always teachers or other adults at school they could talk to if they had a problem, that school was often a waste of time, and that getting good grades was important to them.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:2009).


The percentages of students who had ever been suspended or expelled were higher for those students with lower grade point averages (GPAs). Nearly half of students with a cumulative high school GPA below 2.0 had ever been suspended or expelled and just 11 percent had a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Additionally, as of 2013, a higher percentage of students who had not completed high school than of students who had completed high school had ever been suspended or expelled (54 vs. 17 percent).


Percentage of fall 2009 ninth-graders who were ever suspended or expelled through spring 2012, by cumulative high school grade point average and high school completion status: 2013

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:2009).


Differences in the demographic characteristics of students who had ever been suspended or expelled were similar to those found in other datasets, such as the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). Characteristics of youth in the HSLS study who were ever suspended or expelled include:

  • A higher percentage of males (26 percent) than of females (13 percent) were ever suspended or expelled.
  • A higher percentage of Black students (36 percent) than of Hispanic (21 percent), White (14 percent), and Asian students (6 percent) had ever been suspended or expelled.
  • A higher percentage of students of Two or more races (26 percent) and Hispanic students had ever been suspended or expelled than White students.
  • A lower percentage of Asian students than of students of any other race/ethnicity with available data had ever been suspended or expelled.

For more information on the characteristics of students who have ever been suspended or expelled, please see the full spotlight in Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2015.


[i] Christle, C.A., Nelson, C.M., and Jolivette, K. (2004). School Characteristics Related to the Use of Suspension. Education and the Treatment of Children, 27(4): 509-526.; Skiba, R.J., Michael, R.S., Nardo, A.C., and Peterson, R.L. (2002). The Color of Discipline: Sources of Gender and Racial Disproportionality in School Punishment. Urban Review, 34(4): 317-342.

[ii] Morrison, G.M., Robertson, L., Laurie, B., and Kelly, J. (2002). Protective Factors Related to Antisocial Behavior Trajectories.Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(3): 277-290; Christle, C.A., Jolivette, K., and Nelson, C.M. (2005). Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline: Identifying School Risk and Protective Factors for Youth Delinquency. Exceptionality, 13(2): 69-88.

[iii] School engagement measured how frequently students went to class without homework done, without pencil or paper, without books, or late.

[iv] Sense of school belonging was measured based on the extent to which students agreed or disagreed that they felt safe at school, that they felt proud of being part of the school, that there were always teachers or other adults at school they could talk to if they had a problem, that school was often a waste of time, and that getting good grades was important to them.

Examining the workforce skills of U.S. unemployed, young, and older adults: Updated data from the PIAAC

By Stephen Provasnik and Holly Xie

Educational attainment is one of the most common measures of workforce preparation and is certainly an important indicator of whether someone is job-ready. But this one metric does not fully capture the variety of skills that can be important to potential employers. One way that NCES measures the basic workplace skills and abilities of U.S. adults is through the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).[1] 

PIAAC includes a number of assessments designed to evaluate real-world skills in three important areas:

  • Literacy: The literacy assessment measures the extent to which respondents can understand, evaluate, use, and engage with written text in different contexts, such as home, work, and community;
  • Numeracy: The numeracy assessment evaluates respondents’ ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information that is deemed to be important in the workplace; and
  • Problem solving in technology-rich environments: This skill area assesses respondents’ use of digital technology, communication tools, and networks to gather and evaluate information, communicate with others, and perform practical tasks.

The newly released Skills of U.S. Unemployed, Young, and Older Adults in Sharper Focus: Results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2012/2014 describes the workforce skill levels of unemployed adults (age 16-65), young adults (age 16-34), and older adults (age 66-74). The report, along with additional data on the NCES website, includes results from the assessments described above, as well as information about respondents’ educational background, work history, the skills they use on the job and at home, their civic engagement, and their health and well-being.

The PIAAC results show a connection between skills and employment. For instance, more than 75 percent of unemployed adults (age 16-65) had attained a high school credential or less. Roughly one-third of these adults (with a high school credential or less) scored at the lowest levels in literacy and about half scored at the lowest levels in numeracy. Overall, adults who were unemployed or out of the labor force performed worse than their employed peers in all areas of the PIAAC.


Percentage of adults age 16 to 65 at each level of proficiency on the PIAAC numeracy scale, by employment status: 2012 and 20141

1United States data are the U.S. PIAAC 2012/2014 data. PIAAC international average is calculated from the U.S. PIAAC 2012/2014 data and international data from 2012 for all other countries shown in this report. Country- and region-specific results are available at http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/results/makeselections.aspx.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), Skills of U.S. Unemployed, Young, and Older Adults in Sharper Focus: Results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2012/2014: First Look


Among young adults age 16-34, the higher the level of education completed, the larger the percentages of young adults at the highest proficiency levels in all three skill areas, and the smaller the percentages at the lowest levels. This pattern was not seen among older U.S. adults (age 66-74). Among older U.S. adults, there was no measurable difference in the percentage performing at the highest levels in literacy or numeracy between those who had a bachelor’s degree and those who had a graduate or professional degree.


Percentage of adults age 66 to 74 at each level of proficiency on the PIAAC literacy scale, by highest level of educational attainment: 2014

# Rounds to zero.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), Skills of U.S. Unemployed, Young, and Older Adults in Sharper Focus: Results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2012/2014: First Look.


Much more data can be read in the full report. Additional PIAAC data will be released later this year, including information about adults who were incarcerated.

For more information, check out this video:

 


[1] The PIAAC survey is coordinated internationally by the OECD. NCES implements PIAAC in the United States. PIAAC is a household survey administered by trained data collectors to a nationally-representative sample of adults, ages 16 through 65, in each country, in the official language(s), and in most cases, in respondents’ homes on a laptop computer. PIAAC was first conducted in 2011-2012 and results were released in October 2013 with data from 23 countries, including the United States.

The findings reported here are based on data from the first round of PIAAC and a second round conducted in 2013-2014 in the United States to collect additional data on key subgroups of the adult population. To learn more about the U.S. administration and reporting of PIAAC, as well as related data tools, see https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/.