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IES Grant

Title: Study of Effects of Accelerated Basic Skills Instruction on Adults' GED Attainment and Enrollment in Postsecondary Education
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Alamprese, Judith Awardee: Abt Associates, Inc.
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (7/1/2014–6/30/2016) Award Amount: $399,910
Goal: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H140108

Co-Principal Investigator: David Moore

Partner: Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, Oregon

Education Issue: Approximately 29.5 million adults aged 25 and older do not have a secondary credential or the skills needed to advance to postsecondary education. In order to earn such a credential, adults may enter into the adult education system only to find that the pathway to postsecondary education is not clear. To help strengthen the adult education to postsecondary education pipeline, the state of Oregon has made a significant investment in the adult education system. Since 2007, Oregon’s Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD) and Abt Associates (Abt) have worked together to help design and study the implementation of the Oregon Pathways for Adult Basic Skills Transition to Education and Work Initiative (OPABS), which helps low-skilled adult learners earn a General Educational Development secondary credential (GED) and transition to credit-bearing postsecondary courses. However, due to the limited available resources in the state, CCWD has not been able to evaluate the outcomes of OPABS. This grant provides the opportunity for the Abt/CCWD team to carry out initial analyses of OPABS learner outcomes and plan more rigorous future research.

Partnership Significance and Goal: This grant will enable the Abt/CCWD team to strengthen the current partnership, expand the research capacity of CCWD, expand the research-based knowledge on the effects of educational services on low-skilled adult learners’ education and employment outcomes, and provide research processes that can be disseminated to other states.

Partners and Partnership Activities: Both Abt Associates and the CCWD are focused on understanding and providing effective services to low-skilled adults. For the past seven years, CCWD has focused on creating career pathways that can expand low-skilled adults’ capacity to earn a GED, continue in postsecondary education to earn credentials, and obtain employment in high-demand career areas. Abt and CCWD began working together at the early stages of OPABS, but they have not been able to conduct preliminary evaluations of OPABS.

OPABS provides academically accelerated reading, writing, math, and career/college awareness courses to adults who enroll in the Adult Basic Skills (ABS) programs in 11 of the state’s 17 community colleges. OPABS courses are intended to facilitate learners’ acquisition of a GED credential and transition to postsecondary credit courses. Over the course of this project, the Abt/CCWD team will conduct initial analyses of the administrative data they have already collected and will collect additional data about OPABS.

Together, Abt and CCWD will address the state’s need to conduct research on the outcomes from OPABS to determine next steps in strengthening OPABS and to examine alternative forms of cost-effective professional development and possible redesigns of the program that may better ensure ABS learners’ success. The results from the proposed research have potential to benefit other ABS state and local leaders as the Abt/CCWD team determine the types of programmatic and instructional services offered to this population.

Setting: The research will be conducted on data coming from 11 community colleges in Oregon.

Population/Sample: The sample for the proposed research is adult learners who have participated in OPABS courses in the 11 colleges.

Initial Analysis: The Abt/CCWD team will use existing administrative data to combine datasets and develop a new dataset for conducting preliminary descriptive analyses of OPABS participants’ near-term outcomes from participation in OPABS courses (i.e., basic skills development, attainment of a GED) and longer-term outcomes from participation in credit postsecondary education (i.e., attainment of college credits, certificates, credentials, and degrees). Initial quasi-experimental analyses will be conducted to compare OPABS learners’ educational outcomes to the outcomes of two samples of non-OPABS participants. The Abt/CCWD team will also analyze secondary data concerning the fidelity of the OPABS courses offered to the OPABS participants whose outcomes are assessed in the preliminary studies. New data will be collected about the current operation of OPABS in the state’s ABS programs through interviews with the ABS program directors. These combined data will be used to plan the research that the Abt/CCWD will propose in future grant applications that the team will submit after this grant.