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National Study of the Implementation of Adult Education Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Contract Information

Current Status:

Data collection is underway.


September 2017 – January 2022



Contract Number:



American Institutes for Research
Safal Partners


Higher-level skills are increasingly required to succeed in the American workforce, and yet many adults in the United States lack them. Over 25 million adults have not earned a high school diploma or GED. Even among those with at least a secondary credential, a lack of proficiency with the English language can be a significant barrier to a family-sustaining income and to full integration as citizens. Congress has sought to help individuals address these challenges–and the nation's workforce development needs–by providing funds for adult education. Most recently, Title II of the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides funding to States that fund local programs designed to assist adults in obtaining the education credentials, knowledge, and skills necessary for employment and economic self-sufficiency. The programs serve adults with varying levels of literacy, English proficiency, and educational attainment. The Fiscal Year 2017 appropriation for Title II was approximately $580 million. In Program Year 2015, 1,525,878 eligible individuals were served through programs receiving Title II funding.

WIOA is a departure from its legislative predecessor (the Workforce Investment Act of 1998) in several ways. For instance, in specifying state and local responsibilities and program features, WIOA now includes a clearer link between adult education and workforce development, an expansion in opportunities to serve particular subpopulations of adults (such as English learners), and greater emphasis on performance accountability and program effectiveness information.

WIOA mandates an independent national evaluation of adult education programs funded under Title II. A part of the national evaluation, this study is designed to provide implementation information on such programs, with a focus on how the changes contained in WIOA appear to be shaping the services provided by adult education programs and the populations such programs serve.

  • How - and to what extent - are the changes to adult education policies and practices promoted by WIOA being implemented?
  • Beyond the changes to adult education promoted by WIOA, in what other important ways has implementation evolved since prior to the enactment of the law?
  • What challenges do State agencies and local providers currently face in administering and delivering adult education services?

The study is descriptive and primarily involves collection and tabulation of data from surveys. It includes a survey of adult education State Directors and a survey of adult education providers in the states and the District of Columbia that received federal funds in program year 2018–2019. Some key findings from the provider survey will be compared with findings from an earlier national survey of providers, conducted in 2003. This will allow for an assessment of the extent to which adult education programs have evolved since prior to the enactment of WIOA. The study will also include analyses of extant data such as state- and provider-level data collected for the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education's National Reporting System. This includes information on adult education programs funded, populations served, and participant outcomes achieved. This data will be used to provide further contextual information about adult education programs and populations.

Key findings will be available after the study report is published.

The study's first report is expected in 2021 and will be announced on