Developing a National Outcome Reporting System for the Adult Education Program

The development of a national outcome reporting system for adult education is a complex activity that will take several years to implement. Fortunately, this project is not the first attempt of adult educators to improve their measures and system of accountability. Such efforts have been underway at the state and Federal level for several years. Since 1991, OVAE has supported state efforts to improve accountability through the development of an evaluation framework, through the support of the development of quality indicators for adult education, and through the Technical Assistance Project for State Accountability and Assessment. The National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) also has recently completed a project to develop accountability systems in which adult education would play a key role. Other Federal agencies—notably, the Department of Labor and the National Governors’ Association (NGA)—have supported major efforts at developing accountability systems that have relevance to adult education programs. These projects, along with efforts of individual states, have produced a rich foundation of knowledge and experience from which to draw in the development of a national reporting system for adult education.

This report summarizes these prior efforts and draws from their experiences to provide guidance in resolving the key issues confronting the development of a national outcome-based reporting system. Chapter 2 reviews existing systems and projects that include measures of adult education and training outcomes. A brief review of each project summarizes its operation, measures and methodology, current status, and issues encountered in its implementation.

In Chapter 3, we present some of the major issues that need to be considered immediately in developing an accountability system, including goals of the system, audience, measurement issues, performance standards and avoiding unintended effects of performance assessment. Our discussion in this chapter draws from experiences of the NGA and NIFL accountability system projects.

Chapter 4 confronts the issue of how to measure outcomes. We review potential measures of the reporting system by describing how they could be defined and compare different methodologies that could be employed to collect data on the measures. Methodologies are assessed by their ability to produce valid and reliable data, as well as cost and difficulty of implementation. Chapter 5 concludes the report by describing four hypothetical examples of outcome-based reporting systems for the adult education program and assessing the advantages and difficulties of implementing each system. These sample systems are offered to promote thought and discussion as the national outcome reporting system develops.