ABLE Research 2012 - 2013

Adult College Completion Toolkit

Click here to return to OPI ABLE Research page.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, U.S. Department of Education OVAE at

The purpose of this link is to provide a compilation of the MTLINCS 2012-2013 research snippets from the Adult College Completion Toolkit.

Click on the link below to access the snippet.






Access: State Admin


Access: Local Practitioner


Quality: State Admin


Quality: Local Practitioner



Completion: State Admin




Completion: Local Practitioner





Final Posting:  Five Steps to Prepare for College


Final Posting - Five Steps to Prepare for College:  4/1/13

Final Posting on Adult College Completion Toolkit


If you have not already noticed via all of the MTLINCS emails, the Adult College Completion Toolkit is a great resource for you and your Post-Secondary Cohort Group.  The document provides numerous resources for adult learners who are considering college.  Five basic steps are given for all groups:  adult learners, individuals in corrections, veterans, and high-skill immigrants. 

Five Steps to Prepare for College 

Step 1: Get help from groups in your community.

Step 2: Create a plan for going to college and starting a career.

Step 3: Earn your high school diploma.

Step 4: Choose and enroll in a college program.

Step 5: Apply for financial aid.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.47 at

The resources are too numerous to list in this email.  Go to the Adult College Completion Toolkit at and peruse the pages for the following categories:

Adult Learners:  p. 47-50

Individuals in Corrections:  p. 51-55

Veterans:  p. 57-63

High-skill Immigrants:  p. 65-69


Summary:  3/18/13


Last time MTLINCS presented information about what local practitioners can do to support students in completing postsecondary education:  

·       Link adult education course work, including developmental education, to college and career goals.

·       Address student barriers to persistence and completion through education and career counseling and student learning communities.

·       Use strategic partnerships to help students transition to college and address their diverse needs.

·       Use technology to enhance services by linking content to students’ college and career goals, saving time and resources in the long term. 

Call to Action 

… adult education state administrators and local practitioners need to prepare their students for the transition to postsecondary education. This work includes improving their students’ access to postsecondary education, the quality of their programs and services, and their students’ persistence and completion rates in college. As described in this tool kit, OVAE and other offices of the U.S. Department of Education have developed a wealth of resources and tools to help state administrators and local practitioners in this work.

 Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.29 at

Before completing this summary of the Adult College Completion Toolkit, MTLINCS will provide one last overview of the Five Steps to Prepare for College.  Stay tuned!

Coming Next: Five Steps to Prepare for College


Completion and Local Practitioner:  3/4/13

Last time MTLINCS presented information about what state administrators can do to encourage completion of postsecondary education.  The Adult College Completion Toolkit also takes a look at what local practitioners can do.

Adult learners often can be discouraged by adult education and developmental education course work because they do not see a clear link to their college and career goals.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.27 at

1.     The Toolkit suggests that local practitioners can do several things to promote completion.  One such thing would be to “create several basic skills programs leading to industry certification or college credit.”  

Many of these programs use the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) model developed by Washington state, which pairs two teachers—an adult education instructor and a vocational instructor—to provide basic skills instruction and workforce training.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.27 at

One Montana program (Billings) has been offering the Career Advanced Program which works toward providing industry certification based upon students achieving success on the ACT WorkKeys test in the areas of Reading Information, Locating Information, Applied Mathematics, and Business Writing along with successfully completing a variety of curriculum specific classes. 

How has your program helped students see the link to college and career goals?  

2.     The Toolkit also suggests that local practitioners offer services that include education and career counseling and learning communities.”

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.27 at

Most Montana programs offer career counseling via PEPTalk.  However, have Montana programs created learning communities?  If so, what are they?  One such community certainly exists in the Great Falls ESL program.  The ESL state “community” hosted by Bozeman, Great Falls, and Missoula reaches out to one another via the professional ESL Wiki at and the student wiki at .

3.  The third suggestion the Toolkit makes “to partner with postsecondary education institutions and business and industry.”

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.28 at

Partnering with others takes a commitment to communication.  CollegeNow! grant recipients – Miles City Community College, Highlands College, Great Falls College – maintain solid communication.  The Anaconda and Deer Lodge programs have developed “appropriate curriculum aligned with college course work” through collaborative work with Highlands College.  Other Montana programs do the same.

4.  The final strategy the Toolkit suggests is “to use technology to enhance services.” Montana programs have been using technology on a regular basis.  However, have the programs been using Open Educational Resources (OER)?  The Toolkit reminds readers that OERs

… allow local programs to freely use, distribute, and, in some cases, adapt digital instructional materials and other learning technologies. OER tools save time and resources by allowing programs to build on each other’s work instead of starting from scratch.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.28 at

One such suggestion is using NASA’s educational portal.  Take a look at the Science postings in the last and current issue of MTLINCS and peruse some of the suggested OER links.

Montana programs are adapting to moving students forward to postsecondary and career goals.  Want to look at the other side of the coin?  An interesting exchange is now occurring about the return on higher education investment on the LINCS Career Pathways Discussion.  Take a look at the snippets below under Certificates.

Coming Next: Call to Action and Wrap-up


Completion and State Administrator:  2/11/13

So far we have taken a look at what both state administrators and local practitioners can do to help promote college access for adult learners and improve program performance and teacher quality.   

However, what can these entities do to encourage completion of postsecondary education? 

Although increasing numbers of adults are enrolling in postsecondary education, many do not persist in these programs long enough to earn a credential (Camille and Siebens 2012). This is particularly true among low-skill adults (Patterson et al. 2010; Prince and Jenkins 2005). Low-skill adults face many barriers that make it difficult for them to persist and complete postsecondary education …

Many low-skill adults also lack transition support, access to financial aid, and the academic and college-readiness skills needed to enter postsecondary education without taking developmental education classes (Reder 2007). Other barriers include a lack of alignment between adult education and college-level programs (Jenkins 2008; Mazzeo et al. 2006).

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.21 at

The Toolkit suggests that state administrators can support students by using the following four strategies:  

1.     Encourage persistence and completion through career pathways linking course work to students’ college and career goals. 

2.     Support local programs in addressing student barriers to persistence and completion by providing education and career counseling and establishing student learning communities. 

3.     Form strategic partnerships to overcome barriers to college persistence and completion. 

4.     Explore technological approaches to facilitate college transition for adult learners.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.21 at

How has Montana ABLE addressed these four strategies?

1. Career Pathways

Last year Montana ABLE collaborated with Suzette Fletcher and Michelle Gasek to produce documents that provided links to local, state and national resources for the continued development of Career Pathways.

Click here to access the following documents.

·        Career Pathways Initiative Model 2012 (docx)

·        Career Pathways Initiative Model 2012 (pdf)

·        Montana Adult Education: Building Bridges 2012 (pdf)

·        Montana Adult Education: Building Bridges 2012 (pptx)

2. Student Barriers to Persistence and Career Counseling

1.     At DQ 2012, research information was presented about Helping Adults Persist:  Four Supports.  Click here and scroll to page 6 to access information about positive and negative forces, self-efficacy, setting goals, and making measurable progress.

2.     Montana ABLE programs submitted work plans this year to OPI which framed how programs were addressing student persistence.  Some programs have revamped their mission statements and objectives while other programs have keyed into curriculum by using iPads and Kindles and engaging students in collaborative classes.  And some programs are even providing a more comfortable atmosphere by offering coffee to students and free lunches on posttest days.  (Who said there is *no* free lunch?) 

What is your program doing?  Have you discovered something that is working for you?

3.     Montana ABLE programs have also implemented PEPTalk, a Personalized Employment Plan.  Click here to access PEPTalk.

As is stated in the Toolkit,

Education and career counseling can help students set realistic goals …

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.23 at

3. Partnerships

Montana programs cannot exist without partnerships.  For example, PEPTalk was a joint creation among the following entities:  Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Office of the commissioner of Higher Education and Office of Public Instruction.  Other partners have provided Montana ABLE programs with TANF and College!Now grants.  Yes, progress cannot be made in a vacuum.

Adult learners often need considerable academic and nonacademic support to help them persist and complete postsecondary education. Strategic partnerships with community organizations, state and local agencies, business and industry, and postsecondary education institutions can help meet their diverse needs.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.23 at

4. Technological Approaches to Facilitate College Transition

As noted in OVAE’s Emerging Technologies in Adult Literacy and Language Education report, technologies are increasingly available that offer state administrators and local practitioners additional tools to meet students’ diverse needs and aid their transition to postsecondary education. These range from mobile devices to blogs and wikis. The report notes, however, that more research is needed to determine the cost, challenges, and potential benefits of many of these technologies.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.24 at

Have you checked out the ABLE Toolbox at or the ESL Wiki at  ? 

Also do not forget the Computer Literacy information that was shared at DQ 2012.  Click here to access all of the materials.

OPI has provided access and training to/for many resources.  Have you been using them?  What could be done differently so that you do use them?  Time?  Ah, yes, don’t we all want the gift of time. 

Give yourself a Valentine’s Day gift:  take a look at the resources available.  You will love them!

Coming Next:  Completion Strategies for Local Practitioners


Quality and Local Practitioner:  1/28/13

The January 14 MTLINCS email discussed a variety of strategies the Toolkit suggested State Administrators could do to improve program performance and teacher quality:

1.     Promote Teacher Effectiveness and Evidence-Based Practices.

2.     Hold programs accountable for performance by establishing a performance-based funding (PBF) system, monitoring progress, and training staff in the collection and use of data.

3.     Track adult learners’ progress in postsecondary education and employment by integrating adult education in statewide longitudinal data system (SLDS).

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.25 at

So what can local practitioners do to promote quality in program instruction?  The Toolkit suggests three strategies for local practitioners.

1.     Engage in professional development activities, such as communities of practice, to improve teaching practice continuously.

During this program year, MTLINCS has been offering snippets of research from the Toolkit and Improving Adult Literacy Instruction.  Montana ESOL leaders have also been encouraging professional development via the ESL Wiki at and most recently ELL-U.  Finally, work continues via the SIA process with the refinement of the Montana Reading Standards.

2.     Use local report cards to evaluate performance and improve programs.

In Montana local report cards have taken on a slightly different twist.  During regional data trainings, local programs have begun sharing their strategies for student retention.  Various strategies include ideas such as improving intake process, implementing managed enrollment, discussing positive and negative forces with students to lessen negative forces, etc.

3.     Track program outcomes using regular desk monitoring.

Have you looked at the MABLE Site Performance link under Summary?  This is a great place to see a snapshot of your program.  Check out your student performance in comparison to the state targets.  Are you on track?  How many students do you have enrolled in specific EFLs? 

Of course, MABLE will be rolling out two new reports so that you will be able to more accurately keep track of outcomes and goals:  the Classroom Report and the Cohort Report.  Stay tuned!

Coming Next:  Completion Strategies for State Administrators


Quality and State Administrator:  1/14/13

According to the Adult College Completion Toolkit, quality for adult education programs that are preparing students for success in postsecondary education is two-fold.

#1  Teacher Effectiveness

Quality means teacher effectiveness. To be effective, teachers need the appropriate knowledge, skills, and disposition and the ability to use evidence-based instructional practices (Goe, Bell, and Little 2008; National Research Council 2011).

#2  Data

Quality also means using data to strengthen programs: assessing program effectiveness; identifying improvement strategies; targeting professional development and technical assistance resources; creating incentives for high performance; and monitoring progress. Student outcome data, including transitions to postsecondary education and employment, are critical in determining program quality. To collect these data, state adult education data need to be linked with other state data in a statewide longitudinal data system (SLDS).

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.25 at

The Toolkit also suggests three main strategies State Administrators can follow to improve program performance.

Promote Teacher Effectiveness and Evidence-Based Practices

Five Characteristics of Effective Teachers

  1. Have High Expectations ...

  2. Contribute to postive, academic, attitudinal, and social outcomes for students ...

  3. Use diverse resources to plan ... engaging opportunities; monitor student progress ...; adapt instruction ...; and evaluate learning ...

  4. Contribute to the development ... that value diversity and civic-mindedness ...

  5. Collaborate ... to ensure student success ...

Evidence-Based Instructional Practices

  1. Targets (as needed) word recognition, fluency, vocabulary, reading comprehension, background knowledge, strategies for deeper analysis and understanding of texts, and the component skills of writing;

  2. Combines explicit teaching ... extensive practice ...

  3. Explicitly targets the automation and integration of component skills and the transfer of skills ...

  4. Includes formative assessments ...

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.26 at

Montana ABLE provides many resources for teachers to become aware of best practices (MTLINCS) and access credible resources (Montana ABLE Toolbox, Career Pathways Bridge Resources, and the ESL Wiki) Have you been to any of these sites?  If not, please check them out.


State Administrators can create a learning community on data use.  Learning communities can help increase local practitioners’ use of data ... and track adult learner progress ...

  • To create incentives for strong program performance, states are implementing performance-based funding (PBF) systems ...

  • State administrators can use desk monitoring systems to hold local programs accountable for their performance ...

  • Local report cards are another way to hold programs accountable for performance ...

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.28 at

Well, hello there!  Do you think Montana ABLE has been following through with data training?  Of course!  If you have attended any of the recent Montana ABLE trainings, you know that you have been immersed in data.  In fact, do not forget the Cohort Training that is happening this month for program directors.  Be sure to ask your program director about what he/she has learned most recently about data!

Coming Next:  Quality and Local Practioners


Access and Local Practitioners:  12/17/12

According to the Adult College Completion Toolkit, state administrators and local practitioners can do quite a bit to promote college access for adult learners.  The MTLINCS email from 12/3/12 cited action done by state administrators.  According to the Toolkit, there are three main actions local practitioners can take.   

Local Practitioners

1.     Prepare adult learners for college by setting high expectations and developing their academic readiness skills from the beginning.  

… the authors present a case for integrating academic readiness skills—reading and listening, organizational and note-taking skills, and critical thinking—into adult English as a second language (ESL) instruction.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.21 at

What type of college readiness strategies are you teaching your students?  How are you doing it?

2.     Link adult learners to career pathways by creating adult education bridge programs using contextualized instruction or IET.

 … Several OVAE resources and tools can help adult education practitioners develop bridge programs locally. These include the Adult Career Pathways Training and Support Center website and the ABE Career Connections Manual, designed for programs just beginning to explore strategies for connecting adult education with postsecondary career pathways. The manual summarizes findings from five demonstration sites, including their approaches to implementing pathway components (student recruitment, orientation, and placement; course development; partnerships; and data collection and analysis), and the implementation challenges they faced. Project resources provided to the sites also are included ...

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.22 at

Have you looked at all of the resources available on the Adult Career Pathways Training and Support Center at  Have you checked out what your Montana colleagues have designed for you at

3.     Integrate college and career guidance services into adult education to promote student awareness and use of financial aid and other available support.

To help local practitioners with this process, OVAE supported the National Career Awareness Project  to strengthen career awareness and planning for adult learners by providing program staff with professional development on incorporating such services into their instruction and existing counseling activities. Sixteen state teams participated in the pilot, which provided online instruction on the Integrating Career Awareness into the ABE/ESOL Classroom curriculum guide. The curriculum guide includes:

·       The cultural context for career awareness;

·       Self-exploration (e.g., skills, values, experience, interests, education);

·       Occupational exploration (e.g., occupational and job profiles, informational interviews, career and job fairs, and labor market information); and

·       Career and education planning (e.g., decision making, goal setting, college success skills, and action planning).

Besides exploring these resources with students, practitioners can help them gain a better understanding of the content by incorporating them in a lesson, taking students on a field trip to a local college financial aid office, or inviting a college financial aid counselor to speak to the class.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.20 at

If you have access to a local college, have you taken your students on a field trip or invited the college counselors to visit your program?  What type of strategies are you using if you do not have access to a local program?

Coming in 2013:  Quality - Evidence-based practices used by programs to ensure their services prepare students adequately for postsecondary education


Access and State Administrators  12/3/12

According to the Adult College Completion Toolkit, state administrators and local practitioners can do quite a bit to promote college access for adult learners. 

State Administrators 

State administrators can use standards-based reform as a practical strategy to promote quality and academic rigor in their adult education programs and ensure students gain the skills and knowledge needed to meet the expectations of colleges, universities, and employers.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.16 at

Montana ABLE has been working hard implementing Standards-In-Action initiatives.  Standards are continuing to be refined.  Check √ !

Many states and local programs have established career pathways—a series of linked education and training courses, combined with support services, leading to certification and career advancement within an industry or occupational sector—with promising results …

State adult education administrators can facilitate this process by reaching out to college leaders and business and industry to help with curriculum development.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.17 at

Career Pathways?  Have you seen Montana ABLE’s resource link for Career Pathways at ?  Check √ !

Connecting students to college counseling, financial aid, and other support is an important component of career pathways. This means that both students and practitioners need a greater awareness of resources, including several U.S. Department of Education websites …

Other U.S. Department of Education resources include the federal TRIO Programs. These outreach and student services programs are designed to help individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds (e.g., low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities) access higher education and achieve their academic goals.

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.19 at

Accessing other resources?  Montana ABLE partners with others to complete many tasks.  The new High School Equivalency Panel includes members from the Board of Education, post-secondary education, labor, corrections, GED, and ABLE.  On the road to Check √ !

Coming next:  What can local practitioners do? 


Access:  11/19/12

The Adult College Completion Toolkit focuses on three areas:  access, quality, and completion.

Access would be defined as the following:  academic preparation, financial resources, and other support students need to enroll in postsecondary education programs.

With jobs increasingly requiring higher levels of education, why don’t more adult learners enroll in postsecondary education and training? Research indicates that they face several obstacles to enrolling and succeeding in these programs. Adult learners often lack academic preparation (e.g., math, reading, and writing) and college readiness (e.g., time management and study strategies) skills, financial resources, and knowledge about financial aid and other available support (Matus-Grossman and Gooden 2002; Reder 2007). Further, the curriculum and assessments used by adult education programs often do not align well with college-level expectations, with the result that many adult learners must enroll in developmental education classes before they begin postsecondary course work (Jenkins 2008; Mazzeo et al. 2006). Participation in developmental education has been found to slow, and, in many cases, stop students’ momentum toward their postsecondary education goals (Bailey, Jeong, and Cho 2009).


Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.15 at


Introduction:  11/5/12

This toolkit provides strategies for state administrators and local practitioners to help implement practical evidence-based solutions that increase the number of graduates who earn high-quality degrees and certificates required to compete for good jobs in the 21st century global economy.

Approximately two-thirds of adults age 25 or older do not persist in postsecondary education long enough to earn a credential, and many others do not even enroll (Camille and Siebens 2012). These adults are less likely to succeed in the labor market than are those with postsecondary credentials. Workers with an associate’s degree, for example, typically earn 20 percent more over their lifetime than those with only a high school education and 40 percent more than high school dropouts (Baum, Ma, and Payea 2010). Moreover, future labor market demand is expected to favor workers with higher levels of education (Sommers and Franklin 2012). 

Adult College Completion Toolkit, p.13 at