We Are What We Do: Adult Basic Education Should Be About More Than Employability

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In this commentary, the authors review one area of federal policy, adult basic education policy, since its inception in the 1960s as an example of how educational policy can drift from its broad purpose as it responds to political, social, and economic forces. The authors argue that its current narrow focus on workforce development underestimates the challenges of improving employment and earnings outcomes. More important, it undercuts the value and benefits of skill gains that can accrue before participants are able to attain jobs that can improve their economic outlook. Analysis of adult skill assessments indicate that even small skill increases can have a significant impact on other important social outcomes. Thus, the authors call for broadening the goal of federal adult basic education programs from primarily workforce development to helping participants more effectively fulfill a range of adult roles and responsibilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-608
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


  • 6-Adult
  • College and career readiness
  • Legislation
  • Outcomes < Assessment
  • Policy
  • Policy study < Policy
  • mandates < Policy


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