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Focus On Basics

Volume 3, Issue B ::: June 1999


Dear Reader,

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which is the federal legislation that governs the bulk of adult basic education in the United States, requires the establishment of "a comprehensive performance accountability system to assess the effectiveness of eligible agencies in achieving continuous improvement of adult education and literacy activities" (WIA, Section 212.a). States' accountability systems are being implemented as of July of this year. All members of the field adult basic education are curious - and anxious - to see what impact the new regulations will have.

Accountability touches everyone differently, depending on their position in the system. In assembling this issue, we therefore sought out learners, program staff, staff development providers, state ABE directors, researchers, and public policy advocates. We didn't restrict their stories to how they were implementing the Workforce Investment Act. We wanted to know how they defined accountability, what being accountable involved, what the challenges were in implementing useful and viable accountability systems, and what lessons they had learned. The result, we hope, is a snapshot of diverse approaches to and opinions about accountability and its role in adult basic education in 1999.

Learners are represented by Sherri Ames and Lisa White, who share their views on what they feel accountable for as program participants in a box on page 3. Sensing that their rural Maine program was not having much impact on its learners' lives, Shirley Wright and her colleagues were motivated to change their accountability priorities. Jan Goethal and Carol Gabler write about the challenges their Eau Claire, WI, volunteer program faced as it grew, added partners, and diversified the programs it offers. Agnes Precure describes how Oregon's adult basic education accountability system is part of the state's comprehensive approach to providing a clear message about the success of state agencies in reaching commonly agreed upon goals. The State Adult Basic Education Director in Pennsylvania, Cheryl Keenan, looks back a number of years to the beginning of a continuing process to institute an accountability system that fosters program improvement.

Excerpting from her NCSALL report Contested Ground, Juliet Merrifield presents a vision of an accountability system for Adult Basic Education in which all partners are mutually responsible and provides us with the steps to get there. Literacy advocate David Rosen describes some strategies for awakening legislators to their role in championing adult literacy policy and appropriate resources. And finally, we provide an update on accountability-related NCSALL research being conducted by Beth Bingman and her colleagues at The University of Tennessee.

To discuss these articles and the questions they raise with your colleagues across the nation, please join the Focus on Basics electronic discussion list. Learn how to subscribe to the list by turning to the Blackboard.


Barbara Garner


Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL