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The Year 2001 in Review

Volume 4: Chapter One
Thomas G. Sticht

In this first chapter, Thomas Sticht reviews major events in the field of adult education and literacy in 2001. He begins by noting a number of challenges faced by the field. First, a report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) raised questions about the findings of the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey, which threw into question the size of the adult population in need of literacy services. A second challenge faced by the field in 2001 was that posed by two revelations within the data for the first full year of implementation of the National Reporting System. First, data indicated the continuation in 2000 of an as yet unexplained trend in the decline in the numbers of adults enrolled in the Adult Education and Literacy System (AELS). In addition, while states made strong efforts to institute the NRS accountability system and most met their quality performance targets, the targets were somewhat low, thus raising questions about the way in performance targets for the AELS are established and impacted by the pressure of the high-stakes NRS system. The third major challenge involved the securing of federal funding for adult education. The proposed amount for fiscal year 2002 included no increase from 2001 ($540 million), and adjusted for inflation, actually meant a decline in funding. Through the intensive lobbying of the National Coalition for Literacy (NCL) and others, Congress approved a $35 million increase in state grants. 

Despite these challenges, Sticht cites a number of more positive events in the field, such as the national conference held by the Voice for Adult Literacy United for Education (VALUE), the national organization of adult literacy students. He also notes important events in the field of health literacy, including a national symposium on health literacy and its implications for seniors and the celebration of National Health Literacy Month. Sticht further notes the release of two reports of interest to the field. One report indicates positive progress on the recommendations included in the Action Agenda of the 2000 National Literacy Summit, while the other, released by the Reading Research Working Group, offers valuable information and insights on adult reading instruction. Sticht also calls attention to the creation of several new organizations in adult education. Laubach Literacy international (LLI) and Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA) merged to form ProLiteracy Worldwide, which will support literacy education through a national network of 160,000 volunteers and 1,450 local, state and regional literacy providers.

Other new organizations noted are the International Literacy Network (ILN), the Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy (CAAL), the National Technology Laboratory (NTL) at the National Center of Adult Literacy at the University of Pennsylvania, and the William F. Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy at Penn State University. Sticht closes the chapter by noting several transitions among important leaders in the field of adult education, as well as the passing of Malcom Knowles, one of the most influential adult educators of the twentieth century. 

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