VALUEUSA's Social Change Initiative calls for a consumer-driven redesign of the current adult basic education system in this country. It must be redesigned to help many times more learners achieve their personal goals faster using 21st Century approaches.
90 million adults have low literacy skills.
The current adult basic education system to serve less than 3 million adults each year using methods that require 3-5 years on average for an adult to achieve "functional literacy."
As many as 20% of learners drop out of adult literacy programs before completing 10 hours of instruction and less than 3% reach their primary goal of earning their GED in 3-5 years.
The vast majority of the remaining 87 million low-literate adults do not want to seek help from a system that looks like the schools that failed them in the past - a system that by its design continues to reinforce the stigma of adult low-literacy.
The current system is simply not designed to meet the modern needs of learners in a realistic time frame.
Our Core Principles
Adult literacy is an essential public policy concern.
- It must not be dealt with in isolation, but rather integrated with other policies and programs.
The global competitiveness and economic security of our nation and well-being of our citizens are all seriously held back by widespread(*) low literacy in the U.S. The success of policies and programs dealing with early childhood education, health care, welfare, retraining the American workforce, and maintaining a strong military with capable recruits are all linked to having an adult population with better literacy skills.
(*) The U.S. Department of Education's 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy finds that 90 million adults in this country have literacy skills at the lowest two levels of the survey, "basic" and "below basic."
Low literacy is a skill deficiency.
- It has little to do with intelligence.
For many, adult literacy issues can be traced to previously unrecognized disabilities, failing schools, and family issues - all having more to do with class, race, gender, and cultural bias than intelligence. We must get rid of these biases and break down the barriers of personal shame and public stigma so we can gain the literacy skills needed to increase our contributions to the economy, our families, and our communities.
A strong adult basic education system is an essential part of the solution.
We cannot continue to waste the potential of the current adult population by devoting so little attention and resource(*) to the adult basic education system. Since parents are a child's first teachers, the literacy level of the parent is critical to the success of early childhood education. The K-12 education system cannot be the primary solution to this problem; and even if we do fix the K-12 system to address the needs of future generations, our country's economy and security is still severely impacted now, and for a long time to come by the "bubble" of low literacy in the current workforce.
(*) With all federal and state funding combined, less than 4% of adults with low literacy skills are in adult basic education programs and many programs have long waiting lists.
The adult basic education system should be dynamic and consumer-driven.
- Drastic reform of the current system is needed.
The current system attempts to address 21st Century problems with an approach that has changed little since the 19th Century. It fails, for the most part, to meet the self-identified and evolving needs of today's workers and employers - needs that should redefine adult basic education. It fails to take full advantage of current technology that could fundamentally change the approach to adult basic education and address biases and barriers in the process.
Objectives for this Initiative
Build public and political awareness of the four principles and support for them.
Develop an alternative model for adult basic education in the U.S.