Career Pathways in Chicago, Houston, and Miami: Key Features and Support Services Among Adult Education Providers


Dr. Esther Prins, Professor, Lifelong Learning and Adult Education Program at Penn State, is Co-Director of the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy and the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy. Her research interests include adult and family literacy and critical, sociocultural approaches to adult education. She was PI for a 3-year Institute of Education Sciences grant on career pathways (2015-2018).


Dr. Carol Clymer is a Research Associate in the College of Education at Penn State University and Co-Director of the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy and the Goodling Institute for Research in Family LiteracyDr. Clymer has 40 years of experience implementing and evaluating programs to improve the education and employment prospects of low-income and/or low-skilled individuals. As a Senior Program Director at Public/Private Venturesshe participated in the design and implementation of professional development projects and large-scale evaluations and outcomes studies related to performance benchmarking, employment retention, sectoral employment, out-of-school youth, and college access. As the Director of Literacy and Workforce Development at El Paso Community College, her work focused on adult education, workplace, and family literacy. She has also authored numerous publications including a guide to implementing IETs. 

The findings of an in-depth research study conducted by Dr. Esther Prins and Dr. Carol Clymer are presented in the article, "Career Pathways in Chicago, Houston, and Miami: Key Features and Support Services Among Adult Education Providers." The article underscores the importance of providing comprehensive support services to help adult learners address the cognitive and material burden of poverty. The article also addresses the gaps in many of the current career pathway models to help guide adult educators' decisions about how to design and implement career pathway programs so that adults are better prepared for postsecondary education and employment.

"Funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, the project included researchers at the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy at Penn State and partners at the Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition, Houston Center for Literacy, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The purpose of the project was to map the landscape of CP in these cities. This article uses survey data to describe salient features of CP across the cities and then uses qualitative focus group and case study data to analyze support services in greater detail. We selected this programmatic feature because it cuts across all case study sites and because the findings suggest it was crucial for helping students access and persist in CP programs. We argue that mental bandwidth is a useful way of conceptualizing how wraparound supports minimize the cognitive load of poverty, thereby expanding adult learners’ ability to focus on their studies."

The COABE Journal - Integrated Career Pathways: Lessons from Accelerating Opportunity

COABE has published a Journal for more than 40 years. As a member of COABE, we invite you to access our special Career Pathways edition which features articles by the very best researchers, practitioners, and leaders in the field of adult education.


Rachel Pleasants McDonnell, Associate Director, is engaged in research, documentation, and technical assistance focused on policies and practices that improve postsecondary outcomes for underserved populations. She also develops and coordinates in-person and virtual technical assistance opportunities including webinars, tools, and online resources. She co-manages Accelerating CTE, an initiative to redesign career and technical education programs to substantially increase the number of students able to succeed in their career pathways, earn a credential, and enter the workplace with competitive skills. She also supports evaluation efforts for the Student Success Center Network and provides strategic consultation to states within the Network. Previously, Ms. McDonnell co-managed Accelerating Opportunity, JFF’s national initiative to integrate adult basic education with Career and Technical Education in seven states.


Dr. Lisa SoriconeEdD is Associate Research Director at JFF. Her work focuses on research and evaluation of programs and policies that help low-skilled and underprepared adults succeed in career pathways and postsecondary education. She helped evaluate the success of programs that help adults succeed in community college, including the Adult Degree Completion Project and an evaluation of bridge-to-college programs for adult immigrants in Boston. Dr. Soricone was the evaluation liaison for Accelerating Opportunity. Dr. Soricone is coauthor of a study of English as a second language service in Boston, and multiple publications related to adult learning, including a study of adult learner persistence, a case study of the adult education system in Massachusetts, a literature review on programs that integrate adult basic education with occupational training, and a publication on program conditions suitable for conducting research in adult education.

The article, "Integrated Career Pathways: Lessons from Accelerating Opportunity," was written by Rachel Pleasants McDonnell and Dr. Lisa Soricone. The article outlines the implementation of the Accelerating Opportunity initiative, which spanned four years and seven states. As the article shows, the initiative was an unprecedented investment in underprepared adult learners and explores lessons learned which can help practitioners, researchers, and policymakers continue to improve outcomes for underprepared and underserved adults. 

“Accelerating Opportunity was developed as a strategy for helping more underprepared adult learners enter and succeed in postsecondary credit-bearing career pathways. While postsecondary credentials are increasingly important for obtaining family-supporting careers, more than sixty percent of adults 18 and older lack any postsecondary credential. In addition, weak literacy and numeracy skills keep millions of adults from succeeding in today’s labor market. Historically, disconnected systems—including adult education, secondary education, community colleges, and workforce development—have made it difficult for underprepared adult learners to advance through education and training programs in a reasonable time frame. Very few Adult Basic Education students (by some estimates, less than 5%) ever enroll in college-level pathways, much less graduate with marketable credentials.”

Toyota Teacher of the Year: Beth Detwiler


On Wednesday, August 22, Beth Detwiler was at Coliseum College Prep Academy teaching her normal morning family literacy class to a group of adult students when suddenly, her day was turned on its head. First, in walked OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell followed by a video crew. Minutes later, Johnson-Trammell introduced a visitor with a big surprise. Click HERE to read the press release about her surprise visit from the National Center for Families Learning.

October is Health Literacy Month!

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Health Literacy Month is a time for organizations and individuals to promote the importance of understandable health information. This annual, worldwide, awareness-raising event has been going strong ever since Helen Osborne founded it in 1999.

Over the years health care organizations, community services, health literacy coalitions, government agencies,  literacy programs, universities, and many others have hosted a wide range of Health Literacy Month events. These include how-to workshops for professionals, wellness programs for patients and the public, and educational offerings for students at all levels.

The theme for Health Literacy Month is "Be a Health Literacy Hero." It's about taking action and finding ways to improve health communication. Health Literacy Heroes are individuals, teams, or organizations who not only identify health literacy problems but also act to solve them. You can help by recognizing and cheering on those you consider as  Health Literacy Heroes.

Check out the free handbook provided by Health Literacy Month HERE.

President Trump Has Signed FY 19 Labor-HHS bill (additional $25 million for Adult Education)

Dear COABE Members,

President Trump just signed the FY 19 Labor-HHS bill which includes funding for adult education. It is first time this bill has been enacted before the end of the fiscal year on September 30th. This bill includes the additional $25 Million our field has been advocating for.

Five of the twelve appropriations bills have now been enacted. The bill signed by the President today also contains the FY 19 Defense appropriations bill and a Continuing Resolution to keep federal agencies yet to be funded open through December 7, 2018.

Congratulations to all who contacted their legislators through our Educate and Elevate campaign on behalf of Adult Education! Your hard work has paid off!

Sharon Bonney
Executive Director

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2018 was a Resounding Success!

 Left to Right: COABE Executive Director, Sharon Bonney; NASDAE Executive Director, Patricia Tyler; Kaye Sharbono, President: Scott Stump, Assistant Secretary; Reecie Stagnolia, NASDAE Chair, and Cheryl Keenan, OCTAE

Left to Right: COABE Executive Director, Sharon Bonney; NASDAE Executive Director, Patricia Tyler; Kaye Sharbono, President: Scott Stump, Assistant Secretary; Reecie Stagnolia, NASDAE Chair, and Cheryl Keenan, OCTAE

National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week was a resounding success! COABE leadership kicked off the week by meeting with new Assistant Secretary Stump for over an hour, discussing the field of adult education and ways that COABE, NASDAE, and OCTAE can address needs and issues in the field.

Later that evening, COABE's Ambassador Program, which was designed and developed by Regina Suitt, was honored with a Literacy Leadership Award by the National Coalition for Literacy.

The following day, seventy five visits were made to legislators by COABE members who were advocating for adult education. Because this is the first time in recent history that WIOA II received an increase, our members had the opportunity to thank legislators for valuing adult education. Legislative awards were given to Representative Foxx, Representative Bobby Scott, Senator Murphy, Senator Rubio, and Senator Roy Blunt for their leadership during the budget process. Many of the Capitol Hill participants posted pictures on the COABE App and social media which further raised the visibility of this important week!

Did you celebrate Adult Education and Family Literacy Week? Please share your stories with us.

Investing in Adult Education is an Economic Catalyst


 Mr. Stagnolia has served as Vice President for Adult Education with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) since July 2009.

Mr. Stagnolia has served as Vice President for Adult Education with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) since July 2009.

How do we address America's skill gap? Whether you are an educator, economic or workforce developer or employer, all conversational roads lead to this common, challenging destination.

Workers without a Diploma
As chairman of the National Association of State Directors of Adult Education (NASDAE), I may be a little biased, but I believe a solution to the United States’ workforce and socioeconomic issues lie within using an overlooked resource-adult education. Health issues, incarceration rates, and poverty are impacted by an individual’s highest education level. There may be no better “return on investment” than that made with adult education, particularly when it comes to addressing America’s competitive skills crisis.

High school equivalency (HSE} graduates from our adult education system could solve this crisis. However, there are 24 million working age Americans - 12 percent of the workforce - without a high school diploma. While the number of working-age adults without a high school or equivalency is startling, There are still millions who do possess a high school diploma yet lack the educational skills required to succeed in today's workforce. Post-secondary learning may help high school graduates who require the skills to be successful in collage and career.

2018 COABE Virtual Conference


COABE will hold a fall virtual conference on Thursday, October 25, 2018, and Friday, October 26, 2018. This will include 8 hour-long sessions each day, plus presenter chats and Q & A., and opportunities for networking. 

This conference will showcase our top national presenters and is provided by a partnership with McGraw-Hill Education.


Includes full access on October 25 and 26 to all sessions, presenter interviews, networking, and more!  Additionally you will have access to these presentations for up to 6 months after the event.

  • $50 Member - Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26, 2018

  • $95 Non-Member - Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26, 2018

Includes full access for several staff members on a site or facility on October 25 and 26 to all sessions, presenter interviews, networking, and more! Additionally you will have access to these presentations for up to 6 months after the event.

  • $250 Member Site License - Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26, 2018

  • $300 Non-Member Site License - Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26, 2018

  • $500 State Association License - Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26, 2018


Includes full access on October 25 or 26 to all sessions, presenter interviews, networking, and more! Additionally you will have access to these presentations for up to 6 months after the event.

  • $25 Member - Thursday, October 25 or Friday, October 26, 2018

  • $50 Non-Member - Thursday, October 25 or Friday, October 26, 2018

Registration must be paid in full by October 20, 2018, by check, purchase order, or credit card to ensure access to the virtual conference. No refunds after October 20, 2018.  Please contact if you have any questions. 

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week


Dear Members,

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week is this week, and we wanted to encourage you to join your fellow adult educators from around the country as we celebrate this important week! Coming together as a field makes such a difference and will help us elevate the important work that each of us are engaged in!

As you are likely aware, COABE and many state leaders, along with some students, will be in Washington D.C. for COABE's fifth Capitol Hill Day. They will be meeting with legislators as well as the newly appointed Assistant Secretary Stump. We hope to have over 100 appointments with legislators thanking them for the additional $60 million in the WIOA budget. We hope you will join us in this important effort. Here are a few ways YOU can engage:

  1. Check out COABE's Educate and Elevate campaign site HERE for resources including a sample proclamation, fact sheets, and so much more!

  2. Contact your legislator and encourage your fellow educators and students to contact their legislator(s) as well. COABE has made it super easy to do this via their quick fire software. You can contact your mayor, governor, state, and federal legislators with 3 quick clicks! Click HERE.

  3. Tag COABE on social media and/or upload pictures of your activities to the COABE App!

  4. New this year, COABE is offering a national level award entitled Local Advocate of the Year, and will be tracking efforts in the field. Get involved, and you just might win this competitive, national level award ($2,000 plus expenses paid to COABE 2019 in New Orleans, LA in March 2019)!

We would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the benefits available to all COABE members:

  • COABE Conference 2019: Members receive a registration discount to theCOABE Conference 2019 in New Orleans, March 31-April 3, 2019. Join more than 2,000 conferees and enjoy numerous networking opportunities with your peers in adult education and around the country. Registration for the 2019 COABE Conference will open on December 1, 2018. NOTE: The Call for Proposals is out, with proposals due by October 15th.

  • Virtual Conference 2018: COABE will hold its fall virtual conference on Thursday, October 25, 2018, and Friday, October 26, 2018. Collaborate with your colleagues from around the country in the virtual world. If your state has purchased a pass, you can attend for free and hear from national level expert presenters from the comfort of your laptop! Register for the virtual conferenceHERE.

  • COABE Journal: Members can download the latest edition HERE of the COABE Journal which has been very popular due to the Career Pathways focus and the quality of the articles that are written by national level experts as well as local administrators. You can purchase a hard copy as well (members save $35).

  • Employment Bulletin Board: COABE's nationwide bulletin board was created to assist our members in finding or posting employment opportunities.

  • Adult Educator Resources: The repository of best practices created by and for members contains many national conference presentations.

  • National Institute for Literacy Scholarships: NIFL endowed $20,000 in gift funds to COABE for members that wish to attend our conferences. One $1,000 award is granted annually.

  • VIP Vendor Partners: COABE partners with leading adult education vendors to provide our members with special opportunities and substantial discounts.

  • Conference Mini Grants: With generous funding provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, COABE will award fifty mini grants to defray conference registration costs to attend the national conference.

  • Awards, Incentive Grants, and Scholarships: Prestigious, competitive awards valued at $2,000-$10,000 are given at the COABE Conference. Incentive grants and scholarships are also available.

  • Webinars: Members receive FREE access to more than 50 webinars annually that help bring professional development beyond the brick and mortar of the national conference. These educational webinars are delivered on trending topics by the top presenters at our national conference.

If you have questions about national Adult Education and Family Literacy Week or would like to discuss member benefits, please reach out to us.

Contact with questions.

Join COABE’s Learning Upgrade Launch Event & App Competition


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Want to help your learners increase their learning time outside of the classroom?

Want to experiment with an app that has helped thousands of adults increase their skills?

COABE members have exclusive access to a no-cost license for adult educators during Fall 2018!  Sign up, receive your license, and enroll your learners in Learning Upgrade’s innovative ESL, ABE, and GEDⓇ / HiSETⓇ math courses!

The COABE-registered adult ed program with the highest total learner hours completed by December 31, 2018 will win a grand prize of $1,000!


Learning Upgrade is a finalist in the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE. The mobile app features 960 CCRS-aligned lessons which learners can use on smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks, or computers to complete lessons anywhere and anytime.

Manager Mondays

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In response to requests from the field, COABE is holding a series of leadership training webinars (5 one-hour training events) for local program administrators on a variety of high-need topics. These Manager Mondays will feature state and local practitioners who are tackling the same issues you face each day. Additionally, each webinar will include OCTAE recommended resources. Register today!

Special thanks to Essential Education, the generous sponsor of this special training series.

Additional $25 Million for Adult Education


House and Senate conferees completed negotiations on the Labor HHS appropriations bill today. The final appropriation amount for Adult Education is $641M for FY19, which represents a $25M increase over FY 18! This amount is in addition to the $35M that our field worked so hard for last year. 

The next step is a floor vote in the Senate next week, followed by a vote on the House floor the last week of September. The Labor-HHS bill is attached to the Defense Appropriations bill, which is a high priority in Congress to be enacted before the fiscal year ends on September 30th and the package will also include a Continuing Resolution to keep the remaining parts of the government open through December 7th. Hill insiders believe that the combined Labor-HHS/Defense bill will easily pass through the Senate and should also be approved in the House.

This Legislative Update is brought to you in part by generous support provided by:

Our Latest Strand Partner: Wisconsin Health Literacy & Wisconsin Literacy

As a national leader in the field of health literacy, Wisconsin Health Literacy (WHL) has spent much of the last decade raising awareness of this silent crisis in health care. WHL hosts biennial health literacy summits, which have gained national exposure for their cutting edge knowledge sharing. WHL experts have made over 175 health literacy presentations and initiated numerous health literacy projects that are improving health outcomes.

Wisconsin Literacy, Inc., (WLI) serves Wisconsin’s communities by serving its member agencies. Through its four Regional Literacy Consultants (RLCs) located in Eau Claire, Madison, Racine, and Milwaukee, member agencies receive services that support their individual and varied needs. This support includes onsite visits that provide help with professional development, board development, tutor training, accountability, grant writing and any other area that an agency may identify.

COABE Journal: The Resource for Adult Education

Have you downloaded the "go to" resource that more than 11,000 COABE members have accessed? This is the all new and improved research to practice adult ed journal that is available online to you free of charge. Get your copy today of the special Career Pathways edition of the COABE Journal.

The Resource for Adult Education Career Pathways Special Edition-600.png

COABE has published a Journal for 40+ years. As a member of COABE, we invite you to access our special Career Pathways edition which features articles by the very best researchers, practitioners, and leaders in the field of Adult Education.