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The Field of Adult Education and Literacy

Adult education and literacy programs help adults get the basic skills they need to be productive workers, family members, and citizens.

Adult education programs are responsible for enabling adults to acquire the basic skills necessary to function in today’s society so that they can benefit from the completion of secondary school, enhanced family life, attaining citizenship and participating in job training and retraining programs. (OCTAE, April 21, 2016)


IELCE (Integrated English Language Civics Education) is a federally funded, competitive, categorical grant program intended to provide non-native English speaking adults with instruction in:

  • English (ESL),
  • Civics (including at least 1 of the 4 pillars of civics: U.S. Government, U.S. History, Citizenship, and Community),
  • Work Preparation (skills needed to succeed in the workforce), and
  • Work Training (integrated work certification programming helping participants complete industry-recognized credentials).

Adapted from Minnesota Adult Basic Education Program, April 21, 2016)

The purpose of the IELCE funds is to support activities that integrate English literacy and civics education for adult learners of limited English proficiency and prepare these adults for employment. Individuals are considered to be of limited English proficiency if they have a limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand the English language; their native language is other than English; or they live in a family or community where a language other than English is the dominant language.

(Superintendent’s Memo #065-16, Virginia Department of Education, April 21, 2016)

ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) comprises instruction in elements of the English language: vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, idioms, rhythm and intonation, fluency in writing and speaking, fluency in reading and listening, comprehension, pronunciation, and oral and written communication.

IELCE (Integrated English Language and Civics Education)combines the elements of ESOL instruction with relevant content that adults need to be active members of their communities, including work preparation, work training, civic participation, and family literacy.

Adult English Language programs are designed to help immigrants and others who have not yet developed proficiency in English to acquire the basic knowledge and skills they need to function effectively as parents, workers, and citizens. Adult English Language Instruction programs supported by the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) serve those who have a limited ability in speaking, reading, writing, or understanding the English language; whose native language is a language other than English; or who live in a family or community where a language other than English is the dominant language.

(OCTAE, April 21, 2016)

The Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center serves the instructors, staff, regional specialists, and program managers in Virginia’s AEFLA- and IEL/Civics-funded adult education programs, as well as the volunteers and staff who work with Community Based Literacy Organizations (CBLOs) funded through the Virginia Literacy Foundation. We also serve unique target populations (e.g., SNAP recipients, disabled adults, and veterans) through grant-funded initiatives with partner state agencies and educational institutions.

Currently, the only Virginia board-approved HSE examination in Virginia is the General Educational Development (GED®) test, which was developed by the American Council on Education to enable persons who have not graduated from high school to demonstrate the attainment of abilities normally associated with completion of a high school program of study.

VDOE no longer accepts paper, phone, fax or email requests for the fulfillment of GED® credentials. GED® test takers who earned a credential before 2014 can order duplicate copies of transcripts and official Virginia GED® certificates online at the GED Credentialing website.

(VDOE, CTAE, April 21, 2016)


Under The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) passed into legislation in 2014, Adult Education (Title II) is an essential component of the workforce development system, working in partnership with The Virginia Employment Commission (Title III), The Virginia Community College System (Title 1), and the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS, Title IV).

WIOA’s Three Hallmarks of Excellence:

  • The needs of businesses and workers drive workforce solutions and local boards are accountable to communities in which they are located
  • One-Stop Centers (or American Job Centers) provide excellent customer service to jobseekers and employers and focus on continuous improvement
  • The workforce system supports strong regional economies and plays an active role in community and workforce development

(Department of Labor, April 21, 2016)

WIOA authorizes key employment and training programs and the American Job Center (referred to as One-Stop Center in the law) service delivery system to help workers acquire the tools and skills they need to be successful and to connect employers to the skilled workers they need. WIOA aligns the “core” programs to provide coordinated, comprehensive services. The core programs are: (1) Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth formula programs administered by DOL; (2) the Adult Education and Literacy programs administered by the Department of Education (ED); (3) Wagner-Peyser Employment Service program administered by DOL; and (4) and the programs under title I of the Rehabilitation Act that provide services to individuals with disabilities administered by the ED. Other programs administered by DOL that are authorized under title I of WIOA include: Job Corps, YouthBuild, Indian and Native American programs, Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker programs, and evaluation and multistate projects.

WIOA makes a number of improvements to the public workforce system and its delivery of services to jobseekers, workers, and employers. Among the key features of WIOA are:

  • Ensuring that federal core program employment and training services are coordinated and complementary by requiring a single, 4-year Strategic State Plan for achieving the workforce goals of the State;
  • Ensuring that federal investments in employment and training programs are evidence-based, data-driven, and accountable to participants and taxpayers by establishing a common performance accountability system for the core programs and requiring other authorized programs to report on the common performance indicators;
  • Streamlining and strengthening the strategic roles of State and local workforce boards by reducing board size and adding functions that include strategies for meeting the needs of jobseekers and employers;
  • Enhancing services provided to job seekers and employers through the American Job Center system by requiring the co-location of Wagner-Peyser Employment Services; adding the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families as a required partner; providing for State-established certification to facilitate high-quality American Job Centers; requiring partners to dedicate funding for infrastructure and other shared costs; and promoting the development of integrated intake, case management and reporting systems;
  • Fostering regional collaboration by having local areas plan and coordinate service delivery within a region;
  • Emphasizing the use of career pathways and sector partnerships to promote employment in in-demand industries and occupations;
  • Promoting work-based training by authorizing local areas to provide incumbent worker training and transitional jobs, increasing the reimbursement to employers for on-the-job-training and customized training and by increasing linkages with Registered Apprentices;
  • Increasing flexibility by authorizing local areas to transfer up to 100 percent funding between Adult and Dislocated Worker; and
  • Refocusing the youth formula program to serve disconnected youth by requiring a minimum of 75 percent of funds are used for out-of-school youth compared to 30 percent under WIOA.

(Department of Labor, December 21, 2017)

Current Initiatives in Adult Education and Literacy

WIOA defines Career Pathways as a combination of rigorous and high-quality education, training, and other services that meet the following criteria:

  • Industry alignment: Aligns with the skill needs of industry
  • Adequate preparation: Prepares individuals to be successful in a full range of secondary or postsecondary education options
  • Skill integration: Includes education offered concurrently with and in the same context as workforce preparation activities and training for a specific occupation or cluster
  • Degree/certification attainment: Enables an individual to attain a secondary school diploma or its equivalent and at least one postsecondary credential
  • Pathway focused: Helps an individual enter or advance within a specific occupational cluster

Career pathways programs should include multiple entrance and exit points, support services when available, increased rigor and high expectations, and education and training that may lead to stackable credentials that strengthen a learner’s opportunities to advance within a career.

In Virginia, the PluggedInVA model is the primary framework used to build career pathways programs through partnerships with supportive services, postsecondary institutions and training providers, and employers. This model is expanding to serve learners at all skill levels to earn industry-recognized credentials while strengthening foundational skills and improving employment opportunities. See www.pluggedinva.com for more information about this model.

Distance education is a formal learning activity where students and instructors are separated by geography, time, or both for the majority of the instructional period. Distance learning materials are delivered through a variety of media including, but not limited to, print, audio recording, videotape, television broadcasts, computer software, web-based interaction, and other online technologies. Teachers support distance learners through communication via mail, telephone, e-mail, or other web-based technologies or software.


The Commonwealth of Virginia Learning Center, or COVLC for short, is a learning management system in use by the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a VALRC participant, you can use the VALRC domain within the COVLC to take online courses, surveys, tests, manage personal information, and collaborate with other users. It also allows you to register for classroom training and maintain your training history. The COVLC maintains your training transcript, certifications, and certificates of completion.

BEST Plus 2.0
BEST Plus 2.0 is an individually administered, face-to-face oral interview designed to assess the English language proficiency of adult English language learners in the United States. BEST Plus 2.0 is a combined test of listening and speaking skills.

TABE is the Test of Adult Basic Education. TABE Certification Training Online provides the skills, knowledge, and ability to place adults into the appropriate instructional level. In order to administer the TABE Assessments, you must be certified according to state policy.

CASAS, Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems, is a nonprofit organization that provides assessments of basic skills for youth and adults and curricular tools to target instruction. CASAS is used by federal and state government agencies, business and industry, community colleges, education and training providers, correctional facilities, and technical programs.CASAS measures the basic skills and the English language and literacy skills needed to function effectively at work and in life.