The Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) established a performance accountability system that requires states to track program participation and the following three core indicators:
- Improvement in literacy skill levels in reading, writing, and speaking the English language; numeracy, and problem solving; English language acquisition; and other literacy skills;
- Placement or retention in, or completion of, postsecondary education, training, employment, or career advancement; and
- Receipt of a secondary school diploma or the equivalent.
States negotiate performance levels with the Office of Vocational and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education, which is responsible for administering the state grants, designing and implementing national leadership activities, and reporting to Congress on the program. States report their performance data via a publicly accessible National Reporting System.
The quality and breadth of the data vary considerably, both among reported outcomes and between states. Data on educational gains are available for all participants and are based on pre- and post-assessments that measure progress for each of the programs (ABE, ASE, EL). Testing procedures are not uniform across states, making cross-state comparisons problematic. States are also required to track transitions to postsecondary education or training, employment, and retention, but often lack access to reliable education and labor market data to effectively track participants. Moreover, until 2012, states were only required to track employment outcomes and postsecondary transitions of participants who self-reported these as goals of their participation in the program, which likely resulted in significant under-reporting of employment and educational outcomes. Beginning in program year 2011-12, states are required to report educational, employment, and retention outcomes for all program participants, effectively setting a new baseline for these data.