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Ed Reform Movement, Credentials, Social Impact Bonds — What’s the Future for Adult Literacy?

On June 8, the Barbara Bush Foundation will host a symposium in D.C. to ponder adult literacy. By the way, read on — and if you are interested in these topics, let me know and, space permitting, join us.

Last year, we put a stake in the ground that we just don’t believe there are enough services for the 1 in 10 low-literate adults in the United States. We announced a $7-million global competition challenging teams to develop mobile applications for existing smart devices that result in the greatest increase in literacy skills among participating adult learners in just 12 months. However, we believe much more must be done in the digital space and we are exploring this idea with Karen Cator of Digital Promise, who is leading an effort to bring together superintendents who believe in the power of technology.

We believe that low literacy is the driver of income inequality, and that bold policies and ideas are needed in the adult literacy space. Governor Engler, who heads the national Business Roundtable, is interested in exploring how credentials in adult education may help businesses to better understand the skill levels of their employees, and also help them to create a learning pathway.

Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform wonders if adult education might be ripe for some of the types of education reforms we’ve seen in K-12. Her take: lets explore the concept of charter schools for adults and let’s consider scholarships paid for from corporate taxes or other public and private funds for low-income adults.

Based on our work with the XPRIZE, we’re particularly hopeful about the role foundations and investors can play. Rusty Greiff from 1776, the global incubator with seed funds helping startups, is thinking about adult literacy from an investment value  particularly in the development of online technology. And Jeffrey Liebman of the John F. Kennedy School of Government is exploring the value of social impact bonds in the adult literacy and workforce space.

This will be a unique forum, as after our initial conversations, we’ll divide into groups to create next steps in the areas that gain the most traction. Consider joining us in D.C. or follow me on Twitter.

We’re hosting this symposium to honor the 25th anniversary of the National Adult Literacy Act signed by President George H.W. Bush, which established literacy programs for incarcerated individuals, created indicators of program quality, created national workforce demonstration projects, and much more.

Get in Touch

You may also contact us by phone at 850.562.5300 or by mail at:
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
516 North Adams Street • Tallahassee, Florida 32301