Postsecondary Learning

Obama Spotlights Needs of Young Adult Learners

By Betsy Corcoran     Jan 16, 2014

Obama Spotlights Needs of Young Adult Learners

Inspite of all the hoopla around education technology, there’s been onesurprisingly large community of people left out: Young adults who have eithergraduated or dropped out of high school and lack the reading, math,communications and even problem-solving skills to win high-paying jobs.

OnThursday, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to host asummit to spotlight the needs of this community—and focus the attention ofuniversity educators, nonprofits and the private sector on how to support youngadult learners. (A live webcast here will share the event starting after 9:00 am ET.) 

More than 100 college and university presidents are expected toattend the White House event, along with leaders from nonprofits, foundations,state government and businesses.

Thenumber of adults who struggle with reading, math, communications and evenproblem-solving skills is staggering: a report issued last year by the OECD, “Time for the US toReskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says,” estimated that more than 35million American adult--close to 15% of the US adult population—lack theseskills. 

TheOECD report observes: “Low ‘basic’ skills (literacy and numeracy) are morecommon in the United States than on average across countries. One in six adultshave low literacy skills – in Japan the comparable figure is one in 20. Nearlyone in three have weak numeracy skills against a cross country average of onein five.”

Althoughthe Obama administration has promoted government-funded programs to supportthese young adult learners, Congress has not funded them. As a result, thePresident is appealing directly to universities, nonprofits and businesses forhelp.

According toa story in the Washington Post, National Economic CouncilDirector GeneB. Sperling, who has helped organize the college and skillssummits, says the administration hopes to secure "concrete commitments" fromevery summit attendee. “‘Whenever I spoke to any group of college presidents,foundations or businesses, we made crystal clear that we are not doing aconference to do panels for panels’ sake or to talk about what everyone thinksthey are already doing good,’” Sperling told the Washington Post. “‘We madeclear we are doing this to change the world by changing the paths of youngpeople’s lives.’”

Amongthe nonprofits attending the White House summit is the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, whichhas committed $1.4 million to supporting the development and growing awarenessof edtech technologies that can help adult learners. That funding will go tothree groups: the MIT Media Lab, Digital Promise and EdSurge. (Editor's note: Here's what we're doing.

The MIT Media Lab will develop several education technology prototypes over thenext two years. Digital Promise aims to help galvanize the national conversation.EdSurge plans to expand its coverage of edtech tools to include those aimed atsupporting this community of learners.

Theadministration worries that although higher education has historically helpedclose the chasm between rich and poor Americans and created pathways tosuccess, too many disadvantaged students feel like they can never set foot onthat path—and they don’t try to continue their education after highschool.  Research(reported here by the New York Times) notes that even simple outreach tolow income students, such as sending them information about the collegeadmission policies, graduation rates and available financial aid, can boostapplications.

On Tuesday, reported the Washington Post, the President told his Cabinet members:  “‘I’ve got a phone that allowsme to convene Americans from every walk of life — nonprofits, businesses, theprivate sector, universities — to try to bring more and more Americans togetheraround what I think is a unifying theme: making sure that this is a countrywhere if you work hard, you can make it.’” 

Postsecondary Learning

Obama Spotlights Needs of Young Adult Learners

By Betsy Corcoran     Jan 16, 2014

Obama Spotlights Needs of Young Adult Learners

Inspite of all the hoopla around education technology, there’s been onesurprisingly large community of people left out: Young adults who have eithergraduated or dropped out of high school and lack the reading, math,communications and even problem-solving skills to win high-paying jobs.

OnThursday, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to host asummit to spotlight the needs of this community—and focus the attention ofuniversity educators, nonprofits and the private sector on how to support youngadult learners. (A live webcast here will share the event starting after 9:00 am ET.) 

More than 100 college and university presidents are expected toattend the White House event, along with leaders from nonprofits, foundations,state government and businesses.

Thenumber of adults who struggle with reading, math, communications and evenproblem-solving skills is staggering: a report issued last year by the OECD, “Time for the US toReskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says,” estimated that more than 35million American adult--close to 15% of the US adult population—lack theseskills. 

TheOECD report observes: “Low ‘basic’ skills (literacy and numeracy) are morecommon in the United States than on average across countries. One in six adultshave low literacy skills – in Japan the comparable figure is one in 20. Nearlyone in three have weak numeracy skills against a cross country average of onein five.”

Althoughthe Obama administration has promoted government-funded programs to supportthese young adult learners, Congress has not funded them. As a result, thePresident is appealing directly to universities, nonprofits and businesses forhelp.

According toa story in the Washington Post, National Economic CouncilDirector GeneB. Sperling, who has helped organize the college and skillssummits, says the administration hopes to secure "concrete commitments" fromevery summit attendee. “‘Whenever I spoke to any group of college presidents,foundations or businesses, we made crystal clear that we are not doing aconference to do panels for panels’ sake or to talk about what everyone thinksthey are already doing good,’” Sperling told the Washington Post. “‘We madeclear we are doing this to change the world by changing the paths of youngpeople’s lives.’”

Amongthe nonprofits attending the White House summit is the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, whichhas committed $1.4 million to supporting the development and growing awarenessof edtech technologies that can help adult learners. That funding will go tothree groups: the MIT Media Lab, Digital Promise and EdSurge. (Editor's note: Here's what we're doing.

The MIT Media Lab will develop several education technology prototypes over thenext two years. Digital Promise aims to help galvanize the national conversation.EdSurge plans to expand its coverage of edtech tools to include those aimed atsupporting this community of learners.

Theadministration worries that although higher education has historically helpedclose the chasm between rich and poor Americans and created pathways tosuccess, too many disadvantaged students feel like they can never set foot onthat path—and they don’t try to continue their education after highschool.  Research(reported here by the New York Times) notes that even simple outreach tolow income students, such as sending them information about the collegeadmission policies, graduation rates and available financial aid, can boostapplications.

On Tuesday, reported the Washington Post, the President told his Cabinet members:  “‘I’ve got a phone that allowsme to convene Americans from every walk of life — nonprofits, businesses, theprivate sector, universities — to try to bring more and more Americans togetheraround what I think is a unifying theme: making sure that this is a countrywhere if you work hard, you can make it.’” 

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