Absence of conflict of interest.
Reder, S. (2014). The impact of ABS program participation on long-term GED attainment. Washington, DC: United States Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of Adult Basic Skills (ABS) training on GED attainment.
- The author used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of adults who participated in various levels of ABS training to a matched comparison group who did not, over a ten-year time period.
- The study found that ABS participants had significantly higher rates of GED attainment than adults who did not participate in ABS training.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it is based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Adult Basic Skills training, but other factors might also have contributed.
Features of the Study
The nonexperimental study compared the outcomes of adults (ages 18-44) who participated in Adult Basic Skills (ABS) training to those who did not, using data from the Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning (LSAL). The LSAL randomly sampled high school dropouts who lived in Portland, Oregon and followed them from 1998–2007. The sample included adults who had not completed high school nor were enrolled in high school; were not enrolled in college; and were proficient English speakers, including non-native English speakers. The LSAL conducted in-home interviews and skills assessments to evaluate literacy skills, as well as changes in social, educational, and economic status.
In the present study, the author compared GED attainment for the treatment group and a matched comparison group over a ten-year study period. The study assessed the effects of ABS training, but did not focus on a specific program or organization offering the training. The treatment group consisted of adults who participated in ABS training. The author matched ABS training participants to similar nonparticipants using propensity scores developed from demographic information. The analysis sample included a total of 769 participants; 583 participants in the treatment group and 186 participants in the comparison group.
The author used statistical models to compare the GED attainment rates of those who participated in any ABS training (at least 1, 25, 75, 100 or 150 hours) to the comparison group. The author also explored the relationship between ABS training participation (hours participating) and GED attainment.
Education and skills gains
- The study found that ABS training was significantly associated with a greater increase in GED attainment from 1997 (year prior to LSAL) to 2007 for those who participated in ABS training compared to those who did not participate in ABS training.
- The study found that the intensity of ABS training was related to GED attainment; individuals who accumulated 100 or more hours of training had the highest proportion of GED attainment (46%) compared to those with 1 to 99 hours of training (27%) or no ABS training (26%). No tests of statistical significance were reported.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The author matched the treatment and comparison groups on age, gender, race/ethnicity, age at school dropout, years of schooling completed (before dropping out), presence of learning disabilities, enrollment in special education classes in school, immigration status, and level of parental education to ensure that the ABS training participants and their matched comparison group members were similar on observed characteristics. The author also controlled for individual motivation as a goal for GED attainment. However, since the author did not focus on a specific ABS training program, there may be variability in the content and implementation of the ABS training that could have impacted the observed outcomes.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it is based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Adult Basic Skills training, but other factors might also have contributed.