Skip to main content

Persisters and nonpersisters: Identifying the characteristics of who stays and who leaves from adult literacy interventions

Abstract

Adult literacy programs are characterized by high attrition rates. Rigorous exploration of student persistence in adult reading classes is lacking. This study was an attempt to understand the profiles of adults who completed reading classes compared to a group of adults who made it to the midpoint and a group of adults who did not make it to the midpoint. Students were offered 100 h of instruction. Of the 395 students who attended the first day of class, only 198 completed the program. Results indicated that English language status, age, some reading related skills, class assignment, avoidance of reading, previous adult education experience, and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefit receipt variables significantly predicted persistence. The significance of some of these predictors varied based on analyzing midpoint completion or full completion. To further explore the characteristics of the sample, the most representative participants were selected from the group that did not make it to midpoint and from the group that completed the program. Results indicated that the most representative members of these two groups differed in English language status, gender, age, some reading related skills, and information access.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Alamprese, J. A. (2009). Developing learners’ reading skills in adult basic education programs. In S. Reder & J. Bynner (Eds.), Tracking adult literacy and numeracy skills: Findings from longitudinal research (pp. 107–131). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Alamprese, J. A., MacArthur, C. A., Price, C., & Knight, D. (2011). Effects of a structured decoding curriculum on adult literacy learners’ reading development. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 4, 154–172. doi:10(1080/19435747),2011,555294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blachowicz, C. L. Z. (2004). Reading fluency reader. Columbus, OH: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Comings, J. P. (2009). Student persistence in adult literacy and numeracy programs. In S. Reder & J. Bynner (Eds.), Tracking adult literacy and numeracy skills: Findings from longitudinal research (pp. 160–176). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Comings, J., Parella, A., & Soricone, L. (1999). Persistence among adult basic education students in pre-GED classes (NCSALL report no. 12). Cambridge, MA: National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

  • CTB/McGraw-Hill. (1994). TABE: Tests of adult basic education. Monterey, CA: CTB/McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dirkx, J. M., & Jha, L. R. (1994). Completion and attrition in adult basic education: A test of two pragmatic prediction models. Adult Education Quarterly, 45, 269–285.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunn, L. M., & Dunn, L. M. (1998). Peabody picture vocabulary test (3rd ed.). Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.

    Google Scholar 

  • Farrell, E., Peguero, G., Lindsey, R., & White, R. (1988). Giving voice to high-school students—pressure and boredom, Ya know what im sayin. American Educational Research Journal, 25, 489–502.

    Google Scholar 

  • Flugman, B., Perin, D., & Spiegel, S. (2003). An exploratory case study of 16–20 year old students in adult education programs. New York, NY: Center for Advanced Study in Education.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greenberg, D. (2008). The challenges facing adult literacy programs. Community Literacy Journal, 3, 39–54.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greenberg, D., Wise, J. C., Morris, R., Fredrick, L. D., Rodrigo, V., Nanda, A. O., et al. (2011). A randomized control study of instructional approaches for struggling adult readers. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 4, 101–117. doi:10(1080/19435747),2011,555288.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harting, D. (2006). The challenges of serving youth: How programs are coping with a new reality (pp. 8–10). Fall: Litscape.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hock, M. F., & Mellard, D. F. (2011). Efficacy of learning strategies instruction in adult education. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 4, 134–153. doi:10(1080/19435747),2011,555291.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kutner, M., Greenberg, E., Jin, Y., Boyle, B., Hsu, Y., & Paulsen, C. (2006). Literacy in everyday life: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NCES 2006–477). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.

    Google Scholar 

  • Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miller, B., Esposito, L., & McCardle, P. (2011). A public health approach to improving the lives of adult learners: Introduction to the special issue on adult literacy interventions. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 4, 87–100. doi:10(1080/19435747),2011,555287.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • National Research Council. (2012). Improving adult literacy instruction: Options for practice and research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Purcell-Gates, V., Jacobson, E., & Degener, S. (2004). Print literacy: Uniting cognitive and social practice theories. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Quigley, B. (1997). Rethinking literacy education: The critical need for practice-based change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reder, S. (2009). The development of literacy and numeracy in adult life. In S. Reder & J. Bynner (Eds.), Tracking adult literacy and numeracy skills (pp. 59–84). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reder, S., & Bynner, J. (2009). The need for longitudinal studies in adult literacy and numeracy education. In S. Reder & J. Bynner (Eds.), Tracking adult literacy and numeracy skills (pp. 1–23). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sabatini, J. P., Shore, J., Holtzman, S., & Scarborough, H. S. (2011). Relative effectiveness of reading intervention programs for adults with low literacy. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 4, 118–133. doi:10(1080/19435747).2011.555290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sheehan-Holt, J., & Smith, C. (2000). Does basic skills education affect adults’ literacy proficiencies and reading practices? Reading Research Quarterly, 35, 226–243.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spargo, E. (1989). Timed readings in literature. Columbus, OH: Glencoe/McGraw Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Torgesen, J. K., & Wagner, R. (1999). Test of word reading efficiency. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

    Google Scholar 

  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education. (2010). State administered adult education program: Program year 2008–2009 enrollment. Washington, DC: Author.

    Google Scholar 

  • Venezky, R. L., Bristow, P. S., & Sabatini, J. P. (1994). Measuring change in adult literacy programs: Enduring issues and a few answers. Educational Assessment, 2, 101–131.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1999). Comprehensive test of phonological processing. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wiederholt, J. L., & Bryant, B. R. (2001). Gray oral reading tests (4th ed.). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woodcock, R. W., McGrew, K. S., & Mather, N. (2001). Woodcock-Johnson III: Tests of achievement. Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ziegler, M. F., Bain, S. K., Bell, S. M., McCallum, R. S., & Brian, D. J. G. (2006). Predicting women’s persistence in adult literacy classes with dispositional variables. Reading Psychology, 27, 59–85. doi:10.1080/02702710500542668.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Research supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute for Literacy, and the U.S. Department of Education—grant # R01 HD43801-01.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daphne Greenberg.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Greenberg, D., Wise, J.C., Frijters, J.C. et al. Persisters and nonpersisters: Identifying the characteristics of who stays and who leaves from adult literacy interventions. Read Writ 26, 495–514 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-012-9401-8

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-012-9401-8

Keywords

  • Adult literacy
  • Persistence
  • Attendance