According to a new study released last week, adult workers with baccalaureate degrees have job-related skills that other workers do not.
The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) compares workers in more than twenty wealthy countries on their abilities to process written and numerical information commonly found in work and social settings.
The study is one of the first to show that a college degree confers core knowledge that adults without degrees are less likely to possess. Initially conducted in 2011-12, the new study for 2013-14 provides a closer look, by category, at young adults, older adults and the unemployed in the U.S. labor force.
The findings give a more detailed picture of the relationship between skills like numeracy and literacy and a U.S. worker’s age and education.
Among U.S. adults age 16-34 with at least a bachelor’s degree, slightly less than a third received either of the two highest scores – a four or five – on the literacy portion of the assessment. The same was true for just 17 percent of workers with an associate’s degree, 10 percent of those with a high-school diploma and 4 percent of those who never completed high school.
The trends for computational skills, or numeracy, and for “problem-solving in technology-rich environments” – a measurement that assesses how well a worker can navigate a website, for example, or interpret signs in a digital setting – were similar.
The higher the education level, the more likely the person scored a four or five. But the scores for all education groups were much lower than they were in the literacy assessment — by roughly a third in numeracy and half in digital problem-solving.
Last week, Acting Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. testified on the U.S Department of Education’s 2017 budget request before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.
Before the U.S. Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Secretary King described highlights of the Department’s $69.4 billion budget request, an increase of $1.3 billion over 2016.
Focusing on three priorities: the advancement of equity and excellence for students, expansion of support for teachers and school leaders, and the improvement of access, affordability, and student outcomes in higher education, Secretary King said:
“Higher education is one of the clearest paths to the middle class. At a time when jobs can go anywhere in the world, skills and education will determine success for individuals and for nations,” King said in his written testimony. “We must shift incentives at every level to focus on student success, not just on access.”
The Committee expressed support for some proposals, such as expansion of and improvement to the Pell Grant program, as well as concern regarding the Department’s handling contracted student loan servicers. U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member of the subcommittee, asked Secretary King how the Department plans to address issues of college access and affordability through its budget request.
On Monday the United States Senate, by a vote of 49-40, voted to confirm Acting Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. King assumed the position in January upon the departure of Arne Duncan, who had served in the position for seven years.
In February President Obama nominated Dr. King to be Secretary, stating that “There is nobody better to continue leading our ongoing efforts to work toward preschool for all, prepare our kids so that they are ready for college and career, and make college more affordable. John knows from his own incredible life experience how education can transform a child’s future.”
Before becoming Acting Secretary, Dr. King served as principal senior advisor at the Department of Education. A former teacher, principal and charter-school founder, he led New York’s state education department from 2011 to 2014. In that role, he served as chief executive officer of the State Education Department and as president of the University of the State of New York.
In a statement after the confirmation, Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) stated that “We need an education secretary confirmed by and accountable to the United States Senate so that the law fixing No Child Left Behind will be implemented the way Congress wrote it. This is such an important year for our nation’s 100,000 public schools. We are working to implement a new law that reverses the trend toward a national school board and restores to those closest to children the responsibility for their well-being and academic success.”
As Education Secretary Dr. King will be responsible for implementing the successor to the No Child Left Behind Act, the 2014 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that governs much of K-12 public education policy. King will also be the Administration’s lead in congressional efforts to reauthorize the 1965 Higher Education Act.
Dr. King earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard University, a Master of Arts in the teaching of social studies from Columbia University’s Teachers College, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and a Doctor of Education degree in educational administrative practice from Columbia University’s Teachers College.
Last week the U.S. Department of Education announced a two-week College Opportunity Across America Tour. Top officials began a tour this week to promote their higher education agenda.
Starting next week, acting Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. and Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell will travel to several states to hold discussions about campus sexual assault, campus diversity efforts, the role of historically black colleges and universities in STEM fields, college completion, protections for student loan borrowers, and other issues.
The College Opportunity Across America Tour will begin at the University of San Francisco and continue on to Georgia State University and Alabama A&M University, as well as other to-be-determined stops in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.