It is axiomatic that government spending should produce the very most for the monies spent. In this paper I argue that there are opportunities to get what I call "double duty dollars" from the billions of dollars that are being spent by governments on education and workforce development. This can be done by following two investment strategies for adult basic education: invest in programs that increase the intergenerational transfer of cognitive skills and that teach using a functional context education approach to instructional design.
Evidence from dozens of studies over the last quarter century indicates that preschool or in-school compensatory interventions for children do not, by themselves, lead to improved cognitive skills when the children complete secondary education and enter adulthood.1 Other evidence indicates that the most important, long term, educational intervention "program" for a child is a well educated, financially comfortable parent (or major caregiver). Better educated parents produce better educated children.2 Further, there is now evidence that investments in the education of one welfare parent may influence the school achievement of one, two or even more of the parent's children.3 This suggests that the focusing of funds on the education of the children's parents will lead to better educated, more employable parents and more educable children.
Better Educated Adults Produce Better Educated Children In numerous studies, the variable that has remained most influential in children's participation and success in school is parental education levels. Briefly, what has been repeatedly found in national surveys over the last half century is that, as a general trend, the more highly educated the parents, the greater the likelihood that their children will succeed in the K-12 school system, complete high school, go on to college and achieve higher levels of literacy as an adult.4
1 Sticht, T., Beeler, M., & McDonald, B. (Eds.) (1992). The Intergenerational Transfer of Cognitive Skills. Vol. I: Programs, Policy, and Research Issues. Norwood, NJ: ABLEX.
2 Sticht, T. (1983, February). Literacy and Human Resources Development at Work: Investing in the Education of Adults to Improve the Educability of Children. Professional Paper 2-83. Alexandria, VA: Human Resources Research Organization. (ERIC No. ED 262 201)
3 Van Fossen, S. & Sticht, T. (1991, July). Teach the Mother and Reach the Child: Results of the Intergenerational Literacy Action Research Project of Wider Opportunities for Women. Washington, DC: Wider Opportunities for Women.
4 Sticht, T. & Armstrong, W. (1994, February). Adult Literacy In the United States: A Compendium of Quantitative Data and Interpretive Comments. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.