Adult Charter Schools: Creating Economic Opportunities for America's Families

This policy brief highlights the need for more adult education opportunities and the potential of adult charter schools to address the nation’s adult education challenges.

Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

Nationwide, millions of adult learners lack the educational opportunities necessary to help them support their families, contribute to the economy, and fulfill their potential. Less than five percent of adults lacking a high school diploma are being served by the programs that these funds support and there are waiting lists for adult education classes in all 50 states.

A movement to create more adult charter schools is an effort to expand educational access for adults. This policy brief examines the role that charter schools can play in adult education and presents five recommendations that emerged from the 2016 Adult Growth Forum:

  1. Convene authorizers who have high capacity and high commitment.
  2. Ensure an accountability framework for schools.
  3. Engage private and philanthropic sectors to create a funders network to support the effort.
  4. Create start-up manuals to facilitate replication of successful models.
  5. Ensure a demonstrable return on investment.
What the experts say

This brief provides a compelling argument about the need for additional solutions to the lack of adult educational opportunities, including the effects on labor productivity and global competitiveness, improved K-12 student achievement and long-term outlook, and greater community prosperity. It outlines the case for investing in adult charter schools, particularly by harnessing existing resources and forming a movement that includes a broad range of stakeholders. The authors note the impact increasing adult education opportunities would have for families, community, and beyond.

The report peaks the reader’s interest in charter school solutions and concludes by making recommendations for “next steps” in exploring/establishing adult charter school solutions. These recommendations stem from the Adult Schools Growth Forum held in December of 2016. Co-hosted by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, and the U.S. Department of Education, forum participants included adult charter school operators, community leaders, policy makers, national associations, investors, and federal agencies — a group that represents powerful expertise and agency.

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