Why some students stay in Adult Basic Education programs until they reach their goals while others drop out is a question that has plagued their teachers since the advent of the program. Indeed, more drop out than persist. Although a considerable amount of research has been conducted on drop-outs, only within the past decade have people seriously begun to look at factors affecting goal attainment. Also, it is being realized that variables promoting persistence are not necessarily diametrically opposed to factors influencing dropout. Those who complete their goals may possess unique qualities or have access to required services and support.

To pursue this question of what unique factors contribute to goal attainment, a few approaches could be undertaken. First, a review of available literature on goal attainment is necessary. Next, a study to obtain further information could be conducted in a couple of ways. A survey covering all possible variables influencing goal attainment could be orally administered to goal completers and their responses recorded. To have validity, this would need to be administered to a fairly large sample with issues of interviewer bias addressed. A qualitative approach, using a smaller sample and eliciting from goal completers through interviewing the factors that influenced them is another method. This open-ended approach would reveal in their own words what most impacted and motivated them to continue. Identifying variables by examining transcripts of the interviews may yield common factors that teachers can employ or help develop in their students to aid in attainment of their goals.


The Problem

Investigation into factors affecting persistence in Adult Basic Education programs is warranted by the phenomenal dropout rate in adult literacy programs. According to Harman and Balmuth (1987), as cited in (DuBois, 1989), 50-- 70% of adults entering literacy programs drop out before they reach their goals. Furthermore, only about 5% or less of the estimated 72,000,000 people in need of adult basic education in this country are being reached. It is estimated that 34% of the United States population dont have basic skills constituting an adult education. These figures vary somewhat with a report put out by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (1993) in Washington, D.C. for the program year 1990-1991 that states that 74% of the people entering an adult education program are retained. Numbers for completers (25%) and persisters (49%) were added together. They list 26% of those entering as leaving before they complete their goals.

Meyers (1988) agreed with DuBoiss statistics. In her study she cited McCune and Alamprese (1985) stating that the United States Department of Education figures show that "there are approximately 27 million functionally illiterate adults in the United States, as well as 45 million adults who have only marginal basic skills competence" (p.2). She said that these numbers include a yearly addition of approximately 2.3 million adults: 1.0 million dropouts and "pushouts" from high school, 1.2 million immigrants, and 100,000 refugees. She also cited Harman (1985) who wrote that about 1 million high school students who are functionally illiterate are graduated annually. Moore and Jackson (1984) estimated that between 35% and 45% of the adults over age 25 in the United States have not finished high school.

Records for this researchers Adult Basic Education students from 1984-1988 show that 39.6% left before they completed their objectives. Taking 1985 as a representative year, overall statistics for the state of Vermont indicate that 40% left before completing their goals. Garrison (1985) says that ABE students are four times more likely to drop out than other adult education students. Claus and Quimper (1988) wrote a report that said one of the objectives for the Saginaw Adult Basic Education program in Michigan for 1987-88 was "to attain a dropout rate of 40% or less for those students who receive 12 hours or more of instruction. This standard had not been met during the previous years" (Table I and commentary).

Clearly, Adult Basic Education programs could be reaching a much larger percentage of the population than they currently are. Also, once they do enter the program, dropout rates need to be reduced. The price to society, both economically and socially, is too high not to try to determine what factors impact persistence in the program until goals are attained.

Need for Research

" Scholars in the field of adult education seem to have reached a consensus on the severity of the dropout problem in basic education programs and the corresponding need for research" (Watson, 1983, p.25). She cites DePietro (1975) as having said that "investigation is sorely needed to ascertain causes and/or contributing factors for the low attendance and the high dropout incidences observed in ABE programs (pp.25-26). Jones, Schulman, and Stubblefield (1978) and Boshier (1973) (cited in Watson, 1983) called for more research on persistence in ABE programs. Boshier said that "the absence of testable theory has crippled adult education participation and dropout research for decades" (p.26). Previous demographic studies done in various states on situational variables have yielded inconclusive and contradictory results and investigators have stressed the need for more original research (Watson, 1983).

(Meyers (1988) also commented on the lack of useful literature and research: "without more informative literature and research, attrition cannot be studied thoroughly, and dropout rates cannot be reduced" (p. 21). She cited Garrison (1985) as having said that both school and non-school variables need to be looked at and that "ABE research cannot compare these variables in post hoc surveys" (p.22). He admits that the dropout problem is complex to research and "somewhat overwhelming." Meyers (1988) acknowledges the difficulty in studying persistence in ABE because it is often discussed with related topics such as participation and retention. Both Meyers and DuBois (1989) agree with the others that more research is needed, particularly qualitative research.

Previous Studies

Many theories have been offered as to why some adult learners drop out before completing their goals while others persist. These include intelligence, age, race, sex, marital status, parents educational level, prior educational level, entry level, scholastic ability, prior diagnosis of learning disabilities, time to complete ones goals, prior positive / negative school experiences, goal setting, motivation, determination, self-esteem, course relevancy, academic and social integration, unrealistic expectations, locus of control, support, availability of counseling, making progress, finances, economic status, family situation, alcohol / drugs, marriage, employment, health (current / prior medical conditions and current / prior use of medication), relocation, child care problems, transportation, lack of time, quality of instruction, number of tutors, class size, class scheduling, class location (rural / urban, learning center / home), and materials. Some of these issues will be covered in this literature review with particular attention paid to factors that appear to have significance. They will be grouped in broad categories: demographic characteristics (age, prior educational level, etc.), psychological factors (self-esteem, locus of control, support, etc.), situational factors (transportation, child care, etc.), and program variables (class time, location, instruction, etc.). Factors sometimes can be classified in more than one category (ex: progress can be a psychological as well as a program variable). Some studies that cross these lines may be mentioned in their entirety.

A lot of the research talked about barriers to education. It may be that people that actually complete their goals dont have those barriers or possess certain internal psychological characteristics that allow them to override the effect of those barriers. In a CASAS accountability report for 321 Adult Basic Education programs in the state of California during July 1, 1990 and June 30, 1991, 55% of the participants were retained in the program, 9% achieved one of four goals, 14% reported facing a barrier to education, and 31% left the program for various reasons, most of which were unknown. Of those who reported leaving due to barriers, 70% were contacted and gave the following reasons: 38% moved, 24% changed work time, 14% had family / health problems, 6% had child care issues, 4% had transportation problems, and 13% listed "other." It mentioned the difficulty in contacting students after they have left the program.

In a similar study sponsored by the California State Dept. of Education (1992) for the fiscal year 1991-92, 63% of students enrolled in ABE programs were retained in the program or changed programs, 9% attained a goal, and 28% reported a barrier to education. Men and women were equally likely to be retained. Barriers mentioned were: 13% moved, 10% changed their work time, 6% had health and family reasons, 14% said "other," 4% listed child care, and 2% said transportation. Of particular note, almost half (45%) attended classes for job-related reasons compared to only 12% in 1989-90, perhaps due to mandated pre/posttesting in the GAIN welfare reform program.

DuBois, in her 1989 study, mentioned fear (largely due to prior school experiences), time, and lack of support as major barriers to learning. Her qualitative study of the attitudes and perceptions of 29 adult literacy students in Columbus, Ohio followed an earlier study she had done with Van Tilburg in 1988 that also interviewed 29 students in London, England. She determined that encouragers to learning for those interviewed were: support (both from family and teachers), success, having a goal, determination, and increased self-esteem. Age related to goals in that those up to their early 20s mostly entered with the hopes of being able to get a better job down the road. Those in their 20s and 30s hoped to eventually get a better job but also wanted to be able to have their children be proud of them. The majority of older students enrolled for self-improvement. Most of the factors influencing persistence for these students seemed to be psychological.

Meyers (1988) analyzed the interviews of 29 people under the age of 25 in North Carolina. She used 18 open-ended interviews of ABE learners that she helped research with Fingeret in 1985 for the North Carolina Adult Basic Education Instructional Program Evaluation and 11 additional interviews that she conducted on her own for this study. Important factors for perseverence in the participants she studied were: improved self-esteem, internal locus of control, having a definite goal, regular attendance, and support.

Watson (1983) looked at data from 29,862 students enrolled in Adult Basic Education programs in Virginia from 1979-1980. 30% dropped out before completing twelve hours of classroom instruction. Age was found to be the most important factor in persistence-- the higher the age, the more positive the correlation with persistence beyond twelve hours of study. Blacks were more likely to stay in the program than whites. People with higher beginning reading levels were less likely to continue than those with low beginning reading levels. The results may have been influenced by the inclusion of students who received their GED with less than 12 hours of instruction as non-persisters.

Jha (1991) studied data from the records of 2,323 students enrolled in ABE through a mid-western, urban, community college over a two-year period and year-end reports. Over two-thirds discontinued attendance with the greatest number leaving before completing 12 hours of instruction. 22% completed a goal, 9% continued in the program, and 67% discontinued. Age was found to have no bearing on continuation. More females tended to stop and then re-enroll than males. The last grade attended in school had little impact on continuation in ABE. In fact, more discontinuing students had attended the 11th or 12th grade. Higher TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) scores upon entry into the program positively correlated with ABE completion. Watson points out the need for research studying the effects of testing on attrition as well as the relationship between instructional strategies and dropout and perseverence.

An evaluation report of Adult Basic Education programs in the state of Pennsylvania during 1985-86, put out by the Pennsylvania State Department of Education (1986), reported success in reducing premature separations from previous years. 30.2% of ABE students separated after 12 or more program contact hours or after meeting personal objectives in less than 12 hours compared to 35.6 in 1980-81. Reasons for separation were not available for 26.7% of the students who left early. "Obtaining more complete information traditionally has been difficult for ABE programs" (p.17). 12.3% exited due to lack of interest and 10.8% exited due to being released or transferred from an institution. Completion rates for this study were based on the passing of entry levels. 40.1% in the 16-24 age group passed entry levels , 39.3% in the 35-44 age group, 36.1% in the 45-54 age group, and only 7.8% in the 65 and older age group. The completion rate for males was 35.2% compared with 40.4% for females. Native Americans completed entry levels 60.7%, whites 41.4%, blacks 34%, Asian or Pacific Islanders 27.9%, and Hispanics 26.3%.

Completion rates for this study also varied by class location. Vocational-technical schools reported a completion rate of 60.3%, secondary schools 48.1%, correctional institutions 41.4%, learning centers 38.7%, community / junior colleges 38.4%, four-year colleges / universities 35.3%, elementary schools 34.1%, community centers 30.4%, hospitals 25.9%, business / work locations 26.1%, county prisons 22.3%, institutions for the handicapped 16.3%, and homes 12.1%.

Efforts to increase retention in Pennsylvania included flexible scheduling, convenient location of classes, networking with public agencies, and public relations campaigns. Other methods included field trips, guest speakers, job placement counselors, issuing diplomas, calling absentee students, and individualizing instruction. The use of peer tutors, starting a job file, and delivering materials via a book mobile were also mentioned.

Demographic Characteristics

A few demographic characteristics, notably age and academic achievement, have been shown to impact continuation in an ABE program until completion. Studies looking at the impact of age on continuation and completion of ABE goals have been inconclusive and often contradictory. Watson (1983) found that age was a factor in persistence. She determined that older students were more likely to persist. Other studies have not been as definitive. Jha (1991) found that age was not a factor even though she cited a number of studies linking youth with attrition (Anderson & Darkenwald, 1979; Boshier, 1973; Bosma, 1988; Diekhoff & Diekhoff, 1984; Smith, 1985; and Weisel, 1980) and persistence with age (Anderson & Darkenwald, 1979; Cramer, 1982; Sainty, 1971). Fasig and Jones (1979), cited in Harmans paper presented in 1983, concluded that non-persisters tended to be older (age 45 and above), female, and unemployed. Californias state evaluation report from 1992 found that age didnt seem to have any bearing on completion.

Employment was correlated with withdrawal and persistence in studies cited by Jha in 1991: Anderson and Darkenwald (1979), Bosma (1988), Diekhoff and Diekhoff (1984), and Meyer (1974). She also mentioned that Boshier (1973) determined that unmarried students were more likely to drop out than married students.

Academic factors have also been linked with attrition / persistence in the research. Malizio and Whitney (1981) interviewed 13,000 GED candidates at 250 randomly selected GED testing sites. 70% had completed the 10th grade and 88% completed 9th or higher. A survey sent to 337 students by Mally and Charuhas (1977) had 26% respond. 34% of those who took an 8-week GED course said they finished the second year of high school. Moore (1982) studied the returns of adults after 5 years of having left the program. and decided that the last grade completed in school was a significant factor. The successful male and female GED candidate completed an average of 9.7 years of school. Preston (1958), cited in Wright (1968), found that people at the extremes of the educational continuum are more likely to persist. Garrison (1985) decided that the last grade completed in school and number of hours worked seemed to play a role in persistence. He also mentioned social and academic integration as being important.

Dirks and Jha (1994) say that academic ability as measured by achievement tests holds promise as a variable in persistence. They cite studies done by: Bosma, 1988; Long, 1983; Martin, 1988; and Smith, 1985. Higher entry level scores are associated with students who successfully complete their goals. Also, studies on academic preparation are mentioned: Kronick & Hargis, 1990; Martin, 1988; Shipp & McKenzie, 1981; and Sainty, 1971. Jha, in her own study in 1991, found that students with higher entry level TABE scores tended to persist. Watson (1983) said academic level was important. Her somewhat contrary findings indicate that those with higher beginning reading levels at enrollment were more likely to quit.

Psychological Factors

Internal variables, also referred to as psychological factors, have been shown to impact perseverence in ABE. These include goal clarity, course relevancy to life, self-esteem, locus of control, presence of support, prior school experience, and determination.

Garrison (1985) discussed course relevancy and goal clarity. Anderson and Darkenwald (1979) are cited as saying that the best predictor of persistence is satisfaction with learning in relation to its helpfulness to the student in meeting his goals. Garrison found that ABE dropouts thought that classes were more relevant but were also clearer about their goals than persisters. He then examined the interaction between course relevancy and scholastic ability and determined that students often set unrealistic goals.

Preston (1993) cited Tintos research (1975) on goal commitment and Spadys study (1970) on social integration as factors in persistence. He carried their work one step further and concluded that the more strategic the students goal-commitment (the longer they expected to attend community college classes), the more likely he/she would perceive gains on twenty-three general education goals.

DuBois (1989) found that "having a goal as well as support was important" (p.51). Meyers (1988) also determined that having a definite goal was a factor in persistence. Watson (1983), on the other hand, concluded that reasons for enrolling were not a factor.

Some researchers offered advice on helping students develop goal setting skills. In The Paraprofessional Handbook: A Guide for Adult Homebound Instructors, put out by the Kentucky State Department of Education, instructors are advised to help clarify a students goals by helping them determine short-term goals that lead to long-term goals. They also need to help students arrive at achievable long-term goals. Fittzgerald and Vorost (1983) presented a paper about using Goal Attainment Scaling (developed by Kiresek and Sherman in 1968) as an assessment tool for progress and to help adults verbalize their goals and plan steps to reach them. Lenz, Ehren, and Smiley (1991) found that "training in goal attainment strategies was effective in increasing the number of projects successfully completed and the quality of goal setting and goal actualization responses" (p. 166) by learning disabled adolescents. They describe an intervention procedure. The research seems to indicate the importance of clearly defined goals.

DuBois (1989) talked about prior school experiences in her interviews with ABE students. "School for most of them had not been enjoyable. Therefore, deciding to return to school meant facing the past squarely and choosing to overcome the feelings they had previously left behind" (p.43). None of them felt that their teachers were responsible for their problems in school. This could have attributed to feelings of low self-esteem experienced by most ABE students upon enrollment.

Low self-esteem is perhaps one of the most important obstacles for an ABE student to overcome if he/she is to be successful in completing his/her goals. DuBois (1989) said:

A poor self-image in former schooling became a fear of failure upon return and a feeling of high self-esteem after having participated in educationÉ(Students) could talk to others without fear (pp.54-55).

Éthe majority of Columbus students saw themselves as dumb, slow, incapable of keeping up with the work required (p. 40).

A positive self-image appeared to be the single best motivator for students who were persisting in the program (p. 70).

Meyers (1988) also found that the greater a persons self-esteem, the more likely they would participate in an ABE program and that being in the program often led to increased feelings of self-esteem.

Other studies have looked at the impact of self-esteem on education. Meyers (1988) cited Cross (1981) as believing "that high self-esteem is a positive factor toward participation in adult education" (p. 30). She cites Campbell (1984) as saying that one can have self-esteem in one area but not in others. Reiff (1982) quoted an adult education student as saying, "Feeling undereducated can lead to a poor self-image" (p. 3). Hathaway and Rhodes (1979) felt that "the common denominator among deprived or disadvantaged students appears to be shattered self-image, little or no sense of purpose, and a poor understanding of what causes failure or success" (p. 6). Anderson and Nemi (1970), as cited in Rolfe and Wilson (1979), believed that "the disadvantaged are hampered by certain psychological disabilities, including a lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, and a high degree of dependency" (p. 6). Kreitlow (1981) said that many adult education students have low self-esteem (p. 1). Rolfe & Wilson (1979) found that persisters used more positive adjectives to describe themselves than dropouts. Garrison (1985) also felt that the self-confidence and ideal self discrepancy variable was important. Dropouts had higher discrepancies between self and other than persisters did according to Boshier (1971). Hathaway and Rhodes (1979) concluded that a program offering individualized instruction, good teacher models, and self-image enhancement has the best chance of success.

The presence of support is another psychological factor linked to persistence in Adult Basic Education programs. DuBois (1989) found that "family played a large part in the students persistence" (p. 48). "The students saw their teachers as supportive but due in part to the individual nature of the Columbus GED program, few had any support from their classmates" (p. 47). "A few students were very much loners and had no support systems. For them, the desire to achieve something for themselves kept them going during the rough times in class. Teacher support was especially important to them" (p. 69). Meyers (1988) also found support to be influential in persistence. She stated, "If supportive factors outweigh the inhibitive factors, then learners will probably persist in ABE" (p. 111).

Studies relating locus of control (whether a person attributes success or failure to his own behavior or external forces (Rotter, 1982, as cited in Myers, 1988), to continuation and completion of goals have been less conclusive. This issue was discussed at the 1984 Annual Adult Education Research Conference in North Carolina. It was found that more students completed if they were internally motivated and that more dropouts had been referred by social agencies. Newsom and Foxworth (1979) determined that the higher the grade completed, the greater the locus of control. A link emerges between grade completed, level of self-esteem, locus of control, and dependency characteristics. Another study by Richards (1983) found no connection between an internal locus of control, greater self-esteem, and goal attainment. Meyers (1988) determined that ABE students with an internal locus of control had a greater chance of completing their goals. She also cited Taylor (1984) who found that "adult learners who completed the literacy program were significantly more internal than those who did not complete the program" (p. 37). This area is rich for further exploration.

DuBois (1989) was surprised at the number of people interviewed who said that determination made them persevere. This ended up being one of the five factors impacting goal completion that she mentioned:

Students who persisted in literacy programs did a certain amount of "self talk" in which they use words, proverbs, parables, etc. to convince themselves to remain in a program when they encountered difficult times...This self-talk elicited feelings of determination and stubbornness which were played out as the student attempted to learn the material presented to him/her (p. 81).

Quigley discussed personal motivation in a staff development workshop that was included as part of a report by the Pennsylvania State Department of Education. He listed a number of reasons that adults drop out of adult education classes: transportation difficulties, child care arrangements, family health, conflicts with the time classes are scheduled, lack of family support, and fear of failure. But, he added that "all of these problems have solutions if the students have personal motivation. Without personal motivation, a genuine desire to achieve, each one of the problems listed becomes the reason students use for dropping out" (p. 5). His findings were based on studies and surveys in the Pittsburg area.

Situational Factors

Situational factors are not discussed in depth here because it is a given that they can all be reasons for dropout: finances, economic status, family situation, alcohol / drug use, marriage, employment, health, relocation, transportation, and lack of time. These are listed on ABE separation forms as possible reasons for early exit. Jha (1991) cites work by Mezirow et al. (1975) and Moss and Richardson (1967) that listed class and work schedules and moving as contributers to attrition. She cites others who mentioned transportation, time constraints, health, employment, and family problems as reasons for leaving ABE programs (Darkenwald, 1986; Rachal, Jackson, & Leonard, 1987; and Wheaton, 1976). Other studies mentioned by Jha related job and time of class with completion (Cramer, 1982); class scheduling, day care problems, transportation and location, health and family problems, and lack of interest (Sticht, 1988-89); and reported non-school related factors as the major problems contributing to attrition (Jackson-Mayer et al., 1987). She says that Cramer (1982) found that 61% of ABE completers didnt name situational reasons as interfering with attendance, while only 19.6% of dropouts gave no situational reasons for lack of attendance. Jha (1991) said that "situational reasons may often be given for dropout because they are more socially acceptable" (p. 20). Clark (1986, cited in Jha, 1991) said educators tend to minimize the significance of situational factors, believing them to be beyond the control of ABE. This follows from the belief that high dropout rates are from failure of students instead of from failure of the instructors of service. If situational factors do play such a large role in early attrition from ABE programs, ways to help students counteract these barriers need to be addressed from a program level.

Program Variables

While demographic characteristics perhaps cannot be changed and situational factors are often difficult to surmount, the areas that can most be influenced by studies such as this are psychological factors and program variables. Indeed, program aspects are perhaps what can be changed the most readily. Things such as class size, class time, location of lessons, number of tutors working with a person, quality of instruction, and selection of materials are within the control of ABE programs.

Previous studies have looked at some of these areas. Jha (1991) listed research related to class size. She says that Boshier (1973) found that a class with fewer than nine students had a lower dropout rate and that Wheaton (1976) also suggested smaller classes to aid in retention. Darkenwald (1981, as cited in Jha) found that dropout rates were fewer for classes meeting less than 20 session. Weisel (1980), again cited in Jha, found that students who attended in the afternoon participated in more classes. Meyers (1988) listed regular attendance as one of the five factors she determined to impact goal completion. Course relevancy has been discussed previously (see goals).

DuBois (1989) found success to be a major factor in goal completion: "When they returned to education and began to succeed, they also saw this as a personal affirmation of their talents" (p. 47). Progress can be both a program variable and a psychological factor. Instructors can be instrumental in helping the students to realize that they are progressing.

Support can also be a program variable in addition to a psychological factor. Jha (1991) cites the following studies: counseling on an individual basis (Arruze & Daniel, 1987; Jackson et al., 1987; and Wheaton, 1976), one-to-one interactions (Reder, 1985), and individual pre-enrollment counseling as well as continuous one-on-one follow-up (Indians and Adult Basic Education: A Handbook, 1987).

Other studies mentioned the importance of supportive counseling in goal completion. Mikulecky and DAdamo-Weinstein, (1991) said that counseling is an integral part of the more effective workplace literacy programs. A 1981 report by the Indiana Vocational Technical College mentioned greater retention of ABE students with counseling. According to a 1987 California state evaluation report (for fiscal year 1986-87), "two of the sites that had the best retention rates (72% and 67%) had a placement center that oriented students to (the) program and provided formalized tracking of students between instructional levels and program components" (p. 13). A paper by McKenzie (1986), presented at the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education, stressed the importance of counseling. She said that students need to be aware of the whole process of goal attainment so that pitfalls can be anticipated and dealt with appropriately: "It was found in this study of 194 adults over six years, that knowledge of the process increased ones efficiency within the cycle" (p. 13). Supportive counseling should be a part of every ABE program.

DuBois found that supportive teachers aided retention in ABE programs: "They were surprised at the way they were being treated by the teachers. Assignments were optional. They were not criticized if they skipped class. In short, they were being treated as adults" (p. 68). Butler and McNeely (1987) found that the presence and assistance of caring and well qualified staff can make a difference in student outcomes. Often teachers of Adult Basic Education are not regarded as professionals by others in the field of education, but they in fact work with the most difficult students, the students that the traditional educational system has failed. Special skills are needed to work with these students in addition to a solid knowledge base. Quality of instruction, improved through staff development, needs to be considered in regard to student outcomes when looking at program variables.

Perin and Greenberg (1994) felt that program design is one of the most important factors in student persistence. They felt further research was needed on the impact of students perceptions of how close they are to specific educational goals at various points in the course. DAmico-Samuels (1990, cited by Perin and Greenberg, 1994) asked urban, male, African American students what program characteristics encouraged them to persist. Responses were program support services, geographical location, class schedule, the content of instruction, and the quality of teaching. They also mentioned McKillop (1991) who argued that retention rates could increase by intake procedures that were sensitive to student characteristics, flexible scheduling, availability of computer-based learning, counseling support, and appropriate assessment methods.

Some authors had specific suggested retention strategies. The Oklahoma State Dept. of Education, in its 1989 Handbook for Adult Basic Education, said that students should be given a skill that they can use in the first class. They need to be given an opportunity to succeed. Harman (1983) said that "high risk" learners need to be identified through a profile of participants. Demographics, goals, locus of control, support systems, etc. could be part of an intake process. He talked about the necessity of involving important others in the remediation process and preparing them for changes. He said that a policy regarding orientation, participation, on-going progress, termination, and follow-up needs to be developed in adult learning programs. There is no doubt that programs could further impact retention of ABE students.

The most common reasons mentioned for retention and goal completion of adult education students have been covered in this review. Also, the need for more research in the field, particularly qualitative, has been shown. It is time to test the research and take it one step further, to see if characteristics and factors found by others hold true for Adult Basic Education students in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. That is best accomplished by their own words.

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