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Narrative Report for Virgin Islands 2021

State Leadership Funds - Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) Section 223

State Leadership Funds (Adult education and family literacy act Section 223 (AEFLA))

Describe how the State has used funds made available under section 223 (State Leadership activities) for each the following:

AEFLA Section 223(1)(a)

Alignment of adult education and literacy activities with other one-stop required partners to implement the strategies in the Unified or Combined State Plan as described in section 223(1)(a)

The US Virgin Islands (USVI) State Office of Career, Technical & Adult Education (SOCTAE) is a voting member of the USVI’s Workforce Development Board as a WIOA core program and required One-Stop delivery system partner in collaboration with the

  • USVI Department of Labor (VIDOL) - administers the Youth, the Adult program (Title I of WIOA), Dislocated Worker (Title I) and Wagner-Peyser programs (Title III),
  • USVI Department of Human Services (VIDHS) - administers the Vocational Rehabilitation program (Title IV).

The SOCTAE collaborated with the core program partners to assist adults with increasing their literacy skills, attaining a high school diploma, or its equivalent and transitioning to post-secondary, or obtaining national industry recognized training and credentialing and transitioning to the workforce.

During this reporting period, the core partners collaborated via monthly meetings on the WIOA Combined Plan to discuss identified challenges of the USVI’s workforce and develop innovative practices for plan implementation through strengthening of partnerships. The following topics were discussed:

  • COVID 19 Pandemic Session
  • Discussions on One Stop: VIDOL Re-opened to serve customers/ One Stop Services by appointment only and utilizing virtual platforms
  • Participation in Virtual Career Fair held by St. Croix Adult Education Sub-Grantee
  • Technical Assistance Training re: MOU
  • Introduction of Equus Workforce Solutions/New One Stop Operator/
  • Navigating LinkedIn Learning via Equus Workforce Solutions
  • Governor’s Workforce Summit Planning
  • Core Partner Meeting /Equus Tools & Resources Showcase

As a result, smaller collaborative teams were formed to strategically plan individualized approaches for support and services for adults.  Two such partnerships of which SOCTAE is a member are the first annual Governor’s Workforce Summit (a committee of core partners convened weekly to plan the first annual summit to engage and inform adults of available services, recruit, train and offer adults sustainable wage job placement) and the Bureau of Corrections (BOC) Re-entry Action Group which convenes monthly to discuss re-entry strategies, educational training and job placement to lessen the impact of recidivism for parolees.

Wrap around services were offered through the One-Stop, which is the hub for all employment and training related activities sought after by employers or job seekers. Adults had (and continue to have) access to career services that prepare them for the workforce; training services that helps them attain National credentialing in different skills and follow up services to assist with retention by ensuring that placements are successful and career goals are met. Services included job readiness workshops and seminars, individualized career counseling, job search matching and referrals. The One-Stop operates off of the premise that everyone who accesses the system is seeking employment (either first time, or advanced work opportunity).

Adults enrolled in AEFLA funded programs are eligible for all services offered through the One-Stop. During the reporting period, adults who were unemployed, or under employed had access to all workforce preparedness and training services. Out of School Youth had access to fourteen (14) program elements designed to develop the whole person with wrap around services that are connected to career development goals. Adults who wanted to improve their literacy skills, or who were English Language Learners (ELLs), or wanted to obtain their high school diploma, or equivalent were referred to Adult Education services offered by VIDE Sub-grantees. Title III Wagner-Peyser programs administered by VIDOL assisted job seekers who were skilled and ready for work, or who had been in the workforce and sought employment change or advancement. Adults were able to prepare/update their resumes; attend in-house workshops and seminars designed to enhance work etiquette; attend short term pre-vocational activities to enhance specific skill sets such as computer literacy, communication skills and interviewing techniques. Title IV job seekers who, because of a disability needed additional assistance attaining employment completed assessments and interviewed with a Voc Rehab counselor to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP included: vocational counseling, guidance and referral to adult literacy programs; vocational training; transition services from school to work; rehabilitation technology services; supported employment; and job search and placement.

AEFLA Section 223(1)(b)

Establishment or operation of a high-quality professional development programs as described in section 223(1)(b)

Leadership funds were used to support professional development through conferences, in-person and virtual meetings, and other means of programmatic communications for Subgrantees and State level employees.

The State Office of Career, Technical & Adult Education provided face-to-face and virtual trainings, workshops, as well as technical assistance on an as needed basis throughout the year for AEFLA sub-recipients. These meetings were used to disseminate information obtained from laws, policies and promising practices, and served as an ongoing platform to train programs. 

It was important to offer ongoing trainings and focus on LACES MIS for sub-grantees and State staff to ensure that every individual developed a level of familiarity with the system used to capture salient reporting data. Specifically, since the territory encountered almost redundant impacts first with the natural disasters and then COVID-19 which affected enrollment, retention and completion rates. Although the traditional mode of training was impacted for a while, SOCTAE was also able to offer virtual training sessions.

February 13, 2020, a State Technical Assistance meeting was held for Subgrantees to receive guidance from the Third Party on allowable costs and reimbursement requests for submitted liquidations.

March 27,2020, a virtual training for State level staff on Subrecipient monitoring hosted by Brustein and Manasevit

  • 10/27/2020 Virtual LACES Training for Sub grantees. Topics Covered: Intake, Assessments, Enrollment and Class Creation
  • 10/29/2020 Virtual LACES Training for Sub grantees. Topics Covered: Attendance, Staff Records and Assignments, Existing Students and Follow Up-After Exit
  • 11/9/2020 Virtual Laces Training for Sub-Grantees. Topics covered LACES Guide, NRS Benchmarks, Matching Student Profile Data, Additional Student Naming Considerations, and Daily Data Fixes

December 1-3,2020 a virtual three-day Professional Development was hosted by Brustein and Manasevit, PLLC for State and Subgrantees on Managing Federal grant awards, audit practices, Fraud prevention in the midst of COVID-19 

May 4-6, 2021, a virtual interactive training for State and subgrantees hosted by Brustein and Manasevit on Avoiding Audit Findings, In person updates from Keith Cummins, US Department of Ed Office of the Inspector General on Efficiency, Effectiveness and Integrity, MOE, OCR and hot topics affecting students with disabilities and their rights, and Time and Effort Documentation and Virtual Flexibility.

November 15-17th, 2021, a three-day Adult Education in Service Workshop was conducted for AEFLA Program Administrators, staff, teachers, data entry clerks and State Adult Education personnel.  These trainings were conducted in person as well as they were streamed virtually for participants who were unable to attend due to COVID.  The WIOA Core Partners, inclusive of the One-Stop, Department of Labor, Department of Education, Department of Human Services (SNAP, TANF, Voc Rehab) and Equus Workforce Solutions hosted a forum to inform Sub grantees of barrier breaking services available for learners and hosted a Q&A relative to AEFLA’s role as a core partner in the One-Stop. Following are Breakout sessions that were offered:

    •  Presenter: Literacy Pro (LACES) MIS, Topics included Measurable Skill Gains, follow up process, IETPS, learning how to disaggregate data, and the integration process. Presenter’s evaluation netted 100% on content, organization and interest, knowledge, responsiveness, application of content to program and quality of handouts.
    • Presenter: BlacBird, Topics presented included Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion for Adult Learners. These topics were important, specifically, they were of greater focus due to the shift in the demographic population of the USVI which has increasingly grown to include a large ELL population. Additionally, it is imperative that programs understand the importance of utilization of diverse approaches to offer an equitable reach towards education and training that includes all learners. Presenter’s evaluation netted 90% on content, organization and interest, 100% on knowledge, responsiveness, application of content to program and quality of handouts
    • Presenter: Microburst Learning – Topic presented was on Employability Soft Skills. This topic was important, as programs are moving towards the implementation of College and Career Readiness Standards in lesson planning. The integration of employability and soft skills also facilitate the referral services that programs make to the One-Stop for adult learners. Presenters engaged programs in ways that even program personnel could use nontraditional approaches to engaging adults in reinforcement of employability skills.
    • Presenter: AIR – Topic Presented: Teaching Skills that Matter in Adult Education: Instructional Approaches that Work. These topics were greatly received by the Sub-grantees and feedback survey comments spoke to the engaging content delivered by AIR on diversified instructional strategies to include reading and math and how to engage the adult learner. Comments on feedback surveys almost unanimously noted instructors' engagement and eagerness to incorporate techniques and strategies into their lessons.   Presenter’s evaluation netted 100% on content, organization and interest, knowledge, responsiveness, application of content to program and quality of handouts. One evaluator cited cultural differences must be taken into consideration which is a common concern among adult educators in the Caribbean region.
    • Presenter: Greater Changes LLC: Topic Presented: Supporting Adult Learners: Addressing Barriers & Strategies for Success. Retention and completion remain the Achilles heel for adult programs. It was and remains important for Sub-grantees to be exposed to techniques and strategies that engages adults and helps them to “stay” when “life happens”. This presentation was engaging based on the feedback survey and attendees wanted more time and content. Presenter’s evaluation netted 80% on content, 90% on organization and interest, knowledge, 100% on responsiveness, application of content to program and quality of handouts.


AEFLA Section 223(1)(c)

Provision of technical assistance to funded eligible providers as described in section 223(1)(c)

Technical Assistance was provided in alignment with section 223(a)(1)(C), on programmatic and data collection and reporting issues to providers through webinars, telephone inquiries, email and site visits. SOCTAE staff also provided face-to-face workshops and additional assistance on an as needed basis throughout the year. In addition, ongoing communication with programs regarding updates and questions are handled through SOCTAE on an as needed basis on topics including, Assessment Policy, administration of TABE, grant management and allocations, data entry procedures, and developing accommodations. Correspondences were sent periodically to programs keeping them up to date with announcements, program changes, and areas of required improvements based on their report submissions.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, SOCTAE offered webinar trainings for adult educators on distance learning resources. Online TABE testing and guidance for online proctoring of TABE was developed. The guidance conveyed that adult education providers may implement remote test proctoring in accordance with the test publisher’s procedure for secure remote testing. Constraints of the pandemic has lessened and as such, TABE testing also resumed with in person proctoring. 

In response to COVID-19’s effects upon AEFLA students, administrators, teachers, and support staff, continuous technical assistance provided AEFLA instructors with some resources and techniques to help adult learners in crisis and assist staff in dealing with their stressors such as navigating changing work environments, dealing with urgent transitions, and related challenges as a result of remote learning. Sub-grantees were able to provide online services for adults who were incumbent workers, geographically isolated, and/or encountered various barriers to participating in traditional Adult Education instruction (e.g., transportation, childcare, health issues, etc.) with synchronous distance education opportunities and One-Stop referrals.

AEFLA Section 223(1)(d)

Monitoring and evaluation of the quality and improvement of adult education activities as described in section 223(1)(d)

Ongoing program evaluation and feedback is paramount to program success. As such, SOCTAE is committed to continuously improving program performance. Programs are required to submit reports with drawdown requests that outline successes, challenges, students served, outreach, recruitment and retention measures and pain points (if any) and LACES entry. Accurate and timely data collection and entry, ongoing program monitoring, and professional development are key components to meeting SOCTAE’s mandates. SOCTAE monitors program data quality by performing regularly scheduled trainings and evaluation of the LACES database. In addition, SOCTAE analyzes performance measures in the territory, twice a year and monitors data quality and integrity using diagnostic tools on a monthly basis. SOCTAE coordinated and provided ongoing virtual trainings to Sub-grantees regarding data entry and use. The Assessment Policy was reviewed with and made available to every Sub-grantee which also incorporates NRS guidelines and measures necessary for program compliance. Programs received ongoing technical assistance from the State on their budgets, spending plans and allowable costs and each sub-grantee was provided with a copy of the EDGAR for reference.

During FY 2020, SOCTAE experienced challenges with onsite monitoring due to COVID constraints.  However, desk and virtual monitoring for both fiscal and programmatic facets of the grant-award were conducted. SOCTAE provided continuous technical assistance through telephonic and electronic correspondence, desk monitors, conference calls, webinars, and video conferencing. Program Administrators, instructors, and data specialists contacted state staff with questions regarding programmatic policies and data-quality issues. The State also ensured that programs received ongoing TA from the MIS provider Literacy Pro. A virtual evaluation was conducted to demonstrate the challenges and issues that each sub-recipient endured during the pandemic, which included low enrollment of students and data entry into LACES.

AEFLA Section 223(a)(2)

As applicable, describe how the State has used funds for additional permissible activities described in section 223(a)(2)

The State did not utilize any funding in this section for this reporting period. However, the State has begun to integrate curriculum frameworks for Adult Education with the College and Career Readiness Standards with the VI Department of Educations' Curriculum department. The State have also begun to work with the VIDE's Planning, Research and Evaluation team to utilize the VIDE's PowerSchool MIS to develop a separate section specific to Adult Education as an engine for Subgrantees to have a standardized platform for program Management, future remote learning and shared repository of lessons across all programs.

Performance Data Analysis

Performance Data Analysis

Describe how the adult education program performed in the overall assessment of core programs based on the core indicators of performance. Discuss how the assessment was used to improve quality and effectiveness of the funded eligible providers and any plans to further increase performance in future reporting years.

For the reporting period of July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 in the USVI Adult Education programs showed significant changes from preceding years as a result of impact from COVID-19. Although learning continued to be online because of the pandemic, a hybrid model was implemented to accommodate adult learners who were not adept to technology, struggled with following simple directions and became easily frustrated with learning basic commands. The pandemic has emphasized the need for diverse and structured ways for Adult Education programs to provide learning opportunities. However, there exists genuine concern that students may become even further marginalized because they do not have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, internet access, or the necessary digital literacy to function properly in a remote learning environment.

A pivotal example of Measurable Skills Gain (MSG) over the most recent two Program Years highlights  the difficulty VIDE’s AE program had in meeting program mandates due to COVID-19’s adverse effect on areas of performance (e.g.  Data, enrollment, MSG, educational functioning levels (EFL) gain, and employment gains).  Examination of measurable skill gains comparisons of program data reported for 2020-2021 in comparison with 2021-2022 showed a decline from 22 percent to 25 percent. This was also due to the instability of many power outages territory wide as the territory re-built the electrical infrastructures post the natural disasters. This also was a significant barrier that served as a contributing factor that affected the online delivery services to our adult learners. Overall, as a territory, there was a 20 percent decline in NRS participants. ESL enrollment increased by almost 22 percent and ABE enrollment increased by nearly 19 percent. There was an overall increase in students age 19-24 (22.5 percent) and students age 25-44 (23 percent).

Recruitment and retention will be essential components of professional development moving forward. Additionally, concentrated monthly monitoring of the MIS per program by the State to systematically track local program’s data entry and provide one on one technical assistance for programs that have been deficient will be an area of targeted focus.

Integration with One-stop Partners

Integration with One-stop Partners

Describe how the State eligible agency, as the entity responsible for meeting one-stop requirements under 34 CFR part 463, subpart J, carries out or delegates its required one-stop roles to eligible providers. Describe the applicable career services that are provided in the one-stop system. Describe how infrastructure costs are supported through State and local options.

Though the One-Stop Center had been inactive due to COVID-19 with continuous shutdowns in the community during this reporting period, VIDOL had virtual resources in place to assist workers and employers and continued to offer a full suite of online and telephone employment services through its One-Stop Center. 

The One-Stop Core Partners met virtually once a month to discuss partner activities and highlight current tools and resources available to support jobseekers. The One-Stop Core Partners successfully delivered a blended-learning model of professional development in the territory. All One-Stop Core Partners in collaboration with other stakeholders provided community resources to adult learners with a wide range of essential services, such as career guidance, education/training and support services. The One-Stop Core Partners focus is to work with area programs to serve adults and families who are often among the lowest income, least educated and most in need. Moreover, with the closure of the Lime Tree Oil Refinery on the island of St. Croix, the One-Stop Core Partners not only saw this as an opportunity to provide resources to connect people and other stakeholders within the community, but also to become a first stop for literacy resources during the pandemic. The activity provided access to quality products and services to assist families with online learning for adults. The State's Subgrantees are listed as service providers for referral for Literacy, GED prep and ESL services.

Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education (IELCE)

Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education

Describe how the state is using funds under Section 243 to support the following activities under the IELCE program:

IELCE Funds and grants

Describe when your State held a competition [the latest competition] for IELCE program funds and the number of grants awarded by your State to support IELCE programs.

Currently this is not a funded program offering in the USVI.

Training activity

Describe your State efforts in meeting the requirement to provide IELCE services in combination with integrated education and training activities;

Currently this is not a funded program offering in the USVI.

IELCE Section 243(c)(1)

Describe how the State is progressing towards program goals of preparing and placing IELCE program participants in unsubsidized employment in in-demand industries and occupations that lead to economic self-sufficiency as described in section 243(c)(1) and discuss any performance results, challenges, and lessons learned from implementing those program goals; and

Currently this is not a funded program offering in the USVI.

IELCE Section 243(c)(2)

Describe how the State is progressing towards program goals of ensuring that IELCE program activities are integrated with the local workforce development system and its functions as described in section 243(c)(2) and discuss any performance results, challenges, and lessons learned from implementing those program goals.

Currently this is not a funded program offering in the USVI.

Adult Education Standards

Adult Education Standards

If your State has adopted new challenging K-12 standards under title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, describe how your Adult Education content standards are aligned with those K-12 standards.

The VI Department of Education (VIDE) adopted the College and Career Readiness Standards and will be integrating them across their curriculum in alignment with their K-12 Standards under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. 

Adult education and literacy activities, including adult education, literacy, and family literacy utilize the K-12 standards established by the VIDOE. The standards are developed by VIDE and includes English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and Financial Literacy. The VIDE's Academic Standards serve as expectations for what students should know and be able to do by graduation. 

The VIDE State adopted standards focus on deep thinking, conceptual understanding, and real-world problem-solving skills, set expectations for students to be college and career ready, and incorporates Citizenship and critical thinking components, literacy in science, social studies and technology subjects, as well as emphasizes the use of citations and examples from texts when creating opinions and arguments to increase rigor and grade-level expectations, and determine the full range of support for English Language Learners (ELLs).

The USVI's SOCTAE will begin to work with the standards team to develop and integrate the CCRS into new Adult Education Standards that are specific to adult learners. Currently, training and professional development for local programs around CCRS and integration into lesson planning and teaching and learning has began.

Programs for Corrections Education (AEFLA Section 225)

Programs for Corrections Education (AEFLA Section 225)

What was the relative rate of recidivism for criminal offenders served? Please describe the methods and factors used in calculating the rate for this reporting period.

Recidivism is a permeating problem in the USVI's criminal justice system. The various factors that make individuals prone to criminal conviction: economic circumstances, racial inequalities, education gaps, mental illness, addiction, are often intensified or magnified by an initial criminal conviction. In 2017 the VI Bureau of Corrections (BOC) tracked a cohort of inmates who received services and were released into society for a period of three years ending in 2020.  Data for this period showed that 35% of that cohort was rearrested for new offenses producing a recidivism rate of 35% for the review period.  Of that cohort, 54% percent of new arrests were violent offenses; ranging from sexual assault to murder. In 2020, the Virgin Islands reported an annual incarceration rate of 542 per 100,000 population. The creation of a sustainable re-entry program for the territory was a high priority for the agency during this reporting period, as the BOC increased its focus on transforming the delivery of correctional services. The new BOC Re-entry Program serves to support a reduction of recidivism rates, improve public safety by fostering a reduction in crime, and save taxpayer dollars associated with re- incarceration costs.

The Re-entry Program Advisory Council focuses on the reduction of recidivism and victimization through addressing barriers that offenders/formerly incarcerated individuals may face. Focus areas include, but not be limited to, employment, mental health and substance abuse treatment, transportation, childcare services, legal support, vocational training, education and housing.

During the pandemic, the BOC continued offering adult literacy training programs virtually. However, there were significant deterrence’s during this reporting period. Specifically, since increased COVID-19 cases resulted in a lock down being enforced. Consequently, during this period, the BOC program faced notable challenges with outcomes.