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Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Measurable Skills Gain (MSG)

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) ensures access to education and workforce services for individuals with barriers to employment and demands increased performance accountability for states that receive federal adult education funding.

The state of Massachusetts documents performance using a (performance) standard called Measurable Skills Gain (MSG). MSG includes three outcomes which must be achieved during the fiscal year: Educational Functioning Level (EFL) completion, High School Equivalency (HSE) credential attainment, and Postsecondary Education or Training (PSE/T) enrollment. (Note: Postsecondary enrollment must start after a student exits from the adult education program.)

Annually, programs are assigned separate ABE and ESOL targets using a formula that incorporates (i.e., is weighted on):

  1. The number of students who pre-test into each of the National Reporting System (NRS) levels that the program serves, and
  2. b. ACLS performance goals for each NRS level derived from the federal target assigned to Massachusetts and adjusted to account for our state's system which awards partial credit (explained below) and the likelihood, based on past data, of meeting the federal target.

Program performance is the program's actual MSG relative to its target. For example, an ESOL program with a target of 45% and an actual MSG of 50% has exceeded its target by 11%; its performance is 111% relative to target. The performance of another program with a target of 55% and an actual MSG of 50% is 91% relative to target.

Programs get an initial credit (i.e., 1.0) for the first MSG outcome earned and partial credit (i.e., 0.1) for each additional outcome earned beyond the initial. If a student in a program achieves an initial outcome and two additional outcomes, then the program's credit for that student is 1.2. Only outcomes achieved during the fiscal year are included in MSG.

MSG outcomes, both initial and additional (i.e., partial), can be any of the following:

These examples show how programs earn initial and partial credit for student outcomes:

  • Two EFL completions (i.e., advancement in two NRS levels) = 1.1
  • EFL completion in two subject areas (e.g., reading, math) = 1.1
  • High School Equivalency (HSE) credential attainment and two EFL completions = 1.2
  • Two EFL completions in two subject areas plus enrollment in Postsecondary Education or Training (PSE/T) after exit = 1.4

MSG Targets Assigned by ACLS

ACLS posts preliminary ABE and ESOL program targets after summer and fall pre-tests have been entered into LACES. Targets may change slightly over the course of the year since one of two factors in an MSG target is the number of students who pre-test into each of the program's NRS levels and pre-testing continues throughout the year.

Programs may calculate their targets by entering the number of students who pre-test at each NRS level in the FY20 Target Calculator below.

Download Excel Document
FY20 MSG Target Calculator

MSG target percentages are based on federal targets assigned to Massachusetts and adjusted upward because of the opportunity for individual students to achieve multiple outcomes. OCTAE raises the Massachusetts target each year. As OCTAE raises the Massachusetts target, ACLS will raise program targets.

The preliminary FY20 targets below were based on LACES data as of January 22, 2020.

Download Excel Document
FY20 Preliminary MSG Program Targets

FY19 MSG Program Performance

The Excel document, FY19 MSG Performance, has 17 sortable columns:

  1. Program
  2. Number of ABE students
  3. Number of ABE students who completed at least one EFL
  4. Number of HSEs
  5. Number of ABE students who enrolled in PSE/T
  6. Number of PoPs
  7. Program MSG ABE target
  8. Program actual ABE MSG (outcomes/PoPs1)
  9. Percent of ABE target met (actual MSG/target)
  10. Number of ESOL students
  11. Number of ABE students who completed at least one EFL
  12. Number of HSEs
  13. Number of ESOL students enrolled in PSE/T
  14. Number of PoPs
  15. Program MSG ESOL target
  16. Program actual MSG (outcomes/PoPs)
  17. Percent of ESOL target met (actual MSG/target)

Assigned targets (i.e., columns G and O) and percentage of targets met (i.e., columns I and Q) are rounded to the whole number. Actual MSG (i.e., columns H and P) are rounded to the tenth percentage.

Download Excel Document
FY19 MSG Performance Report

It is important to note that MSG is based on PoPs rather than students and that most actual MSG is a combination of initial full credit outcomes and additional partial credit outcomes. The FY19 MSG Performance spreadsheet includes the number of students enrolled and the number outcomes to provide insight into program performance; it does not show whether the outcomes are initial outcomes (1.0 credit) or partial (0.1 credit when a student achieves an additional outcome). Consider the example of the MSG report for this Generic Adult Education Program:

ProgramStudentsEFL CompletersHSEsPSE/TsPoPsMSG TargetMSG %% of Target Met

Why is the MSG only 23.5% and not 55% when there are eleven outcomes (11 ÷ 20)? The worksheet does not show that all 11outcomes were achieved by only four students (four initial MSG credits and seven partial credits). The actual performance is 23.5% (4.7 ÷ 20. Directors can request this higher level of detailed program performance information by contacting Brian Newquist, ACLS Data Analyst.

1 1A period of participation (PoP) refers to the period of time beginning when a student starts attendance and ending on their date of exit from the program. Each student's exit during the same program year is counted as a separate period of participation for purposes of calculating levels of performance. A new period of participation is counted each time the student enrolls-even if both enrollments occur within the same program year.

Last Updated: February 10, 2020

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