California Education Dialogue

A public policy dialogue produced by Information Renaissance
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Emerging Modes of Delivery, Certification and Planning

Section VI
ADULT CONTINUING EDUCATION

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

As California considers the educational challenges of the 21st Century, it faces a new reality for those living and working in a changing economy — one that has a foundation of information and communications technology and one that is influenced by national and international events. This ‘new’ economy provides advantages to those who have demonstrated strong basic skills in language, reading, writing, mathematics, technology, and critical thinking. Without these basic skills, people are less prepared, if prepared at all, to benefit from the advantages presented to them in such a society.

California also faces daunting challenges as it accommodates the needs of its newcomers. Many come into the United States through California. As reported in the report, Less-Educated Workers in California: A Statistical Abstract, California Research Bureau, nearly one of every five adult workers in California lacked a high school degree in 1999. About 70 percent of these workers were foreign born, and a large percentage received public assistance. To participate effectively in the education, employment, and civics opportunities of this State and country, immigrants and other limited English-proficient persons must master English and be able to understand and navigate government, educational, workplace systems, and health care.

California’s economy underscores the need for and importance of short-term vocational training for adults in non-degree, non-tuition programs. Today’s technology, globalization, and changing job markets result in most adults’ changing jobs every three-to-five years and careers every ten years. Short-term vocational training provided by adult continuing education allows adults with entry-level skills and limited incomes to become employable and then pursue college and university options while supporting themselves and families. This training is particularly important for those adults losing welfare support.

The adult continuing education system[10] is comparable in context to its K-12 and postsecondary education counterparts that grant credit or degrees: as a system; it addresses the challenges inherent in instruction, professional development, assessment and accountability, facilities, and governance.

California’s population, like that in other states, is aging and presents educational challenges to its communities. The fastest growing population today includes those over 85 years old, and recent brain research reveals that education, or life-long learning, can be linked to the prevention of cognitive decline. Active older learners can maintain independent living, avoid depression, actively participate in civic affairs, and promote health through sound interaction in educational settings.

As California targets academic achievement for all children, it needs to concurrently address the needs of parents. The literacy skill of the parent is a significant factor in a child’s potential to be successful in school. As the State addresses the ability of parents to speak English, get and retain a job, and develop skills equivalent to a high school diploma it increases the potential to help all children to succeed.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Equity and Access

  1. The State should establish a funding base adequate to the increasing challenges facing California’s Adult Continuing Education System.

    Learners should have access to quality programs that are supported with adequate funding.


    Commentary: Current levels of financing for Adult Continuing Education are inadequate to the needs of this burgeoning system. The State should base the funding for California’s Adult Continuing Education System on population size, and should factor in other variables including economic conditions, income levels, levels of educational attainment, and limited English proficiency of learners. California’s Adult Continuing Education System must provide funding that adequately supports instruction, assessment, professional development, infrastructure, and interagency coordination. Funding should also support curriculum development services, recruitment and retention, and commensurate employment conditions.

    With adequate funding, the system can provide to its students access to counselors and advisors,[11] technology, safe and adequate facilities, quality instructors and administrators receiving ongoing professional development and mentoring, and work-based education. Funding formulas therefore need to provide adequate means for these programs and services that is comparable to that provided for community college credit programs and not based on hour-by-hour attendance or capped funding levels.

    Member comments: The subgroup’s recommendation was to increase funding on a per-pupil student basis to match the revenue limit for the K-12 system. Currently, the funding levels for adult continuing education offered in adult schools is approximately one-third that of K-12 education and does not include access to the categorical funds that augment the K-12 programs. The Working Group as a whole did not support this funding model, although members agreed that funding should be increased. Some members expressed concern that with finite funding available for all of education, increases in adult continuing education would come at the expense of the K-12 program.

Flexibility to Meet Learner Needs

  1. The State should develop a broad set of program categories that allow for the substantial flexibility necessary to meet local needs of adult learners.
    • Proposed categories include Life Management Skills, Civics Participation, Workforce Learning, and Foundational/Academic Skills Development.


    Courses should be organized according to learner needs.

    Commentary: California’s adult continuing education system must be flexible to provide relevant courses, based on adult learners’ needs and educational goals and on workforce needs. Courses should reflect the community’s social, business, and economic needs, rather than a predetermined list of course titles and program areas. Providers indicate that students in need of services are denied access to programs because of limitations stemming from such factors as meeting high demand with limited resources, geographic isolation of students and programs, and small size of some providers. With flexibility in development and delivery of course offerings, providers could identify and meet previously unmet learner needs.

    The program categories currently offered are:
    1. English as a Second Language
    2. Elementary and Secondary Basic Skills
    3. Short-term Vocational Education
    4. Adults with Disabilities
    5. Older Adults
    6. Home Economics
    7. Health and Safety
    8. Parenting
    9. Citizenship for Immigrants

    Following is a description of proposed categories and of courses.

    Life Management Skillssupports high performance skills necessary to many aspects of functioning, based on life changes. This category would include the following courses.

    • English as a Second Language to provide English literacy skills for limited English speaking adults.
    • Citizenship for Immigrants to provide citizenship education and preparation for the citizenship application process.
    • Adults with Disabilities to emphasize community access and independent living.
    • Older Adults to offer opportunities for personal growth and development, community involvement, and survival skills needed for self-maintenance and economic self-sufficiency.
    • Health and Safety to emphasize the positive aspects of maintaining health literacy, including physical, mental, and emotional well being, and to demonstrate how good health and safety practices can prolong life and add to the quality of living.
    • Parenting to assist parents of children from infancy through adolescence in parenting and child-rearing skills, to help parents have a positive effect on children’s health, behavior, success in school, and emotional development.
    • Home Economics to prepare individuals for entry-level or advanced training in home occupational areas and to help other individuals and families meet the challenges of daily living and improve the quality of home and family life.

    Civics Participation — supports those individuals who need the skills required to participate effectively in civic life, at the neighborhood, community, county, state, and federal levels.

    Workforce Learning — supports skill development in a work setting, or through integrated worksite experiences in classroom instruction.

    Foundational/Academic Skills supports courses in basic skills leading up to and including a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Quality and Accountability

  1. The State should expand adult continuing education course standards to include student performance measures such as those developed by the National Skill Standards Board, the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), and Equipped for the Future.

    Commentary: Currently there are state-approved model standards for five of the nine existing categories for noncredit and adult education. The established standards support programs in English as a Second Language, Adult Elementary and Secondary Skills, Parent Education, Older Adult, and Adults with Disabilities Programs. With the exception of the Adults with Disabilities category, the standards are now being reviewed and updated by providers of noncredit and adult education. If the program categories are revised to include an emphasis on workforce learning, these standards should be expanded to include student performance measures such as those developed by the National Skills Standards Board, SCANS, and Equipped for the future.

    These standards should be the basis for professional development in the adult continuing education system. Trained professionals are better able to deliver new content, and they have an increased capacity to continuously improve programs by using local data to make informed decisions about content, delivery modes, and appropriate student-support systems.

    Member comments: State model standards should be in place for all instructional categories before applying performance measures.

  2. The State should support an accountability system for adult continuing education students, emphasizing student performance and rewards for institutions for achievement.

    Commentary: The oversight body for adult continuing education should identify and set reasonable standards for learner performance and should hold educational programs accountable for student performance across the many types of programs for adult learners not enrolled in college and university credit programs. This accountability requirement would require adult continuing education providers to measure growth in adults’ knowledge of content, skills, and competencies that can be taught and learned through instruction.

    With the emphasis on accountability from both the State and federal government, the adult continuing education system must include strategies to determine the effectiveness of its various programs. Such data will assist policymakers to determine the appropriate future funding for the system. Such research on program effectiveness should be grounded in appropriate research designs, complete and accurate data, and identified outcomes that are appropriate and sufficient to indicate program effectiveness. Therefore, the system must address current challenges that exist with incompatibility of data collection approaches between adult schools and noncredit community colleges.
  3. The State should support the ongoing professional development of all staff who work with adult learners, to enable the students to develop the skills, knowledge, and aptitudes for life-long successes

    Commentary: The scope and content of the state model standards for adult continuing education should become the basis for professional development in the adult continuing education system. Trained professionals not only are in a position to deliver new content, but have an increased capacity to continuously improve programs by using local data to make informed decisions about content, delivery modes, and appropriate student support systems.

Coordination, Cooperation, and Planning

  1. The State should review the governance structure for adult continuing education, including the role of the Joint Board Committee on Noncredit and Adult Education, with the goal of achieving a seamless delivery system among multiple providers that ensures a smooth transition for those adult learners continuing on to formal education, entering the workforce, or pursuing other goals.

    A formal structure must oversee the development and implementation of policy.

    Instructors must meet common minimum qualifications and have reciprocity within the delivery system.

    Commentary: California’s current dualistic delivery system for adult continuing education places challenges on the providers to sufficiently cooperate and coordinate efforts so that an adult learner can take courses from different providers and still meet long-term educational goals. To meet that challenge, the State Board of Education and the Board of Governors agreed to establish a joint working group to address mutually important and recurring issues. This Joint Board Committee, however, has had no funding or formal staff to conduct regular meetings of adult continuing education practitioners; as a result, there has been minimal progress in meeting the twelve recommendations that emerged from a series of public hearings related to adult and noncredit education.

    With the Governor’s proposal to move some adult education programs from the Department of Education to the Community Colleges, there has been recent attention on these programs and the current governance structure. The Governor has assigned a formal review to identify pertinent findings that can be used to inform policy decisions.

    Working Group members discussed the current governance structure but did not come to consensus on a specific recommendation. The majority of the adult continuing education subgroup members preferred that the existing Joint Board for Adult and Noncredit Education be strengthened and empowered. There was not the same support for this option from the larger group, given that the Governor’s proposal was not sufficiently outlined at this point, making it difficult for the group to form an opinion. For example, the Governor’s proposal was not clear about who would provide services and did not address concerns that the community college system does not have the capacity to serve all adult learners. There is widespread need throughout the state for multiple providers to ensure access to adult programs.

    Member comments: Many organizations oppose the Governor’s proposal including school districts, the Association of California School Administrators, the California Department of Education, the California Teachers Association, and some local community college districts. Many members expressed a view that overall the existing system has served adult learners well and that California’s current system has been a model at the national level. Further, since members did not agree on a new proposed governance structure, there was some hesitation to include this recommendation in the report.

  2. The State should develop a mechanism for the reciprocity of instructional credentials, based on minimum qualifications, between the adult education and noncredit systems to allow instructors to teach in either or both systems.
  3. Commentary: California’s current dualistic delivery system for adult and noncredit education places challenges on providers to sufficiently cooperate and coordinate efforts so that an adult learner can take courses from different providers and still meet long-term educational goals. Although the categories for instruction for community college noncredit and adult schools are identical, there are different requirements for instructor qualifications. Adult school instructors must be credentialed by the CTC; community college noncredit instructors must meet minimum qualifications established by the Academic Senate of the California Community Colleges.

    Currently, to teach noncredit courses in a community college, a person must meet subject-specific minimum qualifications specified in state regulations unless he or she is a “grandfathered” credential-holder. Of the nine categories, adult education credentials in only two categories — short-term vocational programs, and English as a Second Language — satisfy the minimum qualifications to teach in community colleges.

    A policy in place such that instructors in one system would be accepted in the other without the necessity of going through the other system’s process for qualification to teach. Another option would be a policy requiring uniform minimum qualifications.

Contents Summary Background I. Delivery
II. Organization III. Assessment IV. Certification V. Planning
VI. Adult Ed. Conclusion Presenters Members