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Adult Education in California: New Models and New Partnerships

Posted on 05/12/2010

Partnership diagram

At the CCAE state conference in Palm Springs last weekend, many adult educators attended presentations and joined conversations about the dominant topic of the day: what is the future of Adult Education in California? Debra Jones provided suggestions about future directions. In her presentation she emphasized the importance of building partnerships. Adult education can no longer go it alone as a separate system. Partnerships will be essential in rebuilding our system and recovering from the current devastation caused by the state budget deficit.

She also talked about the need for a system that focuses on transitions – to employment and to post-secondary education and training. In the future we may be organized differently than we are today, and adult education transition centers might provide more than basic skills and career and technical education. By partnering with the state Economic Development Department, the community colleges, the Workforce Investment Boards and others, centers could offer an array of services to adult learners who need to improve their basic skills and add job skills in order to progress in their careers or to start on a new career altogether.

The Adult Education Office at the California Department of Education has been using GIS data to look at the level of need in California counties. The resulting map includes factors related to education, economics, population growth, and other populations factors. Red indicates the most critical areas of need, and bright green the least critical. This map represents one way of looking at California data in order to plan for adult education in the future.

Partnership diagram

Ed Morris from Los Angeles Unified School District also talked about the future of adult education, emphasizing the huge need for services, and the importance of adult education finding a way to achieve sustainable funding in order to meet those needs. He reiterated the concept of service centers.

The final event of the conference was a panel chaired by Mike Wada, CCAE President, on Adult Education Hot Topics. Panelists included Debra Jones and Ed Morris along with Cyndi Parulan-Colfer from Hacienda La Puente, Lobbyist Jeff Frost, and Matt Smith from Bassett Adult School and past CCAE President. Here are some points made by members of the panel in response to questions from the moderator and from the audience:

  • Adult Education has to be rebuilt. We can’t clearly define ourselves to legislators or to the public, so it is difficult to defend our current system. We have to let go of the old and plan for the new.
  • We need partners – Workforce Investment Boards, economic development organizations, community colleges, chambers of commerce, and others. What adult educators can do right now is begin attending meetings of these groups, become known, go up afterwards and introduce yourself, provide information on what adult education has to offer.
  • In order to build partnerships, we need to become good listeners. We are not just there to promote our programs, but to listen to the needs of our potential partners and figure out where we can fit in. We need to develop a plan that fits the needs of other organizations as well as our own and our students.
  • Other things that practitioners can do right now include contacting legislators, bringing legislators to visit programs, letting legislators know how the budget cuts are affecting programs, and also making connections to adult education with other groups such as churches and community organizations.
  • In the future it is likely that our system will be focused on the program areas that meet the highest needs of the population, and also on the geographic areas with the highest educational needs. It is important not to hang on to what has been, but to look forward to what will be.