Adult Education: The Solution

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The Hartford Board of Education held a conference at the Asian Studies Academy at Bellizzi School on Tuesday evening. During this workshop session, the board and the researchers were discussing the Adult Education Feasibility Study. The researchers presented the information that they had found during the study about the adult education concerns. The board and the researchers collaborated their knowledge and collectively came together with information and questions. The audience consisted of a few adults that seemed to be writing on the workshop, as well as some adults who seemed to be potential adult education students.

This session started with some background on the study and on adult education in general. The study was approved to start in September of 2013 and ended in December of 2013. The purpose of the study was to gather information that would improve the lives and needs of the adults that are residing in Hartford. The consultants had discussions with many different types of people. They consulted with adult education students in both the day and evening programs. They also talked to the faculty and staff of the adult education program. In addition, they discussed with stakeholders, such as community agencies, city and state officials, higher education experts, funders, and other selected stakeholders. This information collected in this study was obtained through documents, interviews, and identification of resources.

The Hartford adult education program mandates that adult education services is free of charge to any person that is older than 16 and not enrolled in the public school. The program operates four state mandated adult education programs: 1. Elementary School Completion, 2. Secondary School Completion, 3. United States Citizenship, 4. English as a Second Language. The researchers stressed that 30.2% of the adult population in Hartford does not have a high school diploma, while 15.2% of the adult population does not even speak English. This statistic was shocking and means that the Hartford community is in need of resources to better educate the adults. The funding is crucial as well. These statistics are from over the past seven years (2005-2012). They explained that the statewide adult education budget in Connecticut is $20 million, which funds $2,295 per student in Hartford. This is not enough to educate the amount of adults that are in need of a proper education in this district.

Obtaining productive employment by successful Hartford Adult Education students is a critical outcome objective for these researchers. 55% of the adult education students are unemployed at the time of their entry into the program. 72% of the adult students say that obtaining or maintaining employment is the reason why they are enrolled into the program. Middle skilled jobs require more than a high school diploma, but less than a traditional four-year college degree. The salaries for these jobs average between $30,000- $60,000.

Business leaders explained that they expected there would be entry-level jobs that could eventually lead to middle-skilled employment opportunities. Employers also expressed that a GED does not prepare people enough for actual job readiness. Employers are really looking for people that are prepared for the work they will be confronted with, which the adult education program can help achieve. The gap needs to be closed between the classroom at Hartford adult education programs and the realities of a work place.

This meeting, as well as the audience that attended it, was very interesting. A lot of the audience members seemed as if they could be potential adult education students so they seemed very invested in what the researchers had to say. The concept of adults “stopping out” as opposed to “dropping out” was especially interesting. The reasons for stopping out are based on the reality of adults’ every day lives. They have responsibilities that ordinary students would have such as taking care of children, families, and homes, as well as maintaining a job. As the audience was listening to the researchers, it became clear that adult education could drastically improve the situations in Hartford. It could teach the large number of adults that cannot speak English as well as teach valuable employment skills to the great percentage of unemployed adults in the Hartford area. Before this is all fixed, it is obvious that the funding is going to have to be improved as well, as the system currently cannot meet the demand for adult education in this area. One of the concerns of one of the board members was dwindling down the waiting list that currently exists in the program. He asked the researchers how much money they would need to eliminate these waiting lists, a question for which they did not have the answer.

Though the board members made it clear from the get-go that they would not make any decisions during this meeting, a lot was achieved from this workshop. Most importantly, the audience gained an understanding for how greatly this program could improve the Hartford area, which is in desperate need of help.