Bill carrying Adult Ed changes makes headway

Bill carrying Adult Ed changes makes headway

(Calif.) School districts providing Adult Education courses could soon be held to greater expectations pending the outcome next spring of a report that will guide Gov. Jerry Brown’s restructuring of the program.

In the meantime, a major amendment to an Assembly bill setting the stage for that transition has cleared the way for its likely passage to the Senate next month.

Authored by Sen. Carol Liu, AB 173 requires the development of new “guidelines and recommendations” for new assessments, performance accountability measures and teacher requirements in adult education programs.

“I think this bill goes to finally clarifying what adult education is, and hopefully by doing so, and putting in some of the reforms in this measure, we can ensure that adult education continues into the future and not have it at risk as it’s been in the past,” Laura Preston, a spokeswoman for the Association of California School Administrators, told members at a Joint Legislative Oversight Hearing on Adult Education in January.

Since then Liu, facing major opposition from a variety of groups, agreed to drop a proviso that neither parenting nor senior enrichment classes continue to be funded as Adult Ed programs.

Brown last June, at the insistence of the Legislature, saved an Adult Education program nearly shuttered in 2009 when schools were given freedom over discretionary funding in order to survive massive budget cuts brought on by the recession.

The governor’s 2013 plan provided $25 million to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office to – in conjunction with the K-12 state schools superintendent – to devise a new regional system for delivery of Adult Education programs. The CCC system would take over administration of Adult Education but regional consortia of secondary and post-secondary institutions would collaborate on local strategies for course offerings.

A report outlining those changes and recommendations is due back to the Legislature next March.

Simultaneously, SB 173 sets in motion the process for developing uniform standards and pupil measurement tools to provide continuity to a program that, to date, has had little.

The bill would require the CCC and the California Department of Education to develop and issue policy guidelines for assessments used by school and community college districts to place students in adult education courses. CDE and CCC must also “establish and implement” a comprehensive performance accountability system intended to measure student progress and hold Adult Education providers accountable for outcomes.

The bill also allows calls for increased data collection around Adult School enrollment and demographics.

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing is also mandated under the bill to review current regulations for teaching non-credit Adult Education classes, and to develop and submit recommendations to the Legislature for any changes needed to allow for educator reciprocity between K-12 and Adult Ed courses.

Adult schools, offered and run by many high school districts or county offices of education, offer free to low-cost classes for adults 18 and older. Students can get a high school diploma, general education diploma (GED), learn about jobs, learn to speak English, and learn how to become a U.S. citizen.

Under the governor’s plan, which transfers administrative authority to the Community College system, school districts are not required to offer Adult Education or join the new regional consortia.

However, says one industry insider, in many areas Adult Education classes are so ingrained in the community it’s likely the new structure will only enhance those programs already in existence.

“I think some districts are not going to change – they’re not going to embrace the governor’s direction,” said Ernest Kettering, an Adult Education instructor from Los Angeles who’s also active with the local as well as the state teacher unions. “I think other districts see this as a real opportunity to improve their program and provide better services – aligned between providers – for students.”

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