Hit hard by the recession, Michigan hopes to reform adult education by working with community colleges and the state’s workforce development system to help the unemployed build academic and work skills. But funding is short, reports the Lansing State Journal.
Ideally, state and federal adult education money would flow to regional partnerships, says Andy Levin, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth.
. . . every student who walks into an adult ed program (would) go through not just a skills assessment, but counseling on what sort of job they might want and what it would take for them to get there.
“That should be all at the very beginning, so then when I’m working on my reading, you’re not teaching me ‘Dick and Jane ran up the hill,’ you’re teaching me ‘Dick changed Jane’s bed pan,’ because I’m going to be an orderly,” he said.
Some community colleges already work with local adult ed programs. Others don’t. And many colleges struggle to help students with elementary skills.
Earlier this year, Jackson Community College’s leaders decided that they would no longer admit students who tested at below a 7th-grade level.
“We have the data. They’re not successful, no matter how much we try to help them,” said Cindy Allen, executive director of community relations.
The college is looking for successful remedial programs and possible partners.
Six other Michigan community colleges have joined Breaking Through, an initiative to help adults with poor reading skills move quickly through vocational training.
Too often, low-skill adults are discouraged by the sheer amount of remedial work they need to do before starting work on a degree, said Jenny Schanker, chair of transitional studies at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, which received a Gates Foundation grant to upscale its Breaking Through program.
“This gets people who are coming in at a very low level a chance to experience career-specific learning while they’re building those basic skills,” she said.
Only four to six percent of students who started in a GED or basic adult education program went on to earn a community college certificate in a Washington state study. Integrating basic skills instruction with vocational classes, placing two teachers in each classroom, improved the odds. But that program, I-BEST, cost three times what Michigan pays per adult ed student.