Website tracks state’s progress in providing adult education

Liv Ames for EdSourceMarco Estrella, right, and Yu Liu practice English in an ESL class at San Mateo Adult School.Liv Ames for EdSourceMarco Estrella, right, and Yu Liu practice English in an ESL class at San Mateo Adult School.California’s experiment in rethinking adult education can now be monitored through a website created by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
The LAO recently released the Adult Education Consortium Tracker, which provides demographic, funding and student enrollment data for 71 consortia made up of school districts, community colleges and other community agencies that serve adults. The website also gives background information and shows how each consortium’s demographics compare to the state.
The site includes an interactive map locating the 71 consortia, lists of training programs, their budgets and career technical information that used to be scattered across many sites, said Debra Jones, dean of the Workforce and Economic Development division of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

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The consortia are funded through a $500 million block grant, approved by lawmakers for the 2015-16 budget.
“This was one of the largest education programs approved last year,” said Natasha Collins, an LAO analyst who created the site with fellow analyst Judy Heiman. The LAO wanted “to provide greater and ongoing transparency to policy makers, providers and the public about where and how the state is distributing block grant funding,” she said.
Adult schools provide free or low-cost classes to Californians who are too old for K-12 schools but not academically prepared for community college or who don’t qualify for skilled jobs. They serve immigrants, unemployed people, disabled adults, high school dropouts and ex-offenders re-entering society.
For many years, districts received state funds earmarked for adult education. Many programs, particularly in urban areas, thrived. But during the recession, school districts were allowed to use adult education funding for any educational purpose and many eliminated or reduced funding to adult schools.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature in the 2013-14 budget required districts with adult programs to maintain them for two years. They also asked community colleges and districts to work with community groups to form consortia to reduce redundancy and determine which programs were most needed in their communities. Out of this process, the 71 consortia were formed.
Lawmakers gave priority for funding to those districts that had maintained their programs during the recession. The tracker shows that 68 percent of the $500 million has been allocated to consortia that include those districts.
More information will be added to the tracker as it becomes available, Collins said. The Chancellor’s Office and the California Department of Education are developing ways to measure the success of the programs, such as how many students improved in English, earned a high school diploma, completed a course or transitioned to another workforce program, she said. They plan to align their measurements with those required by workforce programs funded by the federal government.
Collins said she expects to update enrollment and funding information this summer. Current data were collected during the planning period. Now that the consortia have received funding, they are required to provide the information so it should be more complete, she said.
A Chancellor’s Office site, Adult Education Block Grant, is aimed at providers of adult education and those who want to look deeper. It includes every consortium’s plan, best practices and reports on California adult education.
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