Adult education in need of overhaul, state says

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California’s system of adult education is complex, confusing and in need of a major overhaul if it is to serve the 1.5 million students seeking instruction, the state Legislative Analyst’s Office said in a new report. Adult schools were first established more than 150 years ago to offer California residents basic language and job skills. Today, more than 400 state-funded institutions operated by school districts and 112 community colleges offer adult education for a variety of students, including immigrants who want to learn English or obtain citizenship, high school dropouts who want a diploma, those needing remedial math and English, workers needing vocational training and those wanting to take a fitness or ceramics class.

But a report released this week cited a number of deficiencies, including an overly broad mission, a lack of coordination among providers, different definitions among community colleges about adult education and college instruction, and limited data collection and accountability.


Adult programs were further eroded in 2009, when the Legislature allowed school districts to use once-dedicated funding for any educational purpose, signaling their “lower priority,” the report found.

“As a result of all of these issues, adult education in California is a complex, confusing and incoherent system,” wrote analyst Paul Steenhausen.

The report offers a number of recommendations, including focusing resources on a narrower number of key instructional programs, establishing common policies for faculty credentials, fees and student assessment and creating a new dedicated funding stream.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris commended the report.

“Over decades, uneven approaches to adult education have developed, and recent funding cuts have limited access to these classes, which help adults become economically self-sufficient,” Harris said. “The report’s recommendations provide a sturdy foundation for solutions to harmonize approaches used by K-12 and community colleges and lead to a more reliable commitment to properly serve these students.”


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