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Adult Education and Family Literacy Week!

In the District of Columbia, we focus a lot of attention on our public and charter schools.  Adult education get much less attention.  But many of DC’s adult learners are products of the District’s public school system.  Listening to their struggles could tell us a lot about what’s missing in DCPS.  So, what follows is an article cross-posted from Southeast Ministry’s blog that details why this issue is important from the point of view of adult learners themselves.  Below that is a flyer that gives details for next week’s Adult Education and Family Literacy Week and lets you know how you can get involved.

Visioning as a Vehicle for Change

1980-01-01 00.00.43On Wednesday, September 9, our learners were led by Samantha Davis, Senior Advocacy and Community Engagement Specialist at So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E.), in a visioning session that got our learners in a discussion about some of the barriers they face on a daily basis, as well as potential solutions.

Some of the barriers that were mentioned by our learners included affordable housing, transportation, homelessness, child care, and violence in the communities they live. Other barriers that were identified by SEM learners were access to more educational programs and the fact that the new GED exam is computer-based. Another barrier that was identified was time, specifically the times that certain programs begin and end, since adult learners are often fitting their education around their work schedules that often change.

To address the barriers that were named, SEM learners brainstormed possible solutions. There was a great deal of discussion around the possibility of having more computer training available for adult learners who do not have the sufficient computer skills necessary to complete the new computer-based GED exam. The class also discussed the idea of having transportation designed specifically for adult learners to programs throughout the District, in order reduce the burden of having to find their own way to classes.

For information regarding donating to Southeast Ministry, our programs, or volunteering, please visit., or call 202-562-2636.

Download pdf of flyer HERE.

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

Celebrating Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2014

The Washington DC metropolitan region is one of the nation’s highest-skilled economies. By 2018, 71 percent of all jobs in the District of Columbia will require at least some training beyond high school. Despite this, 62,000 adult DC residents never received a high school diploma or general equivalency degree (GED) and even more need to upgrade their basic English, math and computer literacy skills.  Reggie, in the video below, was in that position.

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Strategies for addressing literacy issues in the DC region will be highlighted during this week’s Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, September 22-22, 2014. The purpose of the week, which is celebrated nationwide, is to raise awareness of adult education and family literacy issues, provide critical information to stakeholders and policy-makers, and advocate for increased access to relevant programs. The DC Adult and Family Literacy Coalition which is a wide coalition of community nonprofits who provide adult education services and their partners will host three events in DC as well as an essay contest for adult learners.

The theme for the week’s events, “Making Connections”, underscores the idea that adult literacy impacts many areas of the community including health, children’s education, workforce development, transportation, social services and more. Key leaders and policy-makers will be part of the following events:

Understanding the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
Monday, September 22, 2014
PNC Bank
800 17th St NW

Advocacy Day and Adult Education Panel
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
10:00 am-1:00 pm
Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

DC-AFLC Big Tent Meeting
Friday, September 26th
Thurgood Marshall Center
1816 12th Street NW

Low-literacy is a root cause of poverty, homelessness, and other social challenges our region faces. Adult basic education and family literacy programs provide the crucial bridge for adults to increase their skills and begin to break the cycle of poverty.

For more information, please contact:

Evita Smedley
Adult & Family Literacy Coalition
Riley Grime
Adult Education & Family Literacy Awareness Group

Mayor’s Budget Shortchanges Under-Educated DC Adults … and Their Kids

Cross-posted from Poverty & Policy

Written by Kathryn Baer

Adult Educators and Adult Learners Lobby at the Wilson Building

Adult Educators and Adult Learners Lobby at the Wilson Building

“We have jobs and we have people,” says DC Appleseed’s Deputy Director. “But the education people have doesn’t fit the jobs available.” The real problem, however, as she goes on to suggest, is the education that many people don’t have.

This isn’t a rerun of the oft-debunked skills gap myth — at least so far as the District of Columbia is concerned. The extraordinarily high high unemployment rates in the poorer parts of the city apparently reflect a lack of minimal education credentials — and skills they’re supposed to indicate.

About 60,000 residents 18 years and older lack a high school diploma or the equivalent. An even larger number “likely lack the basic … skills needed to succeed in training, postsecondary education and the workforce,” according to a new DC Appleseed report.

Of the deplorably few adults in programs supported by funds the Office of the State Superintendent of Education administers, more than half who weren’t learning English as a second language have consistently tested below 6th grade level.

This means they’re ineligible for any of the programs the Department of Employment Services makes available through an Individual Training Account and also for most of the programs offered by our local community college.

Even residents who test higher often fail the GED exams. Their pass rate in 2012 was 55.2% — the third lowest in the country. And the exams got tougher this year.

Yet more than three-quarters of all jobs in the District will require some postsecondary education by 2020, according to the latest projections by experts at Georgetown University.

In short, as things stand now, we’re looking at a very large number of working-age residents whose chances of full-time, living-wage jobs are dismal.

And as if that weren’t enough, we’ve research indicating links between parents’ education (or lack of same) and their children’s success in school. On the downside, children whose parents are functionally illiterate are twice as likely to be illiterate themselves.

This isn’t only because poverty rates are highest among adults without a high school diploma or GED — well over 33% in the District for those 25 and older. But all the daily impacts of poverty, e.g., hunger, homelessness, stress, obviously play a part.

Plowing more money into the rest of the education system, as the Mayor proposes, won’t deliver the hoped-for bang for the buck if the basic education needs of parents are neglected, as DC Learns warned several years ago.

DC Appleseed’s report identifies a range of problems in the District’s approach to adult education — including, but not limited to inadequate funding.

It outlines steps toward a long-range solution — essentially, an integrated system that connects basic skills development to career pathways. The DC Council could lay the groundwork with the initial $2.5 million the report recommends.

But the Council should also increase funding for the adult education programs we have now — both to serve more residents and to support better results.

I wish I could tell you what the Mayor’s budget proposes. But it’s characteristically opaque — partly, but not entirely because of the fragmentation DC Appleseed documents.

This much I’ve been able to parse.

The handful of charter schools that provide adult education would get more per pupil, as would the two regular public schools that do.

They’d still get less per pupil than what schools would get for any other type of student. And the new extra weight that’s supposed to boost funds for schools with students who’ve been designated “at risk” won’t apply, though some of the adults surely meet the same criteria, e.g., eligibility for SNAP (food stamp) benefits.

OSSE would get less for the adult education grants it provides. The proposed budget indicates a cut of about $3.8 million. This apparently reflects the fact that the Department of Employment Services won’t be transferring funds, as it did this fiscal year.

The Fair Budget Coalition had recommended that the baseline budget for adult education, i.e., the estimated costs of preserving current services, include these funds — a $5.5 million addition, according to FBC.

Hard to believe that the Mayor and his people couldn’t have found the money. They’ve instead put $3 million for adult literacy on the list of items to be funded if revenues prove higher than projected.

Let’s just say this is a mere gesture, since it would take $59.8 million to fund the priorities ranked higher. Setting this pie-in-the-sky aside, the total requested for all the programs that, in one way or the other, address the adult basic skills deficit might serve more residents than in Fiscal 2013.

But they then served at most about 8,000, according to DC Appleseed. That’s a far cry from meeting the need.

DC Budget Hearing: DOES and the Workforce Investment Council


Adult Ed Budget Hearing