“Act as if what you say and what you do makes a difference, because it does.”
On April 3rd and 4th adult educators from all corners of Connecticut gathered in Mystic for the 2014 Connecticut Association of Adult and Continuing Education Conference. (CAACE) In Connecticut approximately 11% of the population does not have high school equivalency. In addition, 7% of the population of our population is not proficient in English. Adult Education programs address the educational needs of these learners, providing the expertise and support necessary to guide students toward their educational goals.
With the implementation of higher educational standards and Connecticut’s changing workforce needs, the importance of adult education as a bridge to success is becoming even more necessary. During the conference, conversations amongst educators centered around increasingly difficult educational standards, the revised and more challenging GED credential and the role of adult educators in transitioning students toward post-secondary education and workforce success.
The highlight and most compelling portion of the conference was the student award ceremony. This year four students were acknowledged as a 2014 Student of the Year. For each of them, success was only realized by overcoming great obstacles: This is the Face of Adult Education.
Dane Scates from Stamford Adult Education “wowed” the audience with her strong rendition of the National Anthem. Dane lost her mother as a teenager and battled debilitating asthma that eventually caused her to drop out of high school. Years later, despite ongoing struggles Dane persevered and worked towards completing her High School Diploma. Now looking forward, Dane states, “I want a career where I can make difference. I have a mission and that is to create change for the better in our children’s lives, as they are our future.”
Luz Santana moved to Holyoke Massachusetts when she was just fourteen years old. Language barriers made it difficult for her to be successful in school. Years later she moved to Connecticut and while working full time began ESL classes in West Hartford. She not only progressed in her ESL classes, but also completed her high school requirements through the National External Diploma Program. The NEDP allows working adults to complete their high school requirements through the completion of a personal educational portfolio. This route to high school completion is challenging and ultimately proves mastery of high school concepts and knowledge. Her positive attitude not only led her to success but inspired others to do the same.
Aicha Kalapo has been attending Vernon Regional Adult Education. Aicha was born in Sierra Leone and raised in Mali. Her schooling ended at age ten so that she could help at home with her younger siblings. At nineteen she arrived in the US with her young son. With the help of her sponsor family she began ESL classes. Aicha worked two jobs and became proficient in English. With persistence and determination she eventually earned her high school equivalency. In the fall of 2014 she will be attending Manchester Community College with the hope of a bright future for herself and her son.
Jessica Ortiz attends East Hartford Adult and Continuing Education. Jessica left high school at age 17 with just 6.5 credits left to complete. After 15 years of raising children and working full time Jessica went back to school at East Hartford Adult Education. Her teachers describe her as always prepared and motivated. Jessica not only works through her own learning challenges but is also an inspiration and cheerleader for others. She is on track to graduate in June of this year! But that is not the end. She would like to continue her education so that one day she might become a social worker and continue to be a guiding light for others.
Each of these students represents hundreds more all over the state. Many are also working one or two jobs, while going to school so that their American Dream can come true. Many have faced overwhelming obstacles as children and adults. Behind each success is the persistence, dedication and support of adult educators!
As stated by Christine Bjork, one of the 2014 CAACE Adult Educators of the Year, “The one thing that all students are seeking is acceptance, respect and success.” Congratulations to these students and all the adult educators who practice these words each day!
Download this report on PDF: GED in CT - a look at the data
The old GED exam is changing. Starting next year, the traditional pen-and-paper test will give way to a new, computer-based system. The transition raises some important issues: the new exam is more expensive, testing facilities need to be upgraded, and test-takers need to be made aware of the new format. CAHS is monitoring these changes, and working with other organizations and state officials to ensure that the new GED test improves on the old.
As we move to the new system, this is an opportunity to look at where Connecticut stands in terms of adult education.
Connecticut leads the US in state resources allocated per adult without a High School Degree or GED. We invest a considerable amount of money in adult education, as it stands now.
Connecticut is ranked first in adult education spending, nation wide. But, what are the returns of this investment? We enroll a lot of students in our adult education system.
Connecticut is ranked 7th in adult education enrollment in the country; we are working with a considerable amount of students in pursuit of their GEDs. As a result, the percentage of adults without a High School diploma or GED is well bellow the national average:
These figures, however, are not as impressive as the look. Connecticut is ranked 15th nationwide for adults 25 to 54 with a GED or High School diploma; 16th for adults 18 to 64. With all the investment and all the enrollments, the current adult education system is not reaching everyone. The breakdown by groups shows who:
Connecticut ranks 6th in the nation for educational attainment for non-Hispanic whites. On the other hand we rank 16th for Hispanics, 25th for African-Americans and 23rd for minorities, on aggregate. We are barely above average with groups other than non-Hispanic whites. This is a reflection of Connecticut’s vast wealth and income disparities (Connecticut ranks 49th on income gap between the top and bottom quintile of working families), and of the achievement gap in our education system, in part one of the consequences of inequality.
As Connecticut embarks on a new GED, we need to make sure our investment in adult education is going where it is needed.
 All data from the Population Reference Bureau for the Working Families Project and Complete College America.