WIA Community Conversations Transcripts - Diversity and Literacy

WIA Community Conversations Transcripts

Diversity and Literacy

WIA Community Conversations | Other WIA Community Conversations Transcripts

Subject: [Diversity
1305] Diversity and Literacy Questions

From: AEState

Date: Mon Jan 11
09:12:42 EST 2010

Diversity and Literacy List Participants,

My name is Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult
Education. Thank you for planning time this week to participate in a virtual
session of the WIA Community Conversations (http://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/10WIA).

I know it adds to your day to read and respond to discussion list posts, and I
deeply appreciate you giving so much of your time.

This week, I ask that you discuss the successes and needs you see for adult
education with respect to this discussion list's topic. I'm hoping that you'll
be candid and honest, and that there will be an open and frank discussion on
the list in this regard.

I'm here to listen, and to learn. This discussion is different from the typical
discussion list guest discussions. I'm not going to react to your suggestions
or answer questions. Please know, however, that what you suggest is worthwhile
for the Department to consider as it forms its policy position on WIA
reauthorization. Based on what I learn from the WIA Community Conversations, my
hope is to be able to say what the real issues are that impact the field, our
students, and our practitioners.

Additionally, I will present all conversation comments to the State Directors
of Adult Education at their annual meeting in February. I will obtain their
feedback as well.

If you are interested in what others are saying across the country, in addition
to what you hear from this list discussion, please visit the Department of
Education's blog http://www.edgovblogs.org/duncan/2009/11/workforce-investment-act-reauthorization/ .

The transcripts from face-to-face sessions hosted by OVAE are linked to the
blog. We will link transcripts of these discussion list sessions to the blog as

To start the discussion, please reply to this email with your thoughts on any
of the following questions:

  • What
    successes have you had in meeting the needs of diverse adult learners?
  • What
    are the challenges? What are some solutions to those challenges?
  • How
    can WIA reauthorization help meet the needs of diverse adult learners? What are
    your hopes?

I look
forward to hearing from you,


Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier

Assistant Secretary

Office of Vocational and Adult Education

United States Department of Education

400 Maryland Ave. S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202

Subject: [Diversity
1307] Re: WIA Community Conversations

From: Janet

Date: Mon Jan 11
11:25:15 EST 2010

Brenda and

Many thanks for taking the time to hear these questions. Before reading others'
posts and with the awareness that my input might echo that of others, want to
share things that have been percolating with me [and, as I've said, most likely
with others]:

What successes have you had in meeting the needs of diverse adult

Learners of different nationalities, languages and cultures can and
have learned together - helping one another and (I hope) learning from and with
me as well as with each other in programs that I've worked in that acknowledge
the fact that learning takes time and allows learners to spend the time they
need engaged in learning and building community. Things work
well when learners of diverse backgrounds, races, etc. have the time, safe
space and ancillary support needed to enable them to focus on learning.

What are the challenges? What are some solutions to those challenges?

Things go less well when stressors such as income, housing, food
security, physical and emotional safety are threatened. (Ditto, needs for
childcare and transportation and flexible scheduling). Some solutions we've seen, in their infancy, have to do with supporting
stopping out (instead of punishing what's perceived to be dropping out);
increased awareness of the impact of violence and trauma on learning and
increased opportunities for PD and onsite support for learning. As well,
support for ancillary support (case management, referral as needed) might help
address these challenges.

How can WIA reauthorization help meet the needs of diverse adult
learners? What are your hopes?

My biggest hopes are that workforce ed will not subsume all of adult
ed; that basic level learners are never at risk of being 'creamed' out of
learning opportunities (a point that I have heard many, including the Assistant
Secretary when she was a colleague in RI, acknowledge) and that
we, as a field, can see fit to support one another's learning through ongoing
access to PD through venues like this, face to face learning and other means of
learning that are hard-wired supported through funding on the federal, state
and local levels.

I know there's more, but will stop with this for the time being.

Janet Isserlis

Subject: [Diversity
1308] Re: WIA Community Conversations

From: Daphne

Date: Mon Jan 11
21:50:29 EST 2010

for taking the lead on this!

What do others want Brenda to hear regarding her three questions for us?
Remember, this is our week for Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for
Vocational and Adult Education to hear our "diversity" voices. I know
that many of us are often frustrated that the field of adult literacy gives
only "token" (if that much) voice to diversity issues (for example
conferences are often devoid of sessions that focus purely on diversity
issues). So here is our chance! The Assistant Secretary for Vocational and
Adult Education actually wants to hear what WE have to say! What a grand
opportunity! I urge everyone on this list to think about her questions, and
answer 1, 2, or 3 of them. She is interested in all of our voices-so now is not
the time to be shy! Your opinion/thought/belief counts! As a reminder, here are
her questions:

  • What successes have you had in meeting the needs of diverse adult learners?
  • What are the challenges? What are some solutions to those challenges?
  • How can WIA reauthorization help meet the needs of diverse adult learners? What
    are your hopes?

If the above questions feel too daunting, perhaps you want to reply to Janet's
post (see below). Do you agree with Janet? Why? Do you have anything to add to
what Janet has written?


Subject: [Diversity
1309] National discussion on WIA Reauthorization Jan. 11-15

From: Patricia

Date: Tue Jan 12
14:15:55 EST 2010

Dear Sirs,

We were told that Vocational and Adult education are asking for our input on
the three following questions between January 11-15, 2010.

Here's our

What successes have you had in meeting the needs of diverse adult

Limited success due to a lack of resources. It is unclear how the
funding is allocated through the state education agency to local workforce
board areas. The literacy classes supposedly funded for our region run out of
money and the results is no classes during summer months.

What are the challenges? What are some solutions to those challenges?

Funds management appears to be the biggest challenge. A solution would
be to send those funds through the Workforce Centers to manage with a 10% admin

How can WIA reauthorization help meet the needs of diverse adult
learners? What are your hopes?

WIA reauthorization can fund the required ESL and adult literacy needed
for employment.

Subject: [Diversity
1310] (no subject)

From: Tom

Date: Tue Jan 12
17:34:17 EST 2010

are your hopes for WIA reauthorization?

have been following the discussions on various groups with interest. As someone
who works statewide in developing both distance learning and simultaneous
workforce/basic skills education, I know how important these emphases are both
to adult learners and their communities. They need to be adequately
incorporated and reflected in WIA reauthorization.

I am also concerned that the needs of the many learners who may not fit neatly
into these categories not be neglected. In Minnesota, we have many refugee
learners who still struggle to master basic English - many, in fact, do not
know how to read and write in any language
since they were never able to attend primary school in their countries of
origin or in refugee camps. Other adult learners are primarily concerned with
family literacy, so they can support their children in school. Some are intent
on obtaining citizenship. And many deal with significant learning disabilities
which daily challenge them in their efforts to educate themselves.

As we work with legislators to insure that ABE services are responsive to
evolving educational and economic development needs, I hope we also preserve
some focus on those "hardest to serve" who have traditionally been
educated through our programs. If we fail these
high-need adult learners, they really have nowhere else to go.

Subject: [Diversity
1311] Thoughts on the WIA Conversations Discussion

From: Carolyn

Date: Wed Jan 13
12:39:20 EST 2010

Most of the
discussion seems to come from large programs where Adult Ed programs are (I’m
guessing) organized more like regular schools, with specific classes at
specific times for specific time frames. Such systems, where both students and
instructors are drawn from larger populations, have greater financial,
instructional, and personnel resources than smaller
programs in rural areas.

Our program provides fourteen classrooms in ten counties in western Nebraska. We have about 20 part-time instructors, some of whom are volunteers (no full-time
instructors). Due to budget cuts, we have been forced to replace some of our
paid instructors with volunteers. We are
fortunate that most of them, both paid and volunteers, are retired school

On any given day, we might have up to a dozen students in any of our
classrooms, with a few studying math, a few working on science or social
studies, a few concentrating on reading, and one or two practicing language
mechanics or writing essays. The instructor, like the old fashioned one-room
school house instructor, helps the student who needs help. Sometimes
all the students are combined for a single lesson, working on the same subject.

For various reasons, including transportation issues and lack of child care,
more than a third of those who attend orientation do not continue past the
first six hours. More than half leave before completing 12 hours. Less than 10%
of those who attend orientation stay with us for 60 hours or more. On the
other hand, we “graduate” a hundred students each year.

This information is not intended to answer any of the questions raised for this
discussion group, but rather to inform participants that some of us face
different challenges. Rules and regulations that work well in larger programs
may handicap smaller programs in rural areas, where the
numbers are not so large, but the need is still great.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this discussion. Very
rarely are the people involved in this program allowed to express our concerns
and our successes. Thank you, NIFL, for listening.

Subject: [Diversity
1313] How can WIA support diversity?

From: Jackie A.

Date: Wed Jan 13
20:15:54 EST 2010

Daphne and

When I think of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and diversity, I find it
challenging to think of ways legislation can support diverse classrooms. Is
anyone else having that difficulty? Perhaps it would help, at least for me, if
others would just share examples of instructional or program practices that
encourage or support diversity in adult education programs. Maybe from

those examples we'll get ideas on our hopes for WIA as it pertains to

Thoughts, anyone?

Jackie Taylor

Subject: [Diversity
1315] WIA discussion

From: Porfirio,

Date: Thu Jan 14
10:32:41 EST 2010

I am posting
these comments on behalf of an adult education instructor in Tucson, Arizona. She and I have been discussing the need for adult education programs to do a
better job of documenting and communicating our successes ... instead of
wallowing in our challenges to meet ever-increasing accountability measures
under extreme funding constraints. She works part-time teaching English and ABE
reading and writing.


I'll begin by telling you a brief story. Last year a relative asked a doctor
for a letter verifying that she was living in the U.S. at xyz address, nothing
very complicated, as you can see. She picked up the letter and showed it to me.
I was appalled at the number of mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and
sentence formation besides poor, overall appearance. I thought of showing it to
the doctor (whom I'm sure didn't read the letter carefully and may have
overlooked some errors because his first language may not be English). In any
case, this situation made me wonder about the level of education among our
youth and adults. I thought about how this might be viewed by an educated
person from another country and I felt embarrassed. I cringed at the thought
that the errors in the letter could be commonplace. It made me wonder how many
people who made these kinds of errors aspired to leadership in some form and
wondered about the capabilities of some of our current leaders.

I also remembered during the California technology gold rush that many workers
from other countries were being given work visas (H1 I believe) and asked
myself why was this? It was because the U.S. workforce in technology was not
good enough or non-existent. I also wondered why so many companies have moved
their businesses to other countries. There are, of course, several reasons for
this, among them greed. But the greed has an effect on U.S. workers, perhaps not apparent to all of them. U.S. companies have snubbed their own workforce
and, instead of participating in raising the educational level of that
workforce, they ignore it and go elsewhere. Stronger, collaborative
partnerships between schools and companies would help. This kind of program
could be coordinated out of Adult Ed.

National statistics still reflect the imbalance of educational attainment
between the majority and minority populations. Students need to be presented
with not only options, but the roads and tools to accomplish those options and
success models. When I was an UC Irvine I coordinated a Faculty/Student Mentor
Program and saw the successful results of faculty working closely with a
diverse student population. Those students invariably improved their research
skills and became very marketable, i.e., several of them were offered
tenure-track positions. So I think that making our U.S. workforce more
marketable is the goal.

Why are students being tutored in English subjects with tutors from other
countries (online programs)? Why are parents going outside the U.S. ? What does this say about our system? Maybe cost has something to do with it.

I don't think this is a case of Education being bailed out like the banks. This
is a case of the government not only stimulating Education, but reinforcing it
and convincing the education community that it agrees that developing workforce
that truly reflects our diverse population is not only worthwhile, but
important to our government.

So, rather than ask why should Education be given funds rather than any other
organization, I would ask why can't Education be given the same magnanimous
opportunities that other organizations have (car manufacturers and banks).
Education has an even more important role because it has prepared those that
are working in car manufacturing and banks and Education has not cheated
anyone. Education has been cheated and it should be treated as equally as other
organizations have.

The government needs to hear the stories of students who've received their
GEDs, to hear from students about why they've returned to school to get their
GEDs, and to hear the stories of immigrants who come to the "land of the
free and home of the brave."

Subject: [Diversity
1316] Re: How can WIA support diversity?

From: Porfirio,

Date: Thu Jan 14
12:04:07 EST 2010

I agree with
Jackie that it isn't easy to connect WIA legislation to our program and
instructional practices... they seem so far removed from each other. One
question I have for the field is: how can we align practice, research, and
policy in order to more effectively advocate for adult education?

When adult learners have the opportunity to develop reading, writing and math
skills along with critical thinking, collective inquiry, and reflection, they
are developing the capacity to succeed in further education and training that
benefits all of us in our communities, in our society. The ripple effect of
adult education touches all of our lives. The people working in our hospitals,
staffing our schools, reading my medical lab reports, producing our goods and
services in the US need to be as well educated as possible. The first step
towards higher education and training in this country is into an adult
education program.

The reason I signed up for the Diversity strand of the WIA discussion is my
passion for the work I do with learners from so very many backgrounds. I know
that it is this diversity that is both an inspiration and a challenge for
practitioners. I'm working on a master's degree in education, hoping to learn
and be able to contribute something towards answering that question. I'm
posting this reflection I did for an inquiry project that brought my graduate
studies into my instructional practice. It is in response to Jackie's request
for an example of instructional practice that supports diversity.


Homeland: adult learners exploring the conflict between Israelis and
Palestinians through literature

My work in adult education has continually challenged me to address issues of
diversity and social justice. I am honored and privileged to work with students
from all walks of life who bring their enthusiasm for learning and a lot of
life experience to the classroom. One thing I’ve often reflected on, as a
native Tucsonan working with adults from all over the world, is the sense of
place that adult education provides for so many people from so many different
backgrounds. With adult education students in mind, I produced a digital story
about my relationship with my Italian grandmother titled “Home” that addressed
the fact that she was displaced from her homeland but made Tucson her home. She
was an immigrant woman in an arranged marriage who eventually followed her son
to his wife’s hometown … Tucson, Arizona. She was disempowered in some ways,
but her strength and connection to her homeland was kept alive by sharing her
stories and ways of living with me. Many people’s lives are disrupted and
fractured by things like wars, colonialism, immigration … and by injustices of
many kinds. My grandmother was constantly sharing her stories, reflections,
frustrations, and customs. I think that is the underlying issue – stories
provide a sense of place. This drove me to address the incredibly complex and
challenging topic of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over their

At the
beginning of this inquiry project, I was interested in exploring the various
texts that could be used in a unit on the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East for Adult Basic Education (ABE) students. I was interested in covering the
history and geography of the area, as well as the different perspectives of how
the conflict developed and the current state of affairs. I wanted to focus on
the geography, history, and politics of the area and also bring in the
multicultural literature that belongs to the people of the area. I attempted to
build this inquiry around finding and analyzing the literature that relates to
this theme, and its appropriateness for my students who are preparing to take
the GED exam. As a teacher who is constantly struggling to apply a
participatory, learner-centered practice in adult education, at first I
questioned my motives for doing this unit with my students. It didn’t seem like
something that directly relates to their lives and it certainly didn’t come up
naturally as a topic they were even interested in. I’m still reflecting on my
decision to do this in-depth inquiry learning with my students about this
incredibly challenging issue. I’m always questioning myself and reflecting on
the things I do and say in the classroom with adult learners. It’s part of my
critical stance as a teacher. The students in my classroom were extremely
enthusiastic and fully participated in every step of learning we took together.
We did this because I suggested it, but they guided our learning in many ways.

I applied a student-centered, generative approach in the interactions and
curriculum development with a participatory philosophy underlying the whole
project. My strategy, method, and materials included the following: establish
community and rapport among all participants; create a collective learning log
in the form of a KWL chart (what we Know, Want to know, and what we Learned);
build background knowledge with maps, simplified timelines, and ABE (pre-GED)
exercises and readings; make sure everyone had a library card; and distribute
the bibliography of books the librarian made sure were available in the
library. I introduced the concept of a literature circle and let students
choose which book they wanted to read.

When I read the reviews of these books and researched the authors, I was struck
by the common themes that are addressed in reviews and how my students’
reflections resonate with those themes. The major themes and issues that came
up in the materials, discussions, reviews of the literature, and in students’
written reflections are:

  • Culture (beliefs, religion, differences)
  • War (fear, danger, killing, innocent people dying)
  • Land (rights, division)
  • Peace (freedom, education, understanding, commonalities, negotiation)
  • Power (people, government, choices)

Most ABE students come to class insisting they don’t know how to read or write.
Yet, their reading logs flowered with their written expression… because they
had something to say and were passionate about reading and learning. I was
completely inspired by my students’ ability to tackle such a heart wrenching
issue with such open minds and hearts. We had some hard times, reading and
talking about things that are so far beyond our frames of reference. All of
them repeatedly insisted that this topic is absolutely important to them. The
reasons they come up include: war, money, disputes over land, human rights,
politics and government. They know that the U.S. supports the Israeli
government with large amounts of money. They know that land … a sense of place
… is one of the most valuable things to a people. After reading Tasting the Sky
and Three Wishes they are sensitized to the fact that wars affect the children
of the world, and now they are asking some very tough questions about power.
Who is doing what? And, who is doing nothing? Who is letting this happen?

In this inquiry, which included my own research and reflections along with
those of my students, I learned many things. It is possible to tackle extremely
complex issues in a classroom. We can address controversial topics in the
classroom; we don’t have to shy away from issues of social justice that get
messy quick and don’t lead to easy answers. I learned that students could
accept controversy and discomfort in the classroom. Adult learners are often
labeled as fossilized in their opinions and worldviews. These students
transcended the view that they are learners who don’t like to deal with
difficult topics and who expect the teacher to tell them what they need to


Thank you for reading.


Subject: [Diversity
1317] Re: WIA Community Conversations

From: Linda

Date: Thu Jan 14
20:17:16 EST 2010

As an ESL
teacher at the Long Beach, California, School for Adults, I've seen successes
in meeting the needs of diverse adult learners in our ESL classes offered
on-site throughout the day and evening, and also in off-site classes offered
mostly at elementary schools for parents of limited English speakers. We served
large groups of Spanish speakers, along with others from Cambodia, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, and other countries. Our administrators were able to check school
records over the years to show that children whose parents came regularly to
our classes were more successful on the standardized tests given to elementary
students. Our adult students themselves also showed wonderful gains in their
state-sponsored CASAS tests.

We also have successfully offered ESL Distance Learning (videos and DVDs), with
an emphasis on reading and comprehension, both at our main sites and at our
off-sites. Student success on CASAS tests may partly have been due to their
continued opportunity to study independently at home even when they attended
class only once or twice a week, or less, because of work or child care issues
or other adult responsibilities.

Despite the successes we've had in the past, we were forced to greatly reduce
the classes we offer this year --especially off-site--because of budget cuts
(and California's budget crisis.) Many ESL teachers have had their hours
greatly reduced. (I now work 60% instead of 100%.) Almost all the students at
the off-site locations have transportation or child care issues that make it
impossible for them to attend classes at our main sites.

I would like to echo others (such as Janet Isserlis) who hope that workforce ed
will not subsume all of adult ed. We always encourage our adult ESL students to
continue their education, and many do learn English to be better prepared for
the workforce, but society is also well-served by those who learn English so
they can help their children succeed in school, or so that they can become U.S. citizens, or so that they can participate fully in the community.

Linda Goonetilleke

Subject: [Diversity
1318] Last day of WIA discussion

From: Daphne

Date: Fri Jan 15
06:20:31 EST 2010

Thank you to
all of the contributors to the WIA discussion. Today is the last day that we
are collating messages. Please send in your posts by 5 pm today. What do you
want Brenda Dann-Messier, the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Vocational
and Adult Education, to know about diversity and adult literacy? Here are some
last minute ideas that can be addressed in statements to her:

  1. What is the definition of diversity regarding adult literacy? Are we talking
    just about race? gender? sexual orientation?
  2. Why do the different diversities matter in adult literacy? Why does it
    matter that we keep mind issues such as race, gender, sexual orientation,
    religion, etc?
  3. What are the challenges of considering diversity in adult literacy?
  4. How do you successfully deal with diversity in the classroom?

    any thing else?


Subject: [Diversity
1319] WIA and women


Date: Fri Jan 15
10:18:07 EST 2010

I'm Mev
Miller. The Director & Founder of WE LEARN (Women Expanding Literacy
Education Action Resource Network). WE LEARN is a community promoting women’s
literacy as a tool that fosters empowerment and equity for women. We are the
only (US) national organization specifically focused on the need and issues of
women. We're in a unique position as a national organization because we do not
depend on federal or state funds and do not have to "abide" by NRS
standards. However, many of our constituents do. AND we do offer a number of
alternative supportive learning options learners and professional development
opportunities for educators.

Throughout these posts over the week, I've noticed most everyone discussing
content, standards, methods of teaching specific content, assessments,
integration of workplace skills and college prep, professional development and
many other very important and needed services.

But very few (if any) have mentioned "whole" person aspects of
teaching and learning [mind supported by emotion, spirit, body], wrap around
services, student leadership/collaboration, diversity-based awarenesses that
affect how content is delivered or best suited to our
multi-diversities of learners (and teachers), etc.

I'd like to add these perceptions / bullets / tidbits of information with the
hopes that OVAE strongly considers the special needs that women learners bring
to the classroom. From the composite of experiences I hear from WE LEARN members,
I offer these observations.

  1. What successes have you had in meeting the needs of diverse adult learners?

    Check out the myriad of teacher stories compiled in "Empowering Women
    through Literacy: Views from the Field." These experiences and research
    address the many ways in which standardized content can be delivered while
    keeping in mind the "affective" relational supports
    that truly impact women's learning achievements.

    The WE LEARN conference is successful because of our emphasis on understanding
    and putting into practice the viewpoint that we are all knowledge-builders --
    teachers & learners with community members & academics. We experience
    surprise and new respect for adult women
    learners by being in an environment as peers WITH students and learning FROM
    students. We are co-learners and co-teachers and the "playing field"
    is "leveled." Creativity, respect, confidence, news ideas, and
    unexpected powerful life goals flourish in this environment.

    Learners need to be heard, respected, and encouraged/supported to participate.
    We started a national student writing publication -- it was supposed to be a
    one-time thing but now it's an annual activity. From that simple publication,
    we have watched students gain
    confidence as they have read their writings to a national audience at the
    celebration. Some have become more confident public speakers, workshop leaders,
    board members, active committee members and other community leadership
    projects. This does not happen because we've assessed improved writing gains --
    but because we've provided a public forum for speaking, listening, writing,

    btw -- someone mentioned that students don't like to write. In our experience,
    sometimes the roadblock to student writing is actually the many teachers who
    don't like to write themselves, lack confidence in teaching writing, and
    therefore are clueless about how to support the

    numbers of students who actually *do* want to write -- and need to be encouraged
    that they have something meaningful to say that will be listened to by others.
    Students need public forums for their words & ideas. For these reasons, WE
    LEARN has been devising workshops and supportive programs that provide tools to
    teachers as well as support student writers getting started.

    We have also found that providing visibility of and access to women-centered
    literacy materials (from very basic to higher level) and curriculum resources
    can be very supportive for a diversity of learners. We have found that
    creating "women Leading Through Reading" "book group"
    discussion circles empower women in unexpected ways -- especially as they
    wrestle with important topics for their lives often kept out of the
    "typical" classroom." In these circles women become agents
    selecting their own reading directions with the support of community-based
    facilitators (not teachers). expression support reading comprehension in these
    circles -- specifically using women centered materials.

    Additionally, though, teachers need better training on how to integrate a
    diversity of resources. Several teachers have told us that, because they teach
    in mixed gender classrooms, they cannot (will not) use WE LEARN’s women-focused
    materials. This, of course, causes me to wonder how the learning needs of women
    in those literacy programs are being served. Do teachers only select
    gender-neutral materials with all students? Really? Do teachers choose NOT to
    use materials that portray men, men’s concerns, or stereotypical male attributes
    when their classes include women? Has education truly become “neutral”? How are
    the various diversities of learners’ experiences being included (or ignored or
    silenced) in literacy lessons and curriculum? This, of course, can be examined
    as to whether educators are using resources that portray immigrants with US
    born students, or people of color with white students, etc.....

  2. What are the challenges? What are some solutions to those challenges?
  • Women
    with children can only attend adult literacy programs (or jobs) if their child
    care needs are covered.
  • Women
    with abusive partners can only attend adult literacy programs if the
    environment is a safe one, with counseling available, and resources/referrals
  • Women
    with histories of childhood abuse can only attend to a class lesson if their
    counseling needs are covered.
  • Women
    have been denied access to programs if they are currently addicted or abusing
    substances. But for those who are "clean," the lack of consistent
    after-care and living in dangerous, drug involved communities challenges their
    ability to achieve educational success.
  • Women
    who are trying to enter the workforce need help with social networking, and
    help with accessing nontraditional jobs.

broaden what is described as "meaningful" professional development. I
have been told by educators that they cannot get financial support to attend
the WE LEARN conference, for example, because it does not comply with
"approved" PD requirements. So, I offer this insight provided by one
of our attendees -- it echoes similar thoughts by practitioners:

"One important aspect of attending the WE LEARN conference is that it
gives a chance to really engage and interact with other people who are invested
in literacy as a way of being—those who truly believe in education as a
grass-roots effort that changes lives. It is incredibly refreshing not to have
to address statistics, outcomes, databases, and such. WE LEARN gives a chance
to focus on the heart of literacy—the real work that has no 'line' on a grant
report but in fact represents true learning and teaching. Attending the WE
LEARN conference helps me remember what I know works best in the

I would say that offering PD that supports teacher inquiry and reflective
practices is just as (if not more) important that "methods fetishes."

We have also found that the general public (specifically women's &
diversity studies academics and community activists in many areas) do not know
the full extent of literacy issues facing women. This means that dialog about
services in the general public become dysfunctional. There are reports that
show women with no high school diplomas or rising trends of women going to
college -- but the realities of our 40% at the NALS levels 1&2 are completely
invisible to these communities. We need to do a better job of "getting the word
out" -- in meaningful and respectful, non-exploitive ways -- to the larger

  • How can WIA reauthorization help meet the needs of diverse adult learners?
    What are your hopes?

    It would be great if the WIA system could work the case workers -- often these
    are the "gatekeepers" who determine whether women can access
    educational services in the first place. When WIA was first introduced, many
    women who were being successful in education were told to go to work -- keeping
    them in dead end poverty. Very often, women can’t even get into longer term or
    meaningful educational services because of the case workers who control their
    futures. (for some compelling research on this, see "Laboring to
    Learn" by Lorna Rivera).

  • These are some of my many random thoughts. I encourage other WE LEARN members
    on these NIFL listservs to add what I have forgotten.


    Mev Miller

    Subject: Diversity
    1320] WIA Discussion

    From: Upham,
    Arthur G - DCF

    Date: Fri Jan 15
    15:18:52 EST 2010

    What a
    tremendously informative and impressive read the WIA discussion is generating,
    both thoughtful and passionate: the dedication and commitment of participants
    is a real credit to the profession today. And what an excellent snapshot of the
    national situation today, and a scary one, too.

    One disadvantage to the nature of this forum and the question posed is that
    solutions should involve a holistic/comprehensive discussion of all the parts
    that need to come together to shape a solution-education/literacy is certainly
    key, but so too the economy and labor market. Unfortunately, though I confess
    my limited knowledge about the job market and near future trends, but it seems
    unlikely to me that the US will see the return of many of the manufacturing and
    production jobs we hear being outsourced for cheaper labor and materials-the
    jobs to which the limited skill, limited English worker could hope to secure.
    The talk about a growth in high tech or biotech jobs doesn't seem likely to be
    accessible for this population either any time soon. Green jobs may help some
    but then going green isn't cheap and this will limit that growth. As more and
    more employers require a high school graduation diploma or its equivalent, this
    too is limiting access to jobs for many who have now lost the manual-intensive
    jobs sent outside our borders. So the need for more funding for adult education
    is clear but also for tuition support/loans/student supportive services
    including childcare.

    Other solutions will require creative thinking. Might we take a model like the
    Fresh Start program and fund adult basic ed/literacy half-day with half-day
    work experience installing or creating green buildings-with tax credits to both
    the homeowner and the business to encourage green projects? Might employers
    whose primary reason for requiring a high school diploma is the fear of lawsuit
    or OSHA fines should an employee with limited English/reading skills be injured
    through failure to understand product hazards be satisfied if the employee
    presented a certificate of completion/satisfactory attainment in a community
    college or literacy class dedicated to teaching the employee how to read and
    understand such product information? If the labor market continues to offer
    fewer and fewer of the traditional jobs that used to provide productive
    employment for these students, what can we do to find them paying jobs-or will
    we just put much, much more money into public assistance and accept a
    chronically large and growing poverty stricken underclass? Might Unemployment
    Insurance and Welfare programs give much greater permission for those receiving
    such benefits to get more of the training they need without penalizing them?

    Arthur Upham

    Subject: [Diversity
    1322] thank you

    From: Daphne

    Date: Fri Jan 15
    22:46:01 EST 2010

    First of
    all, a very warm thank you to the Assistant Secretary, Dr. Dann-Messier for
    wanting to hear our voices!

    Secondly, a very warm thank you to all of you who contributed to the WIA
    conversations this week.

    The next step in the process is for me to post a summary of this week's WIA
    conversation posts to the Discussion List and ask for your feedback. I will
    then combine the summary with your follow-up feedback and submit them to the
    Assistant Secretary, Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier.


    Subject: [Diversity
    1324] Diversity and Literacy Question

    From: Kirstyn

    Date: Fri Jan 15
    23:15:30 EST 2010

    While my
    organization predominantly serves African-American adult learners, each learner
    is "diverse" in their own way. The term "diverse" in adult
    education covers a multitude of topics for each learner ranging from individual
    level of motivation, academic skill level, or the varying degrees of support
    that a learner has from home.

    Some major successes include celebrating learner achievements bi-annually, and
    having the opportunity to speak with learners throughout each class session
    about any particular challenges they may be facing in helping them persist
    toward continuing to come to class and receiving their high school diplomas.

    Some continued challenges that we face with our learners are keeping them
    engaged, and supporting them in their goals of both furthering their education
    and seeking employment. An important adjustment would be to continue to
    integrate job readiness certification programs into adult education curriculum.
    While learners are working toward their high school diplomas and postsecondary
    education, learners want to feel like they've mastered a trade or craft.
    Finding a way to uplift both the educational and career goals simultaneously is
    key to learner retention and keeping diverse groups of learners engaged.

    The WIA reauthorization act can assist meeting the needs of diverse adult
    learners by first identifying and understanding the major barriers that adult
    learners face. (i.e.: minimal support, unemployment, transportation, childcare
    challenges, etc.)

    In addition, it would be great if local career counseling programs continue to
    work with local adult ed. agencies on a more consistent basis to provide
    practical, employment opportunities that learners could potentially take
    advantage of while pursuing their education.