The Future of Adult Basic Education

I own a small business that makes clothing, accessories, bags and home decorating items. To supplement my income from theBostonWoman.com I work part time at the Rockland Regional Adult Learning Center (RRALC) as an Educational Advisor. I started the Boston Woman because I love working with my hands and seeing a finished product, especially when someone else shows appreciation for my work. However, nothing moves me as much as seeing the students from the learning center in their caps and gowns every June.

This year the friends and family of the graduates crowded the high school auditorium. Each student stood up to thank those who had pushed, supported and encouraged them to complete this milestone in their life. The students range in age from recent high school dropouts to retirees who have put their children through college and have decided to go back to school to complete their own education. We have seen a number of successful professional people who have kept their lack of education a secret but have now decided they want that degree so they can pursue further education. We have also helped people who were told they had no chance for advancement in their careers unless they obtained a high school diploma. Some of these former students have come back to tell us they not only got the advancement, but their employer is paying for their college courses.

The RRALC diploma is a high school diploma from Rockland High School and, because of the prestige that comes from a diploma vs. a GED (now HiSet), the program is rigorous. Students take math, science and English courses. The program offers all levels, from beginner to advanced and the teachers are all Rockland High School teachers with advanced degrees. All students must pass the required classes and then take the three Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests in English Language Arts, math and science. Once they have completed their course work and passed all three MCAS exams they begin work on a portfolio. The portfolio is comprised of ten research papers on subjects such as financial literacy, constitutional law, scientific research and college and career planning.

Having worked in this program for a number of years, I firmly believe this is the direction Massachusetts should be moving in. In a state which values education as highly as we do. We should be giving students the tools that will prepare them for careers and college. We should not be happy with a system that provides them with a quick certificate but does nothing to prepare them for the rigors of additional training and education. Unfortunately the RRALC model does not lend itself to quick data statistics and is, therefore, not the preferred method for delivering services. It’s time for Massachusetts to rethink its delivery of Adult Basic Education services.

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