Secretary of Education Arne Duncan received a standing ovation from nearly 150 state directors of adult education and state staff at OVAE’s 2010 National Meeting for Adult Education State Directors Feb. 2 in Washington, D.C.
Duncan is the first Secretary of Education to address this group of state officials responsible for awarding federal funds for adult education and English language programs under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which is currently up for reauthorization. Secretary Duncan told them, “This is an extraordinary time to be in the field of education. We have a historic opportunity to drive transformative change…as advocates for adult learners, you understand what is at stake in education reform. I know we share the same determination to make new levels of education and opportunity a reality for all Americans.”
Citing the reality that improvements in adult education depend on commitment from the state and local levels, Duncan said, “My job is to help you succeed, and my aim is to transform the Department of Education from a compliance monitor to an engine for innovation.” Duncan also announced that ED’s Institute for Educational Sciences is conducting a competition for a new National Research and Development Center in adult literacy, for FY 2011, as well as adding a new research topic on Adult Education to their Education Research Grants Competition.
Secretary Duncan highlighted the administration’s common themes for all aspects of education, including adult education. He emphasized four reform areas that affect adult learners, too:
- Building a Quality Workforce—Teacher quality is as important in adult education programs as it is in schools.
- College and Career-Ready Standards and Assessments—Core standards for college and career readiness currently under development will be applicable to adults as well as to graduating seniors.
- Data—The new generation of data systems requires longitudinal data to be readily available, and adult education data systems link to both postsecondary and employment data systems.
- Turn around low-performing schools—Adult education programs can re-engage disconnected youth who have dropped out. Annually the adult education system serves almost one million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 years, helping them to obtain high school credentials and get them back on track to pursue postsecondary education and fulfilling careers.
Appearing with Duncan on the program was Under Secretary Martha Kanter. OVAE Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier welcomed Duncan and Kanter and conducted a final dialog in a series of Community Conversations she has held nationwide on the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), gathering recommendations on improvements in the law from stakeholders such as local program administrators, teachers, students and employers.