Back-to-School Bus Tour – Day 4

Photo of Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier and Division Director Sharon Lee Miller in front of the tour bus.

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and DATE Division Director Sharon Lee Miller in front of the tour bus.

This is the fourth in a series of daily updates from Dr. Sharon Lee Miller who is on the Back-to-School Bus Tour currently in progress in the Southwest U.S.

Thursday evening – Local Phoenix Time –

It’s a wrap!

After 10 events in four cities over three days, we have successfully completed our leg of the Secretary’s Back-to-School Bus Tour! We saw many extraordinary CTE, adult education, and postsecondary programs; met hundreds of dedicated administrators, teachers, faculty and business and industry partners; and, most importantly, met the most incredible students! From aspiring high school students to adults seeking a better life for them and their families, our leg of the tour showed us how programs in the Southwest are truly preparing students for a “Strong Start, Bright Future!”

6:22PM Thursday Local Phoenix, AZ Time –

Photo of Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier shaking the hand of a GED student in a classroom.

Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier greets newly enrolled GED students


We arrived at the last stop on our leg of the Secretary’s Back-to-School Bus Tour at the Rio Salado College, in Phoenix. Rio Salado is one of 10 colleges in the Maricopa Community College System. While Rio Salado began predominately as an online community college, it began a “brick and mortar” adult education program. Among the offerings at Rio Salado is the nationally-recognized I-BEST program. Several I-BEST graduates are taking part in the roundtable and sharing their personal stories in gaining their GED, transitioning to college, earning industry-recognized credentials and degrees, and obtain employment.

2:36PM Thursday Local Glendale, AZ Time –

Photo of student at a conference table speaking to Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann- Messier and 8 other participants at the table.

Participants applaud as a student shares her progress and success in the nursing program.

We just began our series of roundtables on college affordability and accessibility with educators and community stakeholders in Glendale, Arizona, hosted jointly by Glendale Community College (GCC) and Northern Arizona University (NAU). GCC has partnered with NAU, which has created an innovative transfer program called 2NAU that works with community colleges like GCC to help students make a seamless transition to a four-year institution and thus dramatically lowering the overall cost of a bachelor’s degree. Among the federal grants administered by NAU is the GEAR UP program, which is funded under the Higher Education Act (HEA). As a college readiness program, GEAR UP works with low-income, first-generation high school students to help prepare them for college. One of the issues being raised at the roundtable is faculty shortages, especially in the health professions, where individuals can earn significantly more in the field than they can in teaching at the college or university. This issue becomes more pressing as the country raises its expectations for college-going by all students.

2:10PM Thursday Local Paradise Valley, AZ Time –

Photo of Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier with CTE Biotechnology teacher, Marni Landry in a biotech classroom.

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier talks with CTE Biotechnology teacher, Marni Landry, Arizona’s Teacher of the Year about Paradise Valley High School’s Center for Research in Engineering, Science, and Technology (CREST) program


We just completed a fabulous visit to Paradise Valley High School’s Center for Research in Engineering, Science, and Technology (CREST) program. We began with a tour by an amazing group of students to CREST’s three program strands: biotechnology, sustainability, and engineering. Each of these programs exemplify the Department of Education’s vision for high-quality career and technical education (CTE) as provided in the Department’s blueprint for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, which is a major source of funding for CTE across the nation. Among the key features of CREST’s programs are integration of academic and technical education; collaboration among secondary, postsecondary, and business/industry; and work-based learning. During the visit, we had the honor of meeting Arizona’s teacher of the year—a biotechnology (CTE) teacher, Marni Landry

From Wednesday –

Lee Lambert, Chancellor of Pima Community College, reflected on Wednesday’s visit by Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier to Tucson, AZ. Dann-Messier visited students at a family literacy and an adult education program.

“When all the gears are meshing, we are capable of great things….it is crucial that all the gears do in fact synchronize. The need for seamlessness between K-12, community colleges and four-year institutions is critical. Students must be able to map out clear roads leading to whatever their education goal might be. That point was emphasized by Dr. Dann-Messier, who recognizes as I do that it is essential for Adult Education and community colleges to partner to provide clear articulation paths, and for Adult Education courses to prepare students for college or careers without the need for remediation.”

Read his entire post “Opening Doors.”

Day 3: Bus Tour Reaches Tucson, Ariz.

This is the third in a series of daily updates from Dr. Sharon Lee Miller who is on the Back-to-School Bus Tour currently in progress in the Southwest U.S.

Photo including from left to right: Dr. Jonathon Reinhardt, Dr. Beatrice Dupay, Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier , Dr. Linda Waugh, and Dr. Kathy Short, at the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language, and Literacy (CERCLL).

Photo of Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier at the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language, and Literacy (CERCLL) – From the left – Dr. Jonathon Reinhardt, Dr. Beatrice Dupay, Brenda, Dr. Linda Waugh, and Dr. Kathy Short

Our day began with a roundtable on the Tucson campus of the University of Arizona with key staff and graduate students of the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language, and Literacy (CERCLL – pronounced “circle”). Partially funded through the National Resource Center grant program, a federal grant offered through ED’s Office of International and Foreign Language Education, this center is one of 15 across the U.S. that is dedicated to developing resources and providing professional development for K-8 foreign language instruction. Roundtable participants are now sharing information about their “Worlds of Words” language and culture book kits that encourage the development of intercultural understandings for K-8 teachers and children.  The kits are available at www.wowlit.org!  To learn more about the National Resource Center grant program and other federally funded programs, which focus on language learning please visit ED’s website here.

10:50AM Local Tucson Time –

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier with faculty and Students of the Ocotillo Early Family Literacy Center in Tuscon, AZ.

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier with faculty and Students of the Ocotillo Early Family Literacy Center in Tuscon, AZ.

We just arrived at a family literacy program at the Ocotillo Early Learning Center in Tuscon, AZ. The adult students are introducing themselves to Brenda and sharing the reasons why they have enrolled in the program. Their reasons range from being better parents to helping their children read to getting a job and providing for their families.

Photo of Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert seated at a table with students. teachers, and administrators

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and newly-appointed chancellor of Pima Community College Lee Lambert lead a roundtable of students, teachers, and administrators at El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center in Tuscon, AZ.

12:00PM Local Tucson Time –

We just bade farewell to a wonderful group of students, teachers, and administrators at the Ocotillo Early Family Literacy Center! We have just headed over to El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center, which is housed within Pima Community College, and have begun a roundtable discussion with students and staff. The students–who are all parents–are sharing their stories about why they enrolled in the program and their expectations for the future. One student just described her feelings of isolation and despair as a mother who was unable to speak English and fulfill her responsibilities as a parent and community member. Another student just recounted how she enrolled in the GED program when her son dropped out of high school and indicated that he would go back and finish when she did. Both students have indicated that they are well on their way toward achieving their educational goals and are enrolled in Pima Community College!

Wednesday Evening Tempe, AZ –

We wrapped up our activities for Wednesday at Secretary Duncan’s Town Hall Meeting on Higher Education. Flanked by the presidents of Arizona State University and the University of Maryland, the Secretary focused on college affordability, particularly for Hispanic students who are among the youngest and fastest growing segments of the population. In his remarks, Secretary Duncan reiterated his concerns about the growing costs of college and the debt that many students carry once they graduate, and shared the President’s proposals to address these issues.

Join a Webcast from the Correctional Education Association Conference

Participate in the live webcast on Adult Career Pathways in Correctional Education and Re-entry Programs by tuning in online and submitting questions via social media. The event will be held July 1, 2013 from 2:15 – 3:15pm EDT. Host Laura Lanier, Division Director, Kratos Learning, will lead a panel featuring: 

  • John Linton, Director, Office of Correctional Education, U.S. Department of Education, OVAE; 
  • Renee Collins, Program Administrator, Jail Program, Elk Grove Adult and Community Education, CA; and
  • Brian Walsh, Corrections Education Director, Peninsula College, WA

The discussion will be broadcast live from the Correctional Education Association Conference, being held in Cleveland, OH. 

To view the webcast online, click here to register.

To submit your questions,  “Like” the Adult Career Pathways Support Center on Facebook, or “Follow” the Center on Twitter (@Career_Pathways) and tweet your questions using the hashtag #createpathways.

Adult Learners Share Stories of Personal Triumph

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog.

The inspiration for Alma Miller to obtain her GED started with a simple statement from her youngest son: “Mom I challenge you to finish your GED.”

Attaining the GED would be no easy feat for this mother of four who dropped out of school when she was sixteen. Fortunately for Alma, her children stepped up and volunteered to tutor her in preparation for the exam.

Today, Alma Miller is a proud GED  recipient but most importantly, she’s an inspiration to her children, just as much as they are an inspiration to her.

Miller is one of eleven adult learners who recently met with Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier at the Department of Education (ED) to share their stories and make recommendations on how ED can improve services offered to adult learners.

Dann-Messier acknowledged that these adults face many barriers to success in the labor market. Some of the barriers she cited were: a lack of a high school diploma, no postsecondary degree or training, and an inability to speak, read, and write English well.

Each of the adult learners at our recent meeting displayed a tremendous amount of courage in order to overcome the odds associated with returning to school as adults, but what is more laudable is the strength they found in their families and in support organizations.

“I was an honor roll student in high school, but I just kind of lost my way,” said Shamika Hall, the state vice-president for the Delaware Career Association.

Hall lost her sister to an act of senseless gun violence, a devastating tragedy that altered her life’s course. She credits her family and the James H. Grove Adult High School in Wilmington, Del., for helping her get back on track. Watch Hall tell her story below:


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Secretary Duncan said that he was inspired by each of the adult learners resilience and tenacity. “It’s pretty remarkable to hear not just where you’ve been but how far you’ve come, and most importantly, where each of you are going,” he said.

Before the meeting concluded, Reuben Holguin, an ex-gang member and convicted felon, showed Secretary Duncan his inmate ID. He said that even though he acquired his GED, completed college courses and changed his life around, he will always carry his inmate ID with him to remind him just how far he’s come.

The adult learners who stopped by ED were in town to attend VALUEUSA’s National Adult Learner Leadership Institute, and Dann-Messier thanked VALUEUSA, the only national literacy organization governed and operated by current and former adult learners for helping to organize the meeting with Secretary Duncan.

This fall, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will release the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). The goal ofPIAAC is to assess and compare the basic skills and the broad range of competencies of adults ages 16-65 around the world. PIAAC covers 23 countries, including the United States. OECD will also release a country report specific to the U.S. to accompany the data release. The report will identify policy implications for improving the skills of adults in the U.S.

De’Rell Bonner works in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

Join a Webcast from the Career Clusters Institute

Participate in the the live webcast on Applying Lessons Learned from Career Technical Education to Adult Career Pathways by tuning in online and submitting questions via social media. The event will be held tomorrow, June 11, 2013 from 8:45 – 9:45 AM CDT. On the panel will be:

Albert Palacios, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education

Blake Flanders,  Vice President for Workforce Development,  Kansas Board of Regents

Brian Durham, Senior Director for Academic Affairs and Career & Technical Education, Illinois Community College Board

Moderator, Hope Cotner, Vice President, U.S. Projects, Center for Occupational Research and Development

To view the webcast online, click on the following link to register: https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07e7jr6i6z4388cb0e&oseq=&c=&ch= 

To submit your questions,  “Like” the Adult Career Pathways Support Center on Facebook, or “Follow” the Center on Twitter (@Career_Pathways) and tweet your questions using the hashtag #createpathways.

Join a Discussion on Standards in Adult Education

Join a week-long event on LINCS.ed.gov  to explore Kentucky’s Strategic Initiative to implement Common Core standards in adult education.  The event begins with a free webinar on Monday, June 24  from 2:00-3:00pm ET; click here to register. The webinar will be followed by discussion in the LINCS online community’s College and Career Standards topic group. To participate in the online discussion, join the LINCS Community.

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The Key Shifts Behind College and Career Readiness Standards

Susan Pimentel has been involved with OVAE for the past decade assisting states with the establishment and implementation of standards-based education.  At the Annual State Directors Meeting (ASDM) on May 22, she presented an overview of the recently released College and Career Readiness Standards document while making a strong case for increasing the rigor of adult education teaching and learning.  “It is crucial that adult students have the opportunity to acquire skills they need for postsecondary and career success,” she said.

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Promising Results of MDRC Evaluation of LaGuardia’s GED Bridge to College and Careers Programs

Since 2007, LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC) has worked to redesign its approach to high school equivalency preparation by providing contextualized, career-focused GED bridge classes that integrate basic skills instruction with occupational content to prepare adult learners to pass the GED exam and transition more effectively to postsecondary education and training or the workforce.

MDRC conducted a random assignment evaluation of LAGCC’s GED Bridge to College and Careers programs, the results of which were released last week.  Preliminary evidence strongly supports LAGCC’s redesigned, contextualized approach. 

Read More

National Meeting for Adult Education State Directors: Leading Transformational Change

The first day of the 2013 National Meeting for Adult Education State Directors largely focused on what is needed to achieve truly transformational change in adult education.  The case for transforming our adult education system was made clear during the afternoon panel discussion, moderated by OVAE Deputy Assistant Secretary Johan, that included OVAE Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier; Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education; and Mona Mourshed, Director for McKinsey & Company.

All three panelists emphasized the moral imperative and economic necessity of this work.  As Roberto Rodriguez noted, “Our efforts to build a strong economic engine that can drive our economy moving forward really depends on our work to build stronger education and training pathways for individuals to develop the skills and levels of literacy that they need to be successful in our economy…we cannot afford to leave any adult learners behind.”

Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier emphasized the dire consequences our society will face if we do not achieve this kind of transformational change to serve more adult learners: “I am afraid we will have a permanent underclass in our society that is more or less permanently disconnected from the labor market, which will have tremendous social and economic costs for our society.”

Mona Mourshed noted the challenge of educating young adults to transition successfully to the workforce is an acute one felt in many education systems around the world, evidenced by the fact that more than 75 million young people globally are unemployed and more than twice that number are underemployed.  McKinsey & Company recently completed a multi-country research project examining the often weak connection between employment and education.  The McKinsey & Company study focused on youth and young adults aged 15-29, which includes a significant part of the adult learner population targeted by AEFLA-funded programs. Mona Mourshed summarized a number of the key findings of this research during the panel discussion:

  • First, educators and employers often operate in parallel universes, and there is very little agreement between them on the work readiness of graduates.
  • Second, many young adults (over 40% of those surveyed by McKinsey & Company) feel they lack sufficient information to make an informed decision regarding what they should study and where they should study.
  • Third, many young adults and employers are relatively disappointed in how well postsecondary education has prepared individuals to succeed in the labor market.
  • Fourth, not all young adults are in the same position when it comes to work readiness skills, and the interventions required to increase the employability skills of different subgroups of students are often very different.  Likewise, some employers are already meaningfully engaged with education institutions in designing education and training programs, while others are not.

All three panelists agreed education and training programs, those aimed at youth as well as adults, need to more fully engage employers and other key partners to transform the learning experience for their students and provide them with opportunities to earn credentials with real labor market value that lead to careers in high-demand fields and provide family-sustaining wages.

This Thursday: TAACCCT Grant Applicants Online Panel Discussion

The U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department and Education invite you to attend a live online panel discussion this Thursday, May 23, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. This session will highlight important focus areas for the third round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program including employer engagement, capacity building, and innovative service delivery.

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