Invitation to Participate in the Department of Education’s Experimental Sites Initiative Extended to April 30!

The U.S. Department of Education has extended the deadline until April 30, 2013, for postsecondary educational institutions to express interest in participating in one or more of the Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI) experiments currently in process.

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Remembering David Baker of Illinois

OVAE is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of David Baker of the Illinois Community College Board. David is remembered as a critical member of the outstanding Illinois adult education system which has leveraged strategic investments to improve access and quality throughout the State for adult learners. As the Professional Development lead, David was a driving force behind the implementation and scaling of initiatives such as STAR evidence-based reading and philanthropic initiatives such as Shifting Gears and Accelerating Opportunities which emphasize bridge programs and career pathways. We celebrate his contributions and vision and note that he was sharing his knowledge with others even to end, attending the COABE conference and presenting with the Association of Adult Literacy Professional Developers (AALPD) on “Current Issues in Professional Development.” He will be missed.

In the TESOL Spotlight: Adult English Language Learners

The adult English language learner population is the largest sub-population of adult education students, accounting for over 40% of students in the federally-funded adult education system are in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. With the announcement of the Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy last year for youth up to age 30 and the growing momentum on comprehensive immigration reform, the issue of English language proficiency among adult immigrants has entered the national conversation. Adult language learning issues also featured prominently at at last week’s Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) annual conference in Dallas, TX. This international conference draws over 6,000 educators, dedicated to the teaching of English across the lifespan. For over a decade, TESOL has been a critical professional network partner for OVAE, assisting in information dissemination and implementation support for educators.

While at the conference, OVAE’s Dr. Debra Suarez co-presented at the U.S. Department of Education policy update session along with the Office of English Language Acquisition, represented by Dr. Joanne Urrutia; and the Office of Early Learning, represented by Mr. Steven Hicks. This session demonstrated the Department’s commitment to collaborate across Offices and initiatives to address the needs of English language learners of all ages, to more fully engage immigrant parents, and to support families’ language learning efforts.

Dr. Suarez also presented at “National and State Initiatives in Adult ESL,” a session that showcased how state adult education systems are strengthening their professional development efforts to improve instructional quality, in part by integrating OVAE-funded resources such as those offered through OVAE’s ELL-U project. Co-presenting with Suarez were Karen Brown, Director for Professional Development and Instructional Support at North Carolina Community College System, North Carolina; Kimberly Johnson, Director of the Adult Basic Education Teaching and Learning Advancement System (ATLAS) Center at Hamline University, Minnesota; and Donna Kinerney, Dean for Instruction for Adult ESOL & Literacy Programs at Montgomery College, Maryland.

Dr. Suarez attended other events at the conference, including the Adult Education Special Interest Group and sessions devoted to adult English learning. Hot topics at the conference included for adult ESL educators included strengthening the academic readiness for adult English language learners, emergent literacy, the perceived shift toward more youth in the adult ESL population, leveraging resources and partnerships, and focusing on a research agenda specifically for adult ESL students.

Recap of Twitter Town Hall at COABE

Check out @NCLAdvocacy on Twitter for the Question and Answer period of the Twitter Town Hall with Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and Division of Adult Education and Literacy Director Cheryl Keenan. Below are two hot topics discussed:


Q: What is OVAE’s plan about PIAAC, what are you going to do? Does OVAE have plans to help bring media attention to the PIAAC release?

A: PIAAC release is great chance to spotlight adult education issues. OVAE is developing a framework for a bold plan to transform adult education nationwide.


Q: Adult Ed through technology is great but how and with who?

A: [We are] Partnering with the Department of Energy and others to move it forward. A good model is Project IDEAL’s training of distance education teachers. We are also looking at digital badges, certifications issued to participators in online communities and courses, and how they can provide professional recognition. Share your best practices with OVAE!

See the archive of the Town Hall event here.

Not Just One, But Many Lessons

Parents can start teaching children as young as two about money, and there is no age cutoff. So says the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability (PACFC) in their final report released last week. The report provides recommendations to improve the understanding of personal financial management and underscores the importance of teachers and schools in providing a sound financial education.

The work of the council resulted in numerous products available to educators and the public, including a toolkit for increasing the financial capability of students in K-12 and postsecondary education, and an online resource,, with 20 things kids need to know to live financially smart lives.

The report from the council includes a recommendation to integrate important aspects of personal finance into the teaching of Common Core State Standards for K-12 education. The release of the report was announced in a March 21 article on the Treasury Department’s website.

OVAE complements the PACFC with an initiative to develop, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of financial education materials and teacher training in high schools to help students gain the knowledge and skills to make sound personal finance decisions as they transition into careers and postsecondary education.

Join an #AdultEd Twitter Town Hall with OVAE Leaders

Join a Twitter Town Hall, sponsored by the National Coalition for Literacy, Tuesday, March 26 from 9:15-10:30 am EST, with Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and Division of Adult Education and Literacy Director Cheryl Keenan. The event is hosted at the Commission on Adult Basic Education’s conference (COABE) happening in New Orleans March 24-28, 2013.

The Town Hall will be taking questions from the live audience and from Twitter and Facebook. Participate by tweeting questions and comments using the hashtags #coabe13 and #adulted. Follow @NCLAdvocacy and @COABEnews. These organizations will be tweeting questions raised by their followers and answers to questions discussed during the Twitter Town Hall.

Watch the OVAE Blog for a recap of the Town Hall.


We Need to Stop Meeting and Have a (CTE) Movement!

When the Harvard Graduate School of Education released its February 2011 report, Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century, lead authors Dr. Ronald Ferguson and Dr. William (Bill) Symonds had no idea about the chord they would strike among our nation’s education, workforce development, and economic development leaders; business and industry leaders; researchers; national associations; philanthropic organizations; and even parents and students. The message of their report was straightforward: to address our nation’s high school graduation and “skills” gap, we must build multiple career pathways for youth and adults. We must move beyond the one-size-fits-all, or “four-year college immediately following high school for all,” approach to education. As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan aptly states, “we must move beyond the false dichotomy of preparing students for college or careers, and begin preparing every student for college and careers.”

Beneath the seemingly simple message and solution in the Pathways report, however, is an incredibly complex endeavor. Preparing all students for college and careers requires radical changes in the way we presently design, deliver, and assess teaching and learning. It requires commitment to providing every student with a rigorous core of academic, technical, and employability skills. It requires meaningful and sustained collaboration between academic and technical teachers, secondary teachers and postsecondary faculty, and educators and business leaders. It requires fundamental restructuring of the school day, changes in the delivery of career guidance and counseling, and an overhaul in how we prepare our nation’s teachers and faculty. It requires new methods for assessing and credentialing student learning, and evaluating the effectiveness of programs. It requires sweeping changes–at Federal, state, and local levels–in the policy and funding environment for education, workforce development, and economic development.

Despite many well-intentioned reform efforts that have come before, and incredible accomplishments in states and local communities across the country, radical change has generally eluded us. Part of the problem claims Dr. Ferguson, “is that we have to stop meeting and have a MOVEMENT!”

And, so, the Harvard folks convened, well, a meeting. But, this was no ordinary meeting. The two-day session held March 18-19, in Cambridge, MA, brought together the nation’s leading practitioners, researchers, business leaders, and students, for a “Direction-setting Conference.” The tone and context for the meeting was set by business leaders, including CEOs from Snap-On, Caterpillar, and Microsoft. The discussions centered not on the “problems” we face, but on the “solutions” we need. The highlight, as always, was the student panel that recounted the many exceptional programs they had experienced and that need to be brought to scale across our nation. To me, and likely for many others in attendance, it felt like the beginning of a movement, except that we already had a great running start!

The meeting caused me to reflect on work already underway in the Department, including our newly-launched Advancing CTE in State and Local Career Pathways initiative and our partnership with the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, and how well the Administration’s principles for alignment, collaboration, accountability, and innovation, were so echoed and reinforced.

Finally, as a parent of a soon-to-be six-year-old whose favorite movie is Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, one word kept coming to my mind—”unless.” “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” In the coming weeks, the Harvard folks will issue the recommendations from the meeting.

Sharon Miller is the Director of the Division of Academic and Technical Education at OVAE

Everyone On! Campaign for Digital Literacy

OVAE joins other federal partners in promoting digital literacy and broadband access through the Connect2Compete Ad Council campaign, Everyone On!, which launched on March 21. OVAE recognizes that for learners to be prepared for further education and 21st century jobs, digital literacy is an absolutely critical skill.

Connect2Compete is a unique collaboration of government, corporate, philanthropic and community leaders committed to harnessing technology, especially the transformational power of the Internet, to improve the lives of Americans and their ability to thrive in the global economy. The effort is an outgrowth of the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Plan which recommended innovative public-private partnerships to increase the penetration of broadband in America as an economic driver and as a social equity issue.

Connect2Compete has partnered with the Ad Council for the campaign, offering media “spots” and materials featuring celebrities and motivational reasons to get “on.”

OVAE contributed nearly a thousand locations of adult digital literacy training programs to Connect2Compete’s unique locator tool. These locations are part of America’s Literacy Directory, maintained on the LINCS website. The adult education locations join over 20,000 others sites of digital literacy training nationwide. Other agencies contributing data and promoting the launch include the Department of Labor’s Career One Stop Centers, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Department of Commerce “BTOP” grantees, and the Department of Agriculture’s 4-H sites.

To view the public service announcements, visit

Assistant Secretary Visits Kentucky Community College

“Partnerships between community colleges, labor, employers, career and technical education and adult education systems are critical to making it easier for students to transition seamlessly along a career pathway,” said OVAE’s Assistant Secretary, Brenda Dann-Messier, after traveling to Kentucky last week to meet with officials and students from the Kentucky Community Technical College System (KCTCS).

Along with Kentucky Adult Education and the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, KCTCS received an Accelerating Opportunity Grant to provide students with basic skills and career and technical education training at the same time.  Kentucky has been a leader in transforming its adult education system to ease students’ transitions to postsecondary education and training long before it received an Accelerating Opportunity grant.  For instance, Kentucky was one of the first states to bring the Common Core State Standards into its adult education programs to ensure more adult learners in the state are able to enroll in college prepared to succeed.

This effort to align education systems to promote college access and success are also occurring between Kentucky’s high schools and community and technical colleges.  “I was also struck by how Kentucky is working to create these partnerships so that students as early as high school can benefit from aligned systems”, said Dann-Messier after visiting Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC).

Working together with local Toyota Motor Manufacturing company, Bluegrass’ Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program actively recruits high school students who enroll at the college upon graduation and participate in a “work, learn, and earn” model. Students gain work experience at the Toyota plant three days a week and spend the other two days taking courses at AMC.

Dann-Messier noted, “We need to see more programs like this replicated across the country, where colleges, high schools, and businesses are working together to create rigorous programs that lead to college degrees and provide incentives for students to continue their education and for them to succeed in work.”

Check out additional press coverage from the visit here.

2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Awarded Today

Earlier today, the Aspen Institute announced that Walla Walla Community College in Washington State and Santa Barbara City College in California are the co-winners of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Kingsborough Community College in New York and Lake Area Technical College in South Dakota were awarded Finalist with Distinction honors as well.  The other finalist institutions for this year’s prize are: Brazosport College in Texas, Broward College in Florida, College of the Ouchitas in Arkansas, Santa Fe College in Florida, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technial College, and West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

In choosing a the winners and finalists, the Aspen Institute and its Prize Jury utilize multiple sources of quantitative and qualitative data to assess community colleges along four elements of excellence: college completion and transfer rates, labor market outcomes, learning outcomes, and equity.