Comment on the State Strategic Plan by Maricel Santos , Program Coordinator, SF State MA TESOL Program

I am writing with great concern regarding the recently released report “Linking adults to opportunity: Transformation of the California Department of Education Adult Education”. First, I want to endorse the points of concerns expressed by COSAS (Communities Organized to Save Adult School), the West Contra Costa County partnership of adult practitioners and community organization, in their December 2011 Summary Report.

Second, I would like to draw particular attention to two issues that signal the need for greater reflection about the scope and intentions of this report:

 

  •  Lack of participation in the decision-making process.  Only after this report was finalized were adult education students and practitioners invited to provide comment on the report. Although this report purports to strengthen the adult education profession in our state, the lack of transparency instead serves to diminish the amount of control adult education practitioners have over their work environment and professional practice. The degree to which students and practitioners are involved in deliberations about the report content now seems to be directly in line with the report’s emphasis on “shared responsibility and accountability”. The report rightly promotes collaboration as an important outcome in adult education; however, there has not been commensurate investment in collaborative decision-making in the development of this report.

 

  •  Conflicting messages about the investment in infrastructure and professional development.  The report describes an ambitious plan for over-hauling the adult education system in California but does not indicate where the funds for this overhaul will come from. Why is the Department prepared to invest in what seems to be a costly ACET-based system rather than investing in more professional development opportunities for more teachers in this state? Professional development seems to be a “low-hanging fruit” investment, particularly when resources are scarce.  For many years, adult education leaders in this state have called for improved professional development and improved working conditions so that teachers are equipped to bring out the best in their students.  The report does not address whether and how the ACET-based plan will address issues that directly impact teacher effectiveness, such as low salaries, the lack of benefits, and poor work environments (e.g., no office space, no access to copiers).

In light of concerns listed here and in the COSAS Summary Report, I would urge the California Department of Education to extend the time for public deliberation on the Strategic Plan, and create genuine opportunities for more adult educators and students to influence the content of the Strategic Plan.

Maricel Santos, Ed.D.

Associate Proffessor of English

MATESOL Program Coordinator

San Francisco State University

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