The Adult and Family Literacy Month blog post below is written by Lecester Johnson, Executive Director of The Women’s Foundation’s Grantee Partner, Academy of Hope.
Beverly S., a recent graduate of Academy of Hope, exclaimed, “Getting my high school diploma is the best!” She adds, “It’s so good to take on a challenge and complete it. It (a high school credential) is already opening up new doors of opportunity for me!”
Beverly, like so many adults in Washington, DC, was desperate to get her high school credential and begin to turn her life around. She was one of the lucky ones. More than 64,000 adults in the District of Columbia lack a high school credential but the city only serves about 7,000 residents through its locally funded adult education programs and adult charter schools. In recent years, Academy of Hope has had a waiting list of over 200 adults each term with the goal of obtaining their GED or improving their academic skills to obtain a better job or to enter college. According to the U.S. Department of Education, over 30 million adults lack a high school credential in the U.S. Across the city, adult education providers report long waiting lists for their services. Yet, for the last ten years, national and local funding has continued to decline, with more cuts to come due to sequestration.
Adult education has been the easy target for cuts as we blame adults for squandering an opportunity – one that some would argue, given the life circumstance of many who drop out, never existed. The ramifications of continued funding cuts in adult education have begun to reveal themselves. The release of survey results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competency (PIAAC) last fall confirmed what many in adult education already knew. American adults are not doing well in literacy, numeracy or problem solving skills compared to other countries. The impact of low literacy extends beyond the adult with low skills. PIACC findings indicate that more than any of the 24 nations participating in the survey, a U.S. parent’s literacy and socioeconomic status had the greatest impact on a child’s ability to succeed in school. Because of this, it is not surprising that U.S. results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA are also lagging. PISA is designed to test whether high school students can apply what they’ve learned in school to real-life problems.
When dealing with the drop-out crisis, elected officials often cite stopping the pipeline of dropouts as a justification for increased funding in K-12 education. The pipeline, however, begins with the parent. Parents with strong literacy skills can better help their children do homework, study and succeed in school. According to a 2012 Urban Institute report, young adults whose parents have a high school diploma are more likely to complete high school than are those whose parents do not. They are also less likely to live in poverty.
Beverly S., who is also a mother of two, illustrates the key role a parent’s literacy plays. She says her life has been a struggle but she managed to get by, and she always instilled in her children the importance of learning and finishing high school. Both of her children graduated high school. Her example is also motivating her son to continue his training as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and work towards a stable career.
Beverly has already begun to reap the benefits of her education. Most recently, she applied and was accepted to Public Allies’ DC fellowship program. Through Public Allies, she has been placed at Academy of Hope and serves as our Student Navigator, providing support for fellow adult learners! She says her plan after her 10-month Public Allies fellowship is to enroll in college to study business management. With her high school diploma in hand, Beverly is aiming for a career, not just a job. Her goal is to own her own business, become a consultant to help other small businesses and nonprofits, and someday buy a house of her own.