As key providers of adult and developmental education services, the nation's community colleges can improve programs for their students by collaborating in those areas where their work and their clients overlap, a culminating report from a two-year study of the programs concludes.
By sharing resources, ideas and solutions, the adult education and the developmental--or remedial--programs that are offered simultaneously at many community colleges, but very often operate separately, can provide more and better opportunities for students to continue their learning, from basic skills classes through a college diploma.
"One of the things we learned from this project is that there is a tremendous amount of potential for collaboration that is not necessarily being exercised," says Dr. Hunter Boylan, the lead author of the latest report. "Practically every community college in the country has a developmental-education program and a rather substantial number also have adult-education programs. But for the most part they are not talking to each other, they are not working together, and they are not sharing resources."
According to the report, about half of all first-time community college students take one or more remedial courses. And community colleges serve roughly a third of all adults in basic education programs.
Boylan, who directs the National Center for Developmental Education at Appalachian State University in western North Carolina, says there are a number of reasons for the disconnect. Adult education programs, for example, are often supported by federal funding and guided by rules for serving specific student populations. Even when two-year institutions offer both adult-basic education services and developmental education programs, the divisions were often created at different times, in unrelated administrative departments, he says. Moreover, the programs almost always use different tests for placing students and their curricula are dissimilar, making it difficult to match the needs of a student in one program with the programs and services offered in another.
The report is the eighth and final one in a series published during the last two years by the Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy (CAAL). The New York City-based organization began an in-depth look into the role of community colleges in adult-basic education and developmental education two years ago, hoping to find ways to improve the connections between those programs, thereby enhancing educational opportunities for students. A task force convened by CAAL has been working to gauge the state of affairs of adult-basic education around the nation, and to raise awareness for and strengthen such programs. For the report, the task force relied on survey responses from more than 500 community college administrators, a review of the limited research in the field and site visits to campuses identified as those using innovative practices. …