ADULT EDUCATION IN MINNEAPOLIS
Ongoing Challenges and Future Aspirations
Although the partnership is still relatively new, the partners have made considerable progress in solving the problems associated with serving very low-literacy EL adults. All this has been accomplished in a relatively short time, despite some bumps along the way. The partners identify their challenges as follows:
- Finding funds. Securing enough funding to provide education and training to all who need it is a perennial problem.
- Maintaining communication (among the partners and within the community). Keeping each other informed can sometimes be problematic for the partners. They recognize this and try to alleviate it through frequent e-mails and telephone calls. Communicating with learners and others in the community, given the differences in languages and customs, can also be hard.
- Collecting follow-up data. As in many adult education programs, some learners don't return for post-testing, and there are no resources to track them down once they leave. Because learners usually stay with relatives or friends when they first arrive, it's hard to find them once they move into their own apartments. Many residents come from places where anyone asking for information on family members is distrusted, so relatives are reluctant to pass along their new addresses and telephone numbers.
- Documenting learner progress. Program administrators and teachers find some learner progress difficult to document. Although they can see the progress, such as learners speaking English with more self-confidence, they don't have a way to document it in hard numbers.
- Evaluating the partnership. At this point, there is no formal evaluation process, and they check their progress by trying to determine if they got "the outcome we intended."
- Providing sufficient high-quality childcare. Neighborhood surveys show that more adults, particularly women, would attend EL classes if they had reliable, culturally appropriate childcare (e.g., care that is consistent with how children are treated in their home countries). Daycare is often provided by families and for some residents through the welfare system, but not everyone is eligible.
- Serving elderly learners. State legislation requires that MPS ABE demonstrate that learners are securing employment. But a number of adults in their programs are too old to be in the workforce, and yet they still need to develop their English language skills so they can function in society.
- Responding appropriately to different cultural and religious traditions. The providers (because they are nonprofits) can provide places to pray and to accommodate other religious traditions of the residents, but doing so remains difficult.
In the future, the Cedar Riverside Adult Education Collaborative partners will continue to seek ways to meet these challenges. They hope to strengthen their partnership by involving more local businesses to improve the employment services and workplace education programs available to residents. They have met with a couple of small businesses, but they acknowledge that many businesses may not know what services they have to offer. They would also like to see greater involvement by the faith community, beyond the one local church and a few mosques that are active participants. In addition, recruiting more tutors to work with learners one-on-one is a priority. They recognize that they need to offer more support for learners, so that they are fully prepared to go on to further education and employment.