I am looking forward to finishing up the report The Power of Technology to Transform Adult Learning, released a few days ago by The Council for the Advancement of Adult Literacy (CAALCAAL).  In it, the report’s main author, Mary McCain, makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • the establishment of a national web portal for adult basic education
  • support for the development of distance learning programs in adult basic education
  • creating a sustained, serious, and well-funded research effort in the field

I can’t argue with these recommendations,  but I am skeptical that these very broad and comprehensive changes will come from the top down. I don’t see any demonstration of the type of political will needed to address the very large and very serious educational issues faced by both  K12 institutions and the field of  ABE.

Furthermore, the field of adult basic education is fairly balkanized and uncoordinated and is lacking the necessary leadership to help make these types of large changes happen. Until we build a unified professional field, adult basic education will be beholden to the whims of the political power brokers, most of whom don’t give a second thought to high school drop-outs or English-language learners. How long have we waited for those at the top to act?

Despite my cynicism, this report coincides with a number of positive developments  in the field of adult basic education: the slow but thrilling progress of the Adult Education and Economic Growth Act of 2009 through the House and Senate (sponsored by Virginia Senator Jim Webb and including lots of new funding for technology initiatives in ABE, among other things). And the upcoming Summit on the Future of Adult Education in the New Digital World at VCU (in which Senator Webb will provide some recorded remarks) that will hopefully create the necessary space for identifying and developing the needed leadership and vision for adult basic education in the future.