AIR to Premiere “The Adult Learner Story” Video at D.C. Adult Educator Conference

Washington, D.C. – On September 10, 2012, at the annual D.C. Adult Education Conference, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is premiering a short film on adult learners’ experiences and aspirations. In “The Adult Learner Story,” students share their struggles and triumphs, including those of a grandmother taking classes because she couldn’t understand her young grandchildren’s homework, an immigrant who is learning English to get ahead financially, and a laid-off worker convinced that a GED is crucial to getting a job.

A panel discussion and the premiere for “The Adult Learner Story” will be held from 12:45 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University. The screening is on the first day of the two-day conference, the theme of which is “Promoting Teacher Effectiveness to Drive Student Success.” The Adult and Family Education office of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) is hosting the event.

“There really are three types of learners, and I think this is one of the things that makes adult education unique,” said Larry Condelli, a managing director who leads AIR’s adult learning work. Adult learners usually fall under one of three categories: those who left school before earning a degree; those who already have an education, but want to update their skills; or those seeking to learn English.

“We made the film because we wanted to show what adult education means,” said Dahlia Shaewitz, an AIR senior researcher who specializes in adult learning. “Adult education is not your grandmother taking an art appreciation class; it’s not paying a thousand dollars a credit for a college course. Adult education is for people who don’t have a GED or high school diploma. They are people who need basic skills or English language skills.”

According to the latest National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS), 42 million Americans are functionally illiterate, meaning they do not meet a minimum standard of literacy. Of this group, only 2.1 million are served by the national adult education program. AIR provides adult education research and technical assistance in accountability, professional development, and teacher effectiveness. AIR currently works with such partners as the U.S. Office of Vocational and Adult Education in these efforts.

“The Adult Learner Story” also features interviews with those who work in adult education, including, J. Michelle Johnson, D.C. State Director of Adult and Family Education, Office of the State Superintendent of Education. “What’s important about adult education to me is the fact that adult learners in not only the District of Columbia, but in other parts of the nation, are often forgotten about,” Johnson said. “And there’s a great emphasis on children and infants and toddlers, but not enough emphasis on helping adults acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to help their children to be successful.”

Johnson, along with other D.C.-based practitioners, will join AIR’s Condelli and Shaewitz for a panel discussion before the screening. The other panelists are Lecester Johnson, the executive director of the adult education program at the Academy of Hope, and Allison Kokkoros, the chief academic officer at the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School.

Condelli and Shaewitz co-produced “The Adult Learner Story,” directed by independent filmmaker Jeff Krulik, as an informational video and resource for state and local adult education programs to help promote their work.

About AIR’s Adult Learning Work
AIR’s Adult Learning work addresses the needs of adults seeking to enhance their literacy skills, English language learners, and adult students who want to further their postsecondary education. AIR seeks to study and improve instruction and program services for adult learners through research, professional development, and technical assistance to state and program adult education staff.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in education, health, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


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