Teachers of Adult Education and the Students They Serve: A Snapshot From Three States
Participants in adult education come from diverse educational and linguistic backgrounds and have a wide range of goals and needs. Some rely on the adult education system to learn basic literacy or English skills, whereas others need help preparing for employment or preparing for high school equivalency testing and the transition to postsecondary education. Evidence on their outcomes suggests that adult education instruction helps students meet their goals; in 2010–11, for example, 48 percent of unemployed students who enrolled with the goal of finding employment—roughly 78,000 students—were employed shortly after leaving the program.
Despite the important role that adult education can play in students’ outcomes, little is known about the approximately 55,000 teachers providing the instruction that students depend on to achieve their goals. This information deficit limits what can be learned about teachers of adult education and what it is about those teachers that makes them more or less effective in improving student outcomes. For example, some have voiced concerns about the part-time status of the majority of adult education teachers (about 80 percent nationally); however, many of those teachers may have other types of job and teaching experiences that make them effective teachers of adults. In the absence of available data, these types of concerns cannot be addressed.
This brief is the first of a series of briefs that explore data on adult education teachers from three states in program year 2010–11. The teacher and student data available in the three states varied, but most adult education teachers in 2010–11 appeared to meet common definitions of what it means to be a qualified educator in terms of highest degree held, certification status (based on data from two states), and years of adult education teaching experience. Notably, this pattern generally held for both full- and part-time teachers.