Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Supporting Disconnected Youth & Adult Learners this #AEFLWeek

In today’s blog, we’d like to share the work of our colleagues at the Adult and Family Literacy Coalition (DC AFLC) @DCAdultEdu. DCAYA’s connection to this work stems from our interest in stable, thriving families as foundations of youth success, and as a function of the disparate definitions of accessibility across the educational and workforce opportunities available to re-engaging youth. 

As councilmember David Grosso, Chairperson of the Committee on Education, noted in a hearing last session, “If children are not learning the skills they need to complete high school, and their parents do not have their high school education, then we are nowhere near breaking cycles of poverty and/or inequality.” At that same hearing, DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson underscored, “A 2002 estimate indicates that 37% of adults age 16 and over in the District of Columbia operate at the lowest defined level of literacy, or below basic. This compares to national averages of 21-23% of adults scoring at the below basic level.” 

Clearly, the need to address the pervasive barriers to success for DC’s disconnected youth and adult learners is profound. Read on to learn more about how we can align our work in the coming advocacy season!

Washington, DC, is a city of extremes in education. On the one hand, the District has one of the most highly educated populations in the United States. According to research from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, 71 percent of all jobs in the District of Columbia will require additional education beyond a high school credential—either some postsecondary education or training—by 2018.

At the same time, one in three DC adults have trouble reading a map or completing a job application, and more than 21 percent of DC’s working-age adults—more than 60,000 individuals—lack a high school diploma.

Low literacy and low educational attainment are root causes of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and poor health. Adults without a high school diploma are more than seven times as likely to live in poverty as are those with a credential. National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week (September 26-October 1) is an opportunity to raise awareness around the need for and impact of adult education and celebrate the accomplishments of DC’s adult learners.

Members of DC AFLC will also spend the week highlighting the barriers adult learner face in their pursuit of an education and policy solutions that seek to remove those roadblocks. At the top of that list is the lack of access to affordable transportation. A recent survey of nearly 1000 adult learners across the District conducted by the Deputy Mayor for Education’s Transportation Task Force found that 62% of adult learners depend on public transportation for their commute to and from school (52% on bus and 10% on rail). Of those adult learners, 41% say their biggest concern about their commute is the cost of transportation, and more than a quarter say that issues with transportation have caused them to miss school occasionally or often.

Unfortunately, adult education providers have few options for providing transportation assistance to learners. The majority of learners enrolled in classes fall outside the age range for the Kids Ride Free Program, and while DDOT offers subsidized tokens for K-12 schools, that subsidy is not offered to adult education providers. Therefore, any assistance is reliant on the budget of the providers—often tight themselves.

When adult learners choose to come back to school, they are making a significant investment to do so. They invest their time: learners often arrive to class after they’ve already dropped their kids off at school and/or finished a shift at work. And when classes are over, they head back out to retrace their steps. They invest their energy: knowing that a credential is the key to moving closer to their goals, learners walk through the doors on their own volition. They are not mandated to do so, and it’s up to them to return the next day. And they invest resources from their limited budgets.

Adult learners are investing in their future—and that of their family—when they choose to come back to school. Likewise, The District has made an important investment in adult education. Now we need to go further and ensure that adult learners have the tools they need to get to school, so they can move up and move on to the next step in their lives. This AEFL Week, DC AFLC members will be asking DC Council to do just that.

For more information on how you can get involved in National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week or the work of the DC Adult and Family Literacy Coalition (DC AFLC), please contact Jamie Kamlet at

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