Talking policy with adult education practitioners: NSC and the COABE conference

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, April 26, 2016

National Skills Coalition was delighted to be a strand partner at the recent Commission on Adult Basic Education/Texas Association for Literacy and Adult Education (COABE/TALAE) conference. Nearly 2,000 adult education advocates gathered in Dallas earlier this month for the four-day conference, which featured more than 340 sessions as well as pre-conference activities.

During the conference, COABE officials unveiled the organization’s new public-service video in support of adult education. The brief video features advocates, program directors, and other stakeholders sharing stories about the value and impact of adult education.

Plenary speakers at the conference included Sharon Darling of the National Center for Families Learning and Deputy Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin of the US Department of Education, among others. 

NSC staff moderated a panel of respondents to Secretary Uvin’s presentation. Panelists included staff from the US Department of Labor as well as representatives of a community-based nonprofit organization, a community college adult education program, and a corrections education program. The panel also featured Margo Hudson, the 2016 COABE Adult Learner of the Year, who has now become a tutor for other adult learners.

NSC Field Coordinator Ashley Shaw led a session on advocacy. Not So Scary: Practical Ways for Adult Educators to Engage in Advocacy highlighted opportunities ranging from the modest to the more ambitious. Among the strategies Ashley recommended: Adding local policymakers to your e-mail announcement list to keep them informed; inviting officials to make a site visit to or attend a graduation event at your organization; and participating in constituent calls to educate policymakers about adult education issues.

NSC Senior Policy Analyst Amanda Bergson-Shilcock made several presentations, including Immigration Policy in the Classroom: When Civic Integration Gets Real. Her other sessions explored how to make the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act work for immigrants (presented in collaboration with Debra Means-West of WES Global Talent Bridge), and federal policies in addition to WIOA that can support adult learners.

In addition, Amanda moderated When the Rubber Hits the Road: State Directors on WIOA Implementation, a panel featuring adult education officials from Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, and Utah.

Other presentations featured in NSC’s conference strand included:

  • Achieving Workforce Integration Before WIOA: Lessons Learned from Moving AEL Services in Texas – Garrett Groves (Center for Public Policy Priorities)
  • Community Involvement: One Person at a Time – Laureen Atkins and Robert Paponetti (The Literacy Cooperative)
  • Advocating for Adult Education with Narratives that Engage – Deborah Kennedy (Key Words)
  • Ensuring Immigrants’ Access to WIOA: Data and Advocacy Tools – Margie McHugh (Migration Policy Institute)
  • Making Data Work for You & Your Learners: Understanding Workforce Data Tools – Jenna Leventoff (Workforce Data Quality Campaign)

Materials from these and other conference sessions are continuing to be uploaded to the COABE’s Adult Education Resource Repository.