During her confirmation hearing for education secretary, Betsy DeVos was asked about adult education. Here are the questions and her answers:
Question: Do you have any experience working with adult learners or adult basic education programs? If so, please describe this experience, what it has taught you, and how you will use that experience in your oversight of these programs.
Answer: Too many Americans are suffering in the current economy. President Trump made improving the employment opportunities of these Americans a cornerstone of his campaign, and his administration will work to improve the prospects of those forgotten individuals.
Reforms enacted in the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, which was reauthorized in 2014 as part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, were meant to help states and communities improve services for adult learners to better provide them the education and skills they need to obtain employment and increase self-sufficiency. If confirmed, I will work through the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education to implement these reforms to improve outcomes for adult learners. Combined with other efforts across the government, we have an opportunity to restore the American dream for all Americans.
I have had personal experience mentoring students in our local public school system. I became very well acquainted with one student’s mother and encouraged her to pursue her GED. Her experience made me realize how difficult the system made this for a single working mother. Many courses were only available during routine business hours, creating an additional hardship for her and her family. The lack of flexibility and adaptability in the system itself is all too often a barrier to success for nontraditional students.
Question: As you well know, while some adults enrolled in adult education are still seeking their high school diploma or equivalent, a surprising number of American adults with a high school diploma still struggle with basic skills. Twenty percent of adults with a high school degree have less-than-basic literacy skills, and 35% of adults with a high school degree have less-than-basic numeracy skills.
According to a recent study, conducted by OECD’s Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), at least three million low-skilled American adults would like to enroll in adult education services, but cannot access a program. Without access, undereducated, underprepared adults cannot qualify for jobs with family-sustaining incomes that require not only a high school equivalency, but also some college—preferably a one- or two-year certificate. Adults without a high school diploma, or functioning below high school level, have a difficult time qualifying for community college programs or accessing high-demand occupations.
If confirmed, how do you envision the department and the administration incorporating adult education into its competitiveness agenda?
Answer: In raising the issue of “undereducated, underprepared adults,” you make a case for the need to improve education. When schools fail our students, there are long-term consequences, both for individuals who are deprived of the knowledge and skills they need to be successful and our nation, which is dependent on the innovative, creative, and economic contributions of its citizens. It is why we need to do more to provide parents with high-quality educational options.
Sadly, too many Americans are suffering from a lack of skills. President Trump made improving the employment opportunities of these Americans a cornerstone of his campaign, and his administration will work to improve the prospects of those left behind in this economy. If confirmed, I will work with the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and other relevant agencies to improve outcomes for adult learners. Combined with other efforts across the government, we have an opportunity to restore the American dream for all Americans.
What are your thoughts on Betsy DeVos’ answers? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.