Type of Practice: Learner Transition
Program Area(s): ABE / ASE, ESL / EL Civics / Citizenship, CTE / Workforce Prep / Pre-apprenticeship, Adults with Disabilities, K12 Success
Region: Los Angeles Basin
Consortia Involved: Los Angeles Regional Adult Education Consortium
In response to the results of an action research study, the LARAEC Edge conference addressed barriers to transition programs in the region.
Over the last several years, consortium member districts, subject-matter experts, and LARAEC action planning team members have been discussing the creation of a more coordinated plan for transitioning adult education students to post-secondary programs. As part of an action research study conducted through Arizona State University, (Smith & Stiehl, 2020; Smith & Stiehl, 2021; Stiehl, 2020), interviews and surveys of LARAEC program participants were conducted in the fall of 2020 and spring 2021. Research confirmed that school personnel experience some barriers to implementing transition programs. Although there have been some local efforts to assist students with college connections, interviews confirmed that most programs are currently on hold and in need of a clearer plan of action. Students’ personal barriers were mentioned as areas to address, however more pressing considerations reported included access to information, collaboration with colleges, counseling practices, and tracking student transitions. Adult school counseling staff and students have reported limited access to transition information and resources. Interviews revealed that individual counselors often piece transition information together, information is not in one accessible location, and obtained information may be limited in scope and applicability. The greater Los Angeles region includes many colleges within and outside LARAEC that provide a vast array of programs and post-secondary options for students. Although the consortium operates in the footprint of Los Angeles Community College District, individual colleges have local governance structures that result in unique enrollment and counseling protocols that vary from school to school. Adult education faculty attending a college outreach workshop were surveyed about access to information related to transitions (Stiehl, 2021). Data showed that 93% of respondents indicated that it is the responsibility of adult education programs to provide information to students about transitions to college. However, respondents also indicated that only 50% of their schools have a transition plan in place and only 21% have transition information on their school websites. Further, respondents indicated that students have difficulty finding information on their own. Only 1 out of 14 respondents indicated that students can find transition information when needed, and 64% of those surveyed said that students have difficulty navigating college enrollment processes. These challenges may be the result of increased personal and educational barriers experienced by adult education students. Interview data, in alignment with the surveys, confirmed that adult education students need direct support in finding information and walking through enrollment processes. Compounding the issue of access, interviewees indicated that college transition information often varies by college campus, may update frequently, and is spread out over many offices and websites. Adult education staff have indicated a need for more communication between adult education counselors and colleges, and a need for more accessible sources of information for faculty and students.
LARAEC looked at the problem of limited access to information as a twofold issue; how do we provide direct information and transition support to students and staff, and how do we do this in a remote environment? Using the new online conference structure built to host the annual LARAEC conference, the consortium developed a new program to target transitions and access to post-secondary information called The LARAEC Edge. This program was designed as LARAEC’s first student–facing conference. This conference focused specifically on transitions to postsecondary programs. The conference included five main strands: College Academic (registration, financial aid, college 101), Career Training (programs, sectors, pathways), Adult Education (Basic skills, HSE/HSD, ESL), Workforce Readiness (Interviews, resumes, job search, apprenticeships), and Support Services (programs for special populations, community-based organizations, and workforce partners). This event also included pre-event activities for teachers in engaging students in the event and creating lesson plans, as well as activities for AE advisors/counselors to connect with local community college outreach and counseling departments. The main sessions occurred over three half-days to cover morning, evening, and Saturday students. This event was open and marketed to existing adult education students, potential students, high school seniors, and AE faculty and staff within the consortium and throughout the greater AE community in California.
This event was created specifically to address the identified problem of access to transition information and need for strengthening connections between the adult programs and community college programs. The conference allowed students and faculty to attend basic presentations about statewide programs, local presentations about campus offerings, and specific opportunities for individual connections with counseling staff to receive personal guidance. The conference was also rich with community resources and programs aimed to support students continued learning, workforce preparation, and job seeking.
The LARAEC Edge has become a COVID Keeper. As our consortium has had to pivot to online platforms to continue to support learning, staff development, and collaboration in our member districts, new innovative programs like the LARAEC Edge have dramatically expanded the scope and reach of our activities. Instead of thinking about college and career fairs as individual campus events, we can leverage our resources to expand the available options for our students and provide equity in access to transition resources. Smaller school sites can have their students participate in the same activities that larger and more resourced schools can make available. Supporting college transitions for adult education students addresses racial inequality, socio-economic gaps, and barriers to higher education. LARAEC has also been excited about the inter-consortium collaboration and participation that has begun through online events. Expanded reach and lower costs of online conferences allow for greater participation and access to resources that might not be available in smaller consortia. Many faculty and students from outside consortia participated in the LARAEC Edge as well as other LARAEC staff development and events.
As LARAEC builds on last year’s event, the LARAEC Edge will include more developed activities for counselors and faculty. We will incorporate an Advisor Connect series in the fall to specifically prepare staff through up-to-date transition information, direct connections with local colleges, and how to best support students. Pre-event research indicated a need for annual events that connect AE counseling staff with their community college counterparts. A Teacher Connect series will support classroom teachers in incorporating and promoting the LARAEC Edge in their classrooms. The 2021 conference included lesson plans and information sessions to assist teachers in bringing their classes to the virtual event. Many teachers registered and brought their entire class to the LARAEC Edge. These activities will be introduced earlier for the 2022 Edge so that more teachers might participate.
The LARAEC Edge was overwhelmingly appreciated by LARAEC board members, faculty, and students. This event had the largest turn-out of all our LARAEC conferences. We hosted 105 sessions over 3 days, not including the campus and exhibitor virtual booths. We hosted two teacher preparation sessions and one counseling session in the weeks prior to the event. The LARAEC EDGE had 744 participants, including nearly 500 students. In reviewing our attendance data, many of the Spanish or translated sessions had the highest attendance. In post session surveys, 91% of respondents showed a favorable rating. Survey comments indicated that the information presented was helpful, relevant, and included excellent resources. Many participants commented that they learned of new resources and programs, and were excited that this event was available free to all students. The conference committee met with the district point people to evaluate the impact of the program. It was unanimous that LARAEC host the event again. For 2022, it was suggested that we bring career sector folks together earlier, add more workshops for Spanish speakers, focus on topics and skills, and work with faculty to bring more classes to the event.
The pre-event session for counselors and advising staff was also successful. As part of an action research study (Smith & Stiehl, 2021), participants were asked to complete a pre and post intervention assessment to examine the effectiveness of staff information sessions as a mode of sharing transition information. Although nearly 80% of the participants in this study have been educators for more than 16 years, the mean pre-intervention score in all areas was minimal knowledge. Comparing pre and post levels of knowledge, participants showed statistically significant increases in their understanding and ability to help students with the college admission process, financial aid, contacting college personnel, and undocumented student programs. These areas also show practical significance in moving participants up one knowledge level in each area, with mean scores moving from minimal knowledge to moderate knowledge. Three faculty members participated in a semi-structured interviews following the counselor session. Two of the interviewees discussed the effectiveness of information sessions for adult school staff. One subject suggested having an annual workshop that includes the whole registration process and updates. Another subject stated that “sessions should be made available to all teachers and staff, not just counselors. Teachers are often doing the same job as advisors.” With transitions to college, all of the interviewees indicated that classroom teachers are part of the process. The interview and survey data confirm that access to information is an area for further intervention. As we plan for LAREAC Edge 2022, this data will be used to guide development of the Advisor Connect and Teacher Connect parts of the LARAEC Edge Conference.
Smith, S. & Stiehl, M. (2020). [unpublished raw data on adult student and institutional barriers to conducting transition programs from adult education to post-secondary schools] Arizona State University, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
Smith, S. & Stiehl, M. (2021). [unpublished raw data on current state of access to information and staff attitudes toward their ability to support students]. Arizona State University, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
Stiehl, M. (2020). Removing barriers: Transitioning adult education students to post-secondary programs [Unpublished manuscript]. Arizona State University, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
Stiehl, M. (2021). Removing barriers: Transitioning adult education students to post-secondary programs through strengthening access to information [Unpublished manuscript]. Arizona State University, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.