The Texas Adult Education Credential: Improving Instructional and Programmatic Outcomes Through the Use of Professional Development and Critical Self-Reflection
Each year, approximately three million adults enroll in adult education programs. These programs benefit adult learners by providing them with valuable labor market skills as well as two of the most basic prerequisites for postsecondary education, high school equivalency and English language literacy (Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy, 2005). Participants in adult education also have better health, higher incomes, and greater civic participation than nonparticipants with similar backgrounds (Southern Regional Education Board, 2005).
Given these outcomes and the economic benefits of more skilled labor markets, policymakers have been encouraged recently to increase investments in high quality adult education programs (Southern Regional Education Board, 2005). As with K-12 and postsecondary education systems, improvements to adult education programs have focused on establishing standards for program activities and student preparedness for work and postsecondary education. Adult education providers are also now expected to offer accelerated learning opportunities so participants will be more likely to complete programs, and to integrate educational programs with social services and job or postsecondary placement (Porter, Cuban, Comings, & Chase, 2005; Southern Regional Education Board; Wrigley, Richer, Martinson, & Strawn, 2003). Some adult education advocates have also called for integrating programs more thoroughly into postsecondary institutions and increasing the status of adult education instructors and administrators by making compensation, training, and expectations more similar to those of postsecondary faculty (Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy, 2005).
These goals and activities require skilled oversight by administrators who are knowledgeable about the needs of adult learners, effective program management, and adult education curriculum and instruction. Also necessary are teachers who possess the knowledge and skills to facilitate adult learning. Formal training and credentialing can facilitate these goals by establishing high standards for adult education instructors and administrators and increasing the status and resources of adult education programs. To this end, the Texas Adult Education Credential Project was established in 1998 in response to calls from the Texas Association for Literacy and Adult Education (TALAE) and the field to develop professional credentials for adult educators. The project receives funding from the Texas Education Agency through Texas LEARNS and is operated by The Education Institute at Texas State University-San Marcos. The goal of the project is to develop a professional workforce of adult educators able to connect adult education theory and practice to enhance student success.
The Texas Adult Education Credential Project offers two separate credentials - a teacher credential and an administrator credential. The Teacher Credential was fully implemented in 2004; the Administrator Credential was implemented in 2008. The establishment of professional credentials for adult education practitioners is one of the most innovative projects in adult education in the nation. Adult educators in general are typically not required to hold specialized licenses or professional credentials. Only five states, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and West Virginia, along with the District of Columbia, offer licenses in adult education that are required for instructors. Ten other states require adult education teachers to hold valid K-12 teaching licenses. Only Texas currently offers licenses or credentials for adult education administrators.
The Teacher Credential Model emphasizes the link between current theory in adult education and professional practice. Originally intended as a move toward accountability, the teacher credential demonstrates that teachers have participated in meaningful professional development activities which represent a core body of knowledge and skills needed to foster learning in the adult education classroom.
Teachers submit an Electronic Portfolio as evidence that they have obtained and applied the knowledge and skills necessary to improve instructional outcomes. Teachers complete professional development activities that focus on six core content areas, implement the newly obtained knowledge and/or skills in their classrooms, and provide a written reflection detailing the outcomes of implementation thus linking theory to practice. The six core content areas of the Teacher Credential were originally aligned with the Texas Adult Education Instructor Proficiencies and Indicators of Program Quality as well as research in the field of adult education.
The Administrator Credential Model emphasizes the value of experience and encourages the use of collaborative learning communities and mentor relationships. The administrator credentialing process provides an opportunity for novice administrators and administrators employed in less comprehensive roles such as instructional coordinator to obtain a variety of experiences intended to prepare them for increased responsibility and continued career growth and serves as a tool for program improvement. Experienced administrators may obtain a new perspective and understanding of their role through introspection and reflective practice.
As with the Teacher Credential, administrators also submit an Electronic Portfolio which consists of six common products. The Electronic Portfolio is the means by which administrators demonstrate that they possess the knowledge and skills detailed in the Administrator Credential Content Framework. The Content Framework was developed by Texas administrators and specifies the knowledge and skills that administrators in the state of Texas have determined to be necessary in order to perform the role of administrator.
Both the Teacher Credential and the Administrator Credential value the experiences of the individual educator while providing the opportunity to tie theory to practice thus allowing for the development of strong adult education programs which ultimately result in improved student success.
Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy. (2005). To ensure America’s future: Building a national opportunity system for adults. Strengthening links between adult education and community colleges. New York: NY.
Porter, K. E., Cuban, S., Comings, J. P., & Chase, V. (2005). “One day I will make it”: A study of adult student persistence in library literacy programs. New York: MDRC.
Southern Regional Education Board. (2005). Investing wisely in adult learning is key to state prosperity. Atlanta, GA.
Wrigley, H. S., Richer, E., Martinson, K., & Strawn, J. (2003). The language of opportunity: Expanding employment prospects for adults with limited English skills. Washington, D.C.: Center for Law and Social Policy.
D. Michelle Janysek is the Director of the Texas Adult Education Credenital Project at Texas State University-San Marcos. She has a Ph.D. in Adult, Professional, and Community Education from Texas State University, a M.F.A. from Texas Tech University, and a B.F.A. from Southwest Texas State University.
Mary Helen Martinez is a Grant Coordinator for the Texas Adult Education Credential Project and the Central GREAT Center at Texas State University-San Marcos. She has a M.A. in Developmental and Adult Education from Texas State University and a B.S. from Southwest Texas State University.
Emily Miller-Payne is the Director of the Education Institute and Principle Investigator of the Texas Adult Education Credential Project at Texas State University-San Marcos. She has a Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction: Reading from New Mexico State University, a M.A.T. from New Mexico State University, and a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.Sisters Push Each Other to Do the Extra Lap by Dora Espericueta The most rewarding teaching experience that I have had was the opportunity to teach two sisters that enrolled at the Pharr Adult Learning Center. While both sisters started at the pre-lit level, I did not start working with them until they were at the Pre-GED level. I started working with Elia first. She came to the Center with a very low self-esteem. She could barely make eye contact with me or anyone else. She was very soft spoken and shy. As her GED instructor, I was able to work with her on a one to one basis. Elia was able to express herself through her essays providing me the opportunity to feel her pain and depression. As time went by, it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gaining inner confidence. Her way of dressing, communicating, and physical appearance was so visible that you could see the metamorphosis from a cocoon to a beautiful butterfly. Her written thoughts and ideas helped me understand her more and allowed me to interact with her more freely. Working with her individually, allowed her to feel more comfortable in speaking or asking questions. Once she overcame her shyness, she became very determined to get her GED and set a goal to further her education. Eventually, Elia encountered transportation problems. Her only ride to class was her sister. Elia motivated Veronica to enroll so that she wouldn’t waste gas needlessly. By both of them attending, they could benefit from the program and better themselves at the same time. When her sister was promoted from the Pre-GED class to my GED class, I felt like this gave Elia more of an initiative or more self confidence. When her sister, Veronica, came into my writing class, it was like lighting a flame under both of them. I could see that they would work together and encourage and motivate each other. It was apparent to me that Veronica was different from Elia in many ways. She was more interactive, more sociable, and more approachable. This allowed me to use Veronica’s attributes to make Elia a stronger person. It was exciting to see that no matter what obstacles came their way, they both showed determination and dedication. Veronica was Elia’s only means of transportation and it was wonderful to see the family unity when it came to them having each other for support. I can honestly say that these two young ladies had to make many sacrifices and overcome many obstacles to achieve what they had set as their goal, to obtain their GED and enroll at South Texas College. Through perseverance they were able to achieve what they had both set out to do. They are both currently in their third semester at South Texas College and are well on their way to successful careers in Nursing and Education. About the Author Dora Espericueta is a native of Monte Alto, Texas. She is married to Robert and has three children. She has taught all areas of the adult education program. She holds a certification in Interdisciplinary Studies and Generic Special Education and has taught adult education for thirteen years. She is currently the Lead Instructor for the Pharr Adult Learning Center. Her passion is working with adults and motivating them to succeed.