June 5, 2009

Adult Schools Double the Magic: The Success is 2 to 1 for Adults with Children

By Heidi P. Paris

With an education budget crisis saddled by a high school graduation rate of only 68.3% for 2007-2008, why does adult school matter? Chula Vista Adult School student Rocio Muñoz responds, “Because we learn and develop our skills to look for a better job, to give our children a better education and be a good example of personal growth for our children.”

Education is a key to success in today’s bleak job market where unemployment has hit 11%. Adult school courses such as Cabinetmaking, Culinary Arts, Auto Repair, and Pharmacy Technician can build up a resumé at a reasonable cost. Aerobics class gives job seekers an extra edge through the enhanced mental sharpness of physical fitness.

Alondra reads her homework assignment as Adelaida looks on.

But the magic of adult school doubles. As students learn, they pass newly acquired knowledge to their children in life-changing ways.

Rocio points out that some students find better jobs by attending adult school. This helps provide the stability children need to concentrate and learn at school. A higher salary means more financial security and peace of mind. Monetary worry can result in children unable to focus in class and receiving inadequate diets leading to health, weight, and attention problems. Already, a study by the National Center for Education Statistics reveals nearly one in every five American 4-year-olds is obese.

The US has always been the land of immigrants. English classes are urgently needed by immigrants in order to provide for their children. Otherwise, these young innocents will suffer. The future of the US lies in all its children.

Sophia Garcia, a student at Chula Vista Adult School, declares, “I study English. It’s indispensible to speak the language...This is an opportunity to advance ourselves.” According to fellow student Martha Muro, “During the time I have been coming to class, my life has changed.”

As Rocio mentions, the adult school student becomes better equipped to give their children an education. Teachers cannot give continuous, personalized attention in a classroom of 20 students. Parents are an important link, providing one-on-one assistance with homework questions. Parents without a high school diploma may not be able to do so. Underlying messages such as “It’s OK not to know this information” or “School is important but not important enough for me to finish” may unwittingly be transmitted even if a parent desperately wants their children to excel in school. It’s “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Many adult school students are correcting this situation, taking the leadership role by attending classes to complete their High School Diploma or GED (also available in Spanish). ESL classes (English As A Second Language) provide immigrants the opportunity to learn English.

Angela Alvarado is one of millions of adult school success stories. Every day, Angela assists her 5-year-old daughter Yazmin with kindergarten homework showing her “how to pronounce words, how to write words.” Before enrolling in ESL, helping Yazmin “was very difficult for me…I couldn’t understand anything.” Yazmin would respond, “Mommy, if you don’t know, who will help me?” “She would get sad because all the mothers knew English and I didn’t,” admits Angela. Now Yazmin proudly asks her mother what new words she learns in class. She is also a little motivator. Friday and Saturday evenings when adult school is closed, Yazmin asks, “Mommy, aren’t you going to school?”

9-year-old Alondra’s 4th grade homework was problematic for Adelaida Reynoso. “I did not understand the language. We both felt frustrated. She wouldn’t tell me anything, but she would cry because she couldn’t understand.” Now as an adult school student, Ade-laida works with her daughter almost every day. In the process, they teach each other English, looking up new words together.

Lourdes Tapia, thanks to ESL, is able to assist her son with fifth grade homework. Before, “I hardly understood.” Now 10-year-old Luis not only better comprehends his homework, Lourdes also teaches him the latest ESL lecture such as the Continuous Tense. Parents like Angela, Adelaida, and Lourdes are forming the lasting impression that school matters while alleviating homework problems and anxiety.

Lastly, Rocio mentions the importance of parents as examples of personal growth. Parents are the family leaders. When a parent earns a GED or learns English, they teach the importance of personal achieve-ment. A child witnessing their parent on their way to school communicates more than words.

One Montgomery Adult School student related how her teenage son repeatedly belittled her saying that she could never earn a GED because of her poor English. The native Spanish speaker struggled yet completed her GED. Meanwhile, her son had dropped out of high school. She explained that he was re-enrolling. If his mother successfully overcame language obstacles, her son had no excuse.

The Latino high school graduation rate in California was only 60% according to researchers with The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University’s 2005 conference “Dropouts in California: Confronting the Graduation Rate Crisis”. Locally, the Sweetwater Union High School District, which has the largest Latino student population in San Diego County, experienced an alarming 30.5% year to year increase in Latino dropouts (205 more students) between 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 according to the California Department of Education.

Less dropouts re-enrolled as well (only 4) compared to the previous school year (24). State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell regards the Latino dropout rate as “alarmingly high” and states. “There are long-term economic repercussions from not graduating for the student, for their communities, and for our statewide economy.”

In California, 59,915 Latino students failed to graduate in the 2007-2008 school year. The state loses $46.4 billion dollars for every group of 120,000 20-year-olds who drop out of high school according to a report released in February by the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara. If current trends continue, by 2025 only 35% of working adults will have a college degree reports The Public Policy Institute of California. We will experience a shortage of one million college graduates in the workforce.

One strategy to help solve this failure in Latino education is turning parents into examples of educational success by promoting adult school. If parents can do it, so can their children. California is ranked 47th in the nation in per student spending yet, incredibly, has the world’s 8th largest economy. Clearly, not enough resources are directed toward education.

Sadly, adult schools are facing massive cuts in programs needed by the community. The Obama education stimulus funds may completely bypass the adult schools in the Sweet-water Union High School District while they are retraining or updating the skills of many of the unemployed. Contact your California legislators in both the Assembly and State Senate and demand that adult schools be fully funded. In the South Bay, voice your opinion to State Senator Denise Ducheny (619) 409-7690 and Assemblymembers Marty Block (619) 462-7878 and Mary Salas (619) 409-7979 as well as the Sweetwater Union High School District.

The magic of education doubles at adult school because when you teach an adult, you teach their children. Knowledge inevitably spreads and grows. Adult school can form a crucial link to a child’s education and well being. Please urge its protection. Keep adult schools strong. And see how adult school can benefit you… and your children.

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