Monday, March 4, 2013

Perspective: Larry Teshara, SMAS Director

At San Mateo Adult School, we are lucky to have Larry Teshara, 2012 ACSA Administrator of the Year, as our Director.

Mr. Teshara has experience in both Adult Education and K-12. 

Here he shares his thoughts on the value of providing Adult Education under the auspices of K-12 Districts.

February 28, 2013

Lawrence Teshara
Director San Mateo Adult School
San Mateo Union High School District

In 2002, I was given the opportunity to provide testimony, on behalf of the ACSA State Adult Education Council, to the California Legislative Joint Committee on the Master Plan for Education in California. Specifically the plan included the now infamous recommendation #38 to transfer all Adult Education to the Community Colleges. The idea was impractical then and remains so now. Reviewing my testimony today, our arguments on behalf of maintaining basic adult education programs with K12 districts remain valid. In reality our position is more compelling now than a decade ago.

Accessibility gives our programs a real advantage. We provide a safe, familiar neighborhood environment for our students. We are open to those whose educational needs demand flexibility. Our students are working and many are raising families. We are not tied to fixed quarters or semesters, unrealistic attendance policies, or arbitrary schedules that serve the organization but not the student. Such a rigid structure is necessary for colleges because they are awarding academic credit for their classes. We are not. We are close to public transportation and bicycle accessible.

We remain low or no cost making learning English or gaining basic skills available to all. Historically our cost per student was a fraction of that of any other educational program, public or private. Before 2009, our ADA allotment was the lowest of any public school program. We did, and continue to do, a lot with a little. We are a taxpayer friendly program. If the same dollars spent by our district on adult education were transferred to the community colleges, the result would necessarily be many fewer students served. Those not being served would likely be the most needy due to limited access.

Our students are not the natural constituents of a community college. The colleges are already under pressure to serve their primary mission, to advance students on to universities or provide them with vocational certifications; hopefully within a four semester time frame. Our students are not going to help them meet their goals. Our mission is to make students ready to be successful in those community college programs. Evidence show that lack of basic English language skills and/ or high school fundamentals is the major reason for high student attrition in the colleges. There is no evidence that community colleges in our area have any interest in taking on this additional responsibility.

And some very recent developments validate our position:

I am a resident of San Francisco. Our local community college is faced with draconian reductions, perhaps loss of accreditation, due to lack of any cost containment. Years ago San Francisco Unified essentially turned over all adult education programs to the college district. They are offering non-credit adult education programs at a cost far greater than K12 Adult Schools. That is a big part of their financial morass.

Immigration reform is on the horizon. Already stop-gap measures are in place. All sides of the
debate consider learning English essential. The law specifically speaks of seeking a high school diploma or G.E.D. Citizenship preparation is mentioned. Who will provide these services in the most accessible and tax-payer friendly environment? We believe K12 Adult Education remains the answer.

We understand the overall theme of the Governor’s funding proposal is to provide additional resources for communities with large number of students with limited English skills or living in poverty. A worthy goal to be sure. What the Governor does not understand is that our students are the parents, guardians, family and neighbors of those same school children. They are setting a great example in their own homes by attending school. We need to place fewer, not more, obstacles in the way of their achieving their goal.

Larry Teshara
San Mateo Adult & Community Education 
"Mr. T" - as we know him



1 comment:

  1. Mr. Teshara has some compelling arguments that make a lot of sense. However convenient policymakers (from their own viewpoint) may consider their proposed plans to centralize adult learning programs within community colleges, they might be overlooking the real possibility that these institutions might not be the best organizations to serve the needs of those adult learners currently served by K-12 Districts.