Adult Ed, ESL serve many around the Ann Arbor district

• A visit to an Ann Arbor ESL class

From AAPSNews Service

Although much of a public school system’s focus is on traditional students in grades K-12, many others are getting schooling in the Ann Arbor district.

ESL students work on a lesson that teaches them to visualize English words at Stone School in Ann Arbor.
ESL students work on a lesson that teaches them to visualize English words at Stone School in Ann Arbor.

Those who do not speak English as their primary language can participate in the district’s Adult Education English as a Second Language program and those who, for whatever reason, never finished high school, can take classes through the Adult Education GED program and earn their GED certificates (or the equivalent of a high school diploma, accepted by employers and colleges as such).

Director of Adult Education Sharman Spieser said her non-traditional programs often tie in with K-12 education because parents of K-12 students sometimes become students themselves – whether they are learning the English language or getting a GED to help their employment or continue their education.

She said it can be a member of a family, siblings, or friends of the family. And often, she said, adults are referred to both programs through the Ann Arbor school community when teachers, counselors and principals see a need.

“I tell people don’t think ‘adult, this doesn’t relate to me’,” Spieser said. “I run into people everywhere whose lives have been touched by Adult Education.”

Spieser feels she does more than run an adult education program. “I’m an advocate for people,” she said. “I work for them. There are a lot of people who don’t have equal access to things through no fault of their own. I consider myself working for those people. They’re my bosses.”

In a typical Adult Ed classroom, students’ ages can range from 18 to 70, or older.

One of those students is Quinn McGuinness who is on a fast track to finish his GED tests this month so that he can enroll at Washtenaw Community College in January. He attends Beth Carlson’s GED Prep class at the Malletts Creek branch of The Ann Arbor Public Library during the week.

“I think a lot of the GED is looking into the questions and finding a logical way to answer them,” he said. McGuinness, who previously attended Washtenaw Technical Middle College, said he wanted to finish high school, move on with his life and study music production as a career.

Another student, Michael Johnson, said he also plans to finish his GED and attend WCC to study auto body repair or culinary arts. He said after talking with his counselor at Stone High School he decided to finish his high school education through the Adult Ed program. “I would tell others to join. It’s a good way to go,” he said.

Carlson said the GED program requires students to work through an 800-page book and become proficient in reading, writing, science, social studies and mathematics in order to pass the GED test. It is a challenging program, she said.

Although the need has grown for adult education services, monies have been reduced significantly over the years, said Spieser. For example, she said $400 million was spent in Michigan in 1991, compared with $24 million in 2007. So, many programs have been reduced or had to close, she said.

The Ann Arbor district still gets some state and federal money for programs, but creative thinking and grant money have helped Spieser continue to keep programs viable and expand their reach.

For example, with a No Worker Left Behind grant funded through the federal Workforce Investment Act, the districts of Ann Arbor, Milan, Chelsea and Willow Run have formed the Washtenaw County Adult Education Collaborative with Washtenaw Community College to increase access to adult learning in the county.

Ann Arbor’s share of the funding was used to continue ESL and GED classes last summer and to partner with Washtenaw Literacy to provide small group tutoring for those students. The NWLB also funds the pilot “Bridges to Success” class which helps Adult Education students create resumes, explore career possibilities, set goals and use technology to apply online for jobs, college admission and financial aid.

Other grants and contracts provide support for programs at the University of Michigan Hospital and the Washtenaw County Jail. Classes at these sites vary based on the populations’ needs, Spieser said, and include ESL, GED Prep, Pre-GED Math and Reading, Study Skills and Computer Literacy.

Spieser and Steve Raymond, director of leadership and staff development for the hospital, recently secured funding for a workplace skills program. The first model class will focus on communication and cultural competency skills for Patient Food and Nutrition Services employees. It will be piloted this spring, Spieser said.

Welcoming adult learners back into the schools contributes to the community, she added.

“They become more active community members with increased employability. And they realize how much they have to offer. We are all so fortunate to live in a community that supports adult education.”

Winter registration – English as a Second Language
What: Program for adults (ages 18 and older) who do not speak English as their first language. Offered by Ann Arbor Public Schools Adult Education.
When: Come from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. anytime Jan. 4-6, 2010 meet with staff and make an appointment to register (registration takes place Jan. 6-12.)
Where: Room 314, Stone School, 2800 Stone School Road.
Requirements: One of the following is needed: A passport with a visa (not an F1 or tourist visa), a Social Security card or a U.S. Citizenship Permanent Resident Card, more commonly known as a “green card.”
Cost: Free except for field trip fee ($15 per semester, due at registration.)
Details: Classes begin Tuesday, Jan. 19. Call 734-997-1250.

Winter registration – GED
What: The GED Preparation program helps adults (18 and older) prepare to take the GED test (which is taken at the Washtenaw Community College GED Test Center as part of the class). Offered by Ann Arbor Public Schools Adult Education.
When: 6-8:30 p.m. Thursdays through Jan. 28, 2010 (no registration Winter Break dates of Dec. 24 and Dec. 31). Those registering must arrive at 6 p.m. and stay until 8:30 p.m. for assessment.
Where: Room 406, Stone School, 2800 Stone School Road.
Requirements: Complete registration packet, receive information and take a pre-test.
Cost: Free except for book deposit ($15 for GED, $5 for pre-GED, both due the first week of class)
Details: Classes begin the week of Feb. 1, 2010. Call 734-997-1250.

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