ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning (CEL) recently participated in the first ever National Advancing Equity in Adult, Community College, and Career and Technical Education Symposium on October 31, at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. The gathering was intended to engage thought leaders in secondary, postsecondary, and adult education to enhance the understanding of issues of equity and access. We were invited to participate in this convening with other influencers of equity because of our commitment to close equity and achievement gaps and inform policy and practice.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education Johan E. Uvin opened this meeting by encouraging attendees to take action in closing the equity gap and put into practice all of our research to create meaningful impact. He urged participants to restore the opportunity for not just a subset of Americans, but all Americans. Uvin also alluded to the American dream and revealed the internal changes he has made in promoting inclusiveness, diversity, and career pathways for employees within the Department of Education. He urged us to do the same within our own organizations and in the field.
Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. praised the work of various organizations like the Academy of Hope, National Skills Coalition, and National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity and spoke of the power of partnerships and creating conditions for education and workplace success. “We have more work to do for students of color and first generation college students. Access without quality is not equity,” he said. He advised us all to take action in our own organizations and communities to partner together to create significant impact.
Discussions turned to advancing equity through federally funded initiatives like The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). “These new rules are an important step forward to improve and streamline the current workforce system and a real opportunity to meet the growing needs of workers and job seekers,” King said. “I am especially pleased that these rules strengthen education and workforce partnerships to reinforce the importance of postsecondary education and training in promoting better jobs for students, as well as removing barriers to employment.” Closing equity gaps among subgroups and creating opportunities, especially for English Language Learners, is necessary to creating equity in learning and in the workforce.
Innovations for promoting equity agendas and creative collaborations were highlighted at the event by the work of Alamo College, an anchor institution in San Antonio, Texas. They have partnered with local businesses and are the number one provider of workforce education in the San Antonio area. The college has several successful partnerships with educational institutions like Texas State University to achieve a collaborative approach in creating pathways to a baccalaureate degree. They have also partnered with local communities to establish the Central Texas Technology Center that offers classes and workforce training for the surrounding area. Alamo College is an example of how powerful partnerships are creating successful pathways for disconnected youth and adults.
ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning is committed to advancing equity for underserved populations and creating opportunities for advancement within our own organization and externally to the students and audiences we serve. We will continue to produce actionable evidence and engage our partners to carry on the Department’s call to action to develop policies and programs to advance equity and access in education. We are dedicated to supporting initiatives to close the equity and opportunity gap, including providing access to free online and career planning tools for students, parents, and counselors. The Secretary made very clear that we have made great strides, but there is more work to be done. With eagerness we accept this challenge to do more, stay tuned for all the exciting things we have planned for 2017.