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Q + A: Dr. David Adcock, director of Urbana Adult Education

Dr. David Adcock, director of Urbana Adult Education, located at 211 N. Race St. in Urbana, sat down to discuss the center and some of the educational opportunities offered there.

Q: In addition to the General Educational Development (GED) preparation course, the Adult Performance Level (APL) course also offers students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma. Can you discuss this program?

Dr. Adcock: The APL Program . . . [is] an alternative route to a high school diploma. It’s for students who have dropped out of their high school. They have to be at least 18 to get into the program. We do have some students that arrive younger and that’s the direction they’re going to want to take, so we have what we call pre-APL program as well. But the APL program is, instead of being based on the credit and transcript kind of approach that most high schools use, it’s based on its own curriculum that was designed back in the 1970s. We’ve continued to update that and it’s a mix of academic, and life-skills curriculum.  [APL is] a much more applied curriculum. Students who have gone through the program tell us that one of the appealing parts of it [is that] they see the relevance of it.
 
To get into that program you have to be reading on at least a ninth-grade level and doing math on at least a seventh-grade level, which is what you have to have to pass the GED . . . Most of the materials are written at about those levels. Occasionally, we will have students who want to get into [the program] and don’t quite [meet the requirements] and we’ll work on their math or reading to bring them up to that point so that they can get into the program.

Q: Completing the APL program allows student to earn a high school diploma. But will they be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony?

Dr. Adcock: You’ll get a High School Diploma. You can walk with the graduating class that next May. It’s a regular diploma from Urbana [High School]. We worked this out with the school district many years ago.

Q: Is the APL program linked to the G.E.D. program?

Dr. Adcock: It’s separate. [The APL program] is kind of its own entity and kind of an unusual entity. [The program] used to be more popular; you used to find APL programs around, but you don’t much any more for whatever reasons. We find it to be a really popular program; one that the students see a lot of relevance in and we think it’s a good thing to have.

Q: At one point the APL program was more popular across the country?

Dr. Adcock: Yeah. I think it was first designed at the University of Texas, Austin . . . Some programs like it have probably changed their names . . . We’ve kept APL, it [has] worked for us . . . People know what it is.

Q: Is there an average time for how long it takes a student to complete the program?

Dr. Adcock: I would say the rough average . . . would be a year and a half to two years. Now there are extremes to that [average] as well. Some people have completed the program in a semester or less. [For] others it has taken over 10 years. The one thing about it, because it is set up kind of like a score card, we find that with a lot of our adult students who didn’t make in a traditional high school setting for whatever reason, when they come to us they tend to have lots of issues. They’ll come, they’ll attend for a while, they’ll have a baby or they’ll get a new job for a while, or they might have to go to jail – whatever it is there’s lots of issues . . . When they come back [to the program] they pick up [where they left off.] So that’s an appealing part of this program as well. [Students] don’t have to start over; they start where they left off. 

Q: Is enrollment to the program free?

Dr. Adcock: Yes, for everyone who qualifies.

Q: How are the programs funded?

Dr. Adcock: It’s mostly state and federal government funding; the grants that we write are through the Illinois College Board. There is a state allocation that comes from the Illinois Legislature and there is also a federal allocation that’s made by the federal government. But that comes through the Illinois College Board and is distributed out to the programs. Those are our two biggest sources of funds. 

Q: Does every county in Illinois have an Adult Education program?

Dr. Adcock: There should be programs in every county but the way it’s really spread out is through the community college regions. Our boundary area for who we serve in our adult [education] program is the same boundary as Parkland College serves, which is a number of counties. So I can say “Yeah, there are probably programs [for] every county but they might not be located in every county.” Because, for example, Ford County is part of the Parkland region, but as far as I know, there aren’t any adult [education] sites there.

Q: Can you explain the link between Adult Education and the Illinois Community College system?

Dr. Adcock: I think we were founded in the ‘60s and up until [the late ‘90s] we were a part of the Illinois State Board of Education. But [during the ‘90s] the governance of adult education programs was switched over to the Illinois Community College Board. At that point, we were lumped in to the community colleges and their boundaries.

Parkland also has an adult education program. They don’t have a high school diploma program but they have a G.E.D. preparation program, they have English as Second Language services, which we also have. When I was describing our program I only got through the first couple – the GED and APL program. But other things like ESL is a major program that we offer – I think we have eight or nine teachers of ESL classes. We offer a certified nurses assistants program; we have computer classes that are separate but can be combined with our programs if we have people who just want to retrain for different kinds of careers and are looking at building their computer skills, so we have those.

Q: Given that Urbana Adult Education and Parkland College offer some of the same courses, what are some factors people consider when deciding where to enroll?

 Dr. Adcock: One is location. [Another] that we hear may be class sizes. We’re set up a little bit differently than a community college. For example, some of our ESL students who have taken classes at both [places] . . . some of them like to come here better because we do have smaller classes and some of them meet more often than they do at Parkland. Some people really like Parkland’s atmosphere better, some people like our atmosphere better. Some older students, who I would consider the traditional adult basic education student who didn’t finish high school, [and who] really struggles [with] reading as an older adult, feels less pressure here than they do in a college setting. So I think it varies in many ways . . . Parkland does have . . . some dual enrollment kind of programs that they can do with high schools. It’s not something that we’re involved with.

Q: What is your annual operating budget?

Dr. Adcock: I think we’re between $1.2 million to $ 1.5 million.

Q: What is the size of your staff?

Dr. Adcock: I’m going to guess about 40.

Q: What is the average time for persons who are on the waiting list for classes?

 Dr. Adcock: Up until this year . . . we had to wait a week or two to get the students in. But this year . . . we had a student that the high school talked to us about three or four weeks ago about, who they were transferring over here – he wasn’t making it in their setting – and I said, “Well, you can but we have waiting lists in the class that he would come into.” Just today, I called the high school and said, “We’re at a point where we can fit him into a class now,” and at that point he was only sixth on the list. It has taken three of four weeks. At this point, that class has a 30-person waiting list. So we’re not going to be able to serve quite a few students that we have in the past, which will hurt us in the long run because part of our funding is based on the number of students we serve and what kind of progress they make.

Q: What’s the average class size for a G.E.D. class, for example?

Dr. Adcock: We have an open-entry, open-exit program. Which means they come in . . . they could come in mid-semester, I’ll say that, and some of them finish mid-semester. So we don’t have a set class, so that changes during the course of the year some. But at any one time in our classes . . . about 25 is about as high we can go at one time. I know there’s been, for example, our beginning ESL class last year at one time, there were only seven students in it during the daytime because a lot of the people were working and coming to class at night.

Q: Does Urbana Adult Education offer night classes?

Dr. Adcock: We offer day and night [schedules] on all of our classes. Actually night is just two nights per week – Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Especially for those people who can’t come to daytime classes, we try to put something out there. But generally, [the average class size is] 15 to 20 students in most of our classes.

Q: What is a typical day for students?

 Dr. Adcock: [Students have] a four-hour minimum per day of classes. So for some students that’s real appealing – they don’t have to come for the whole day. We have really seven hours in the day; we stagger our teachers so [students] could come for the full day. But they have to come for at least four [hours.] If they are just taking a four-hour day, they are actually taking two classes . . . two hours each.

Q: Aside from the courses offered here at the main campus, what are some of the programs that are held at other sites?

Dr. Adcock: We’ve got a few other places. This is our main campus . . . The Storefront Academy is in a separate spot. It was way out in West Champaign in its on little building. It’s got three teachers and clerical workers . . . It serves about a 100 students a year. We have some of our ESL classes in the Weber Street Church because we don’t have enough space here for all of the [programs,] so we rent space from a church during the week, during the day. And we have a program called Even Start, which is housed in the Columbia School Building in Champaign.

Even Start is a federally funded program, so it [has] its own separate grant. But it provides classes for adults who need either a diploma or G.E.D. or they need ESL . . . These parents have to have kids that are under school age so they’re under five years old. What happens is the parents come to school and bring the kids with them. We provide [what we] call educare instead of just childcare because we are trying to give them some kind of pre-academic readiness . . . skills.  And we’re giving the parent . . . if they need ESL that’s what they’re taking, if they want to be in the APL class they can still come to that program. We provide bus transportation for [kids and the parents] and the parents really like that because a lot of them don’t have their own transportation, and they have a hard time riding on the MTD buses with their kids. Our bus has infant carriers [and] it’s set up for them; it picks them up at their door, they don’t have to wait at the bus stop or anything. [The bus] brings them to school and during the day the mom – and that’s a 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. program – [is] able to get any school age kids off to school first. The bus picks them up, brings the little kids with them and the school provides lunch for the kids . . . So the parents are getting academic skills . . . if they need ESL they’re getting that. And part of the day is also called PACT, which [means] parents and children together. During that time either we’re providing – it’s usually our teachers doing this but sometimes we bring in other specialist from the community – activities for both the kids and the parents together … it’s really away to reemphasis the importance of school for young kids and to get them ready so that they will be successful students. It gives the parents ideas about what they can do at home when they are reading with their kids, when they’re playing with them . . . how they can work in thinking and development skills. Then at 1:30 p.m. the bus takes them home and drops them off at their door so that they are there before the older kids get home. 

Q: How many students are enrolled in Even Start?

Dr. Adcock: We’ve got a maximum of 40 that can be in it. I think there are around 25. The program has connections with Head Start, so some of the parents have children that are in head start and our program, and the buses work for both of them. It’s really unique and it’s a great program.

To learn more about Urbana Adult Education visit its Web site (www.usd116.org/adult) or call (217) 384-3530.

- By Will Atwater/ For CU-Citizen Access

¨ Copyright 2011 CU-CitizenAccess.