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The Albuquerque Adult Learning Center does much more than teach someone to read – although that is key for some of its clients.
The grassroots, community-based organization provides free adult education and literacy as preparation for students to get their high school equivalency certification, or HSE.
It then helps students get employment, seek a better job or enter college.
“To be clear, the absence of a high school diploma or HSE certificate does not necessarily imply a low literacy level,” said Gloria Rael, executive director of the Albuquerque Adult Learning Center. Many of these individuals are self taught and well read. “A number of them are business owners and function very well,” she said.
“Frequently, however, students who come to the Albuquerque Adult Learning Center have been caught in a cycle of working entry level jobs. Acquiring a high school certification for them is the first step in seeking post-secondary degrees or obtaining better jobs and more livable wages with which to support their families,” she said.
The Albuquerque Adult Learning Center, which was founded in 2010 and has four locations, is one of several adult education programs offered in the metro area.
“We serve individuals age 16 and older at whatever level of education they are at when they enter our door, and we assist them by getting them to advance one level at a time,” Rael said. “People come in, pre-test and are assessed.”
Last year, 99% of the 235 students served at the four locations combined entered with below 9th grade equivalency levels, and 85% of them entered below 6th grade levels, Rael said.
Prior to COVID, the combined program locations served about 300 individuals a year.
“Many come and go and they have a lot of barriers to success that impede their ability to stay,” Rael said. “Many are struggling, they don’t have jobs and they come in unemployed. We help them get jobs and we have a career pathways coordinator,” who also teaches students how to write resumés.
Albuquerque Adult Learning Center class sizes are limited to 12-15 students. “We schedule according to the needs of the students, so we have morning, afternoon and evening blocks,” she said. “We have one-on-one tutoring, but the bulk of teaching is done through classroom instruction.”
Coursework is built around six levels. The first four are considered basic educational skill sets, and the last two, levels 5 and 6, are considered the high school equivalency levels – secondary education. It can take from two weeks to two years for a person to get through the high school equivalency levels “depending on the literacy level they enter with and their motivation,” Rael said.
A school term at Albuquerque Adult Learning Center lasts six weeks, and there are eight terms in a year. Instructors cover reading, writing, language arts, math, science, social studies and digital literacy, Rael said.
All of the Albuquerque Adult Learning Center programs that are funded by the state “are required to help students get employment, or if they have employment we help them seek a better job, or we help them enter college” after obtaining their secondary education certification, she said.
In determining success at the center, “we look at measurable skills gained and students advancing at least one level to the next level over a period of time,” Rael said. Other indicators of success include the number of students who obtain a high school equivalency certification, and how many students go on to college or obtain career employment.
In an average pre-COVID year, about 30 students from the Albuquerque Adult Learning Center earn a high school credential. Of the 12 who got credentialed during the pandemic last year, all of them went on to better employment opportunities or post-secondary education, or both, Rael said.
The budget for Albuquerque Adult Learning Center is nearly $300,000 a year – a combination of state and federal funds as well as money from grants.