This page is located at:

The Preparation and Stability of the ABE Teaching Workforce: Current Conditions and Future Prospects

Volume 6: Chapter Six
M Cecil Smith

In Chapter Six, M Cecil Smith examines the preparation and stability of the adult basic education (ABE) teaching workforce. He suggests that ABE teachers should be prepared within a teacher training program and that certification specific to working with adult learners should be more widely considered. Moreover, ABE teachers should be prepared to address the unique needs of ABE students, have a good understanding of adult development and learning theories, and be committed to adult education. In addition, he notes the need for greater stability among the ABE teaching workforce so that teachers remain in the field long enough to develop their expertise.

In describing current conditions, Smith notes the prevalence of certification in elementary and secondary education among ABE teachers. He also points out that, while many teachers are college-educated, relatively few have graduated from formal programs designed to prepare teachers for work in ABE classrooms. Given current state policies, few teachers are certified in ABE, although many participate in professional development opportunities to enhance their knowledge and skills. Most ABE teachers, Smith notes, are employed part-time or as volunteers. Consequently, issues of short-term employment, job migration, and high staff turnover remain of concern to the field. The conditions that contribute to the current situation include the lack of formal ABE teacher preparation programs and the lack of well-supported jobs in ABE. Smith suggests that improving the ABE teaching workforce will require the field to train and retain qualified teachers, which can be achieved by improving professional development and possibly by unionizing teachers.

Among his recommendations, Smith calls for research on characteristics of existing ABE teachers, the connection between preparation and teacher quality, the factors that support teacher retention, and the link between teacher quality and retention. He stresses the need for full-time, well-supported, and long-term employment, including access to high quality professional development, and recommends the necessary shift in funding priorities to bring this about. Smith notes the need to establish ABE teaching as a field on par with early childhood and K-12 teaching and calls on professional associations to work to raise the stature of the field.

 Chapter 7  arrow