Overview of the WEST Adult Basic Education Consortium

WEST Adult Basic Education (ABE), fiscal office in Monticello,  is made up of 17 school districts in the cities of Annandale, Becker, Big Lake, Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose, Delano, Foley, Glencoe-Silver Lake, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Lester Prairie, Maple Lake, Monticello, Orono-Maple Plain, Rockford, St. Michael-Albertville, Wayzata, Watertown-Mayer and Westonka.  WEST ABE Consortium also serves three county jails (Benton, Wright and Stearns) one private business, J & B Wholesale in St. Michael and CareerForce, the Workforce Center in Monticello. WEST ABE is greater than 2,500 square miles and spans across the counties of Benton, Stearns, Sherburne, Wright, Hennepin and McLeod.  Census reports a base population of 285,397 people, of which 13,332 are adults over the age of 20 without a high-school diploma or GED. In addition, the consortium’s 17 school districts annually report to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), a second prior year K-12 school district Limited English Proficiency (LEP) count, indication the number of children enrolled in the member school district where English is not the primary spoken language at home.  This count is part of the ABE state funding formula as it is an indicator of local needs, based on the assumption that for every LEP K-12 enrolled student, there are at least 2 adult parents who are also in need of English language education. For PY18, this number was 1,073, indicating there is a need for this type of instruction, and identifies the communities where the need for English language acquisition is most prominent. Data such as this, that is provided by MDE, forms the basis for identifying need for core ABE services in this consortium and is one of the factors that is taken into account when making decisions regarding placement for programming and classroom locations.  It is WEST’s Management Team policy to hold a class in each member district and local service is the main reason for WEST’s growth over the last ten years and the addition of four school districts. Program adjustments are continual and based on each community’s individual needs. Each site takes on its own unique design and responds to the needs of the adult learners in their community.  Although recently, the Management Team has discussed combining nearby sites that have lower attendance and focusing our decisions based on better utilization of funds for programming. This idea will be discussed at the coming Management Team Meeting. For example, due to the low unemployment rate, the Workforce Center, CareerForces’ hours were dropped in half due to low attendance. Should this swing to an economy that demands further workforce training, WEST will re-establish programming. It is through continual discussions and program analysis that we can create new programming partners such as the YMCA in Wayzata.  WEST is currently running a pilot, multi-level, ESL class two days per week as the YMCA’s across Minnesota are considered to be “Welcome Centers” for new immigrants and this is a new and valued partner. The consortium has long instituted an unwritten policy of establishing classrooms where they can best provide fair and equitable access to all adult students.   WEST employs 34 part-time instructors and each are trained to serve the literacy needs of clients that comes through our doors. Each site takes on its own unique design in response to the needs of the adult learners in that area.  WEST also employs one full time Program Manager, one part time secretary and one part time Database Specialist. WEST ABE has provided adult basic education programs and services to adult learners since the 1996-1997 school year and has dedicated three locations as regional “cluster” centers which are in Buffalo, Wayzata and Monticello.  These regional centers differ from the other sites in that they are centralized, offer expanded programming and a larger variety of classes at times. These classes are varied times throughout the day to accommodate our population and in consideration of work schedules.  Cluster Centers also provide summer hours when other nearby programs close. Also, at two of our cluster centers the teachers are trained in STudent Achievement in Reading (STAR), where teachers have been trained to teach to lower-leveled readers. In the 2018-2019 program year which ends April 30, 2019, WEST enrolled 2,252 adult learners who were served for a total of 67,777 contact hours.  Of those enrollees, 1,140 became participants in the program, staying for more than 12 hours of instruction. Participants generated 62,179.25 of the program year’s contact hours.  The largest number of students fall between the ages of 25-44 and dropped out of high school between 9th and 12th grades. The largest ethnicities served are (53.7%) White and (17%) Black or African American, and the consortium consists of females (42.5%) versus male students (57.5%).  Students come from more than 72 different countries and speak more than 50 different languages. The Management Team, which oversees WEST ABE, meets every other month and is made up of member School Districts’ Community Education Directors and the Program Coordinators from the county jails.  Monticello is the fiscal agent. WEST looks forward to continuing our programming and to forming new collaborations that will provide opportunities and benefits for our students, their families and our communities. Jill Dechaine, WEST ABE Program Manager More detailed reports on the consortium’s 2019 contact hour year enrollment data and demographics (May 1, 2018 – April 30, 2019) can be seen here: TableA. A brief overview of each of the consortium’s ABE program sites are outlined in the following graphic: