The most pressing challenges the consortium is currently facing, and ideas on how to address these challenges (some challenges may not have clear solutions yet)
Two of the most pressing challenges facing WEST ABE are transportation and integration of CCRS and the new TABE and CASAS assessment tests.
1. Transportation to classes:
Many of our students are challenged with transportation options in the West ABE program area with no public transportation available. Some students get rides with family or friends. They also have the option of biking or walking if they live close enough to a classroom and if the weather is reasonable. There is no clear solution to the transportation issue. The problem has been a source of frustration for many years. We always try to offer classes that are during times that work best for our students schedules. We also try to have local options available so that each school district in the consortium has at least one class per site. We have also had recent talks about combining sites where attendance is low in order to make our funding dollars go further.
2. Integration of so many new platforms, standards and assessments
As mentioned in Section Three, WEST ABE is training staff in CCRS, ACES and the TIF. And now with the new CASAS and TABE, the large amount of professional development needed to keep instructors abreast of the latest in curriculum and instruction is overwhelming for staff, especially in our remote classrooms. In addition, our professional development costs can become burdensome to the program given the need to travel for training. Most of our teachers have full-time jobs during the day outside of the ABE field and need to take off from work to attend the MDE or ATLAS trainings.
To try to remedy this, we have transitioned to bi-monthly or quarterly trainings instead of bi-annual. Staff enjoys the trainings and exchanging ideas and learning with their peers. We try to vary the times so that staff who work during the day can attend. So one month there will be an evening training, and the next meeting will be a Friday training as outside of the jails and the workforce center, no other sites have classes on Fridays. Each staff member is allocated 40 hours of professional development annually and this year WEST mandated that half of those hours be directed towards learning and implementing CCRS, ACES and the TIF. WEST also created a new position, a CCRS expert for 10 hours per week, to oversee its implementation and to make sure the staff has access to a trained source. This teacher ensures staff has a working knowledge of the platforms and offers an expert on-staff that teachers can call when they have questions.
This also carries over to the new TABE and CASAS assessment tests. The need for training is imminent, but finding the time as well as funds puts financial pressure on our budget. We incorporate webinars and online trainings and use the pre-recorded trainings and videos on the ATLAS website to offer alternate options for those unable to attend. However there simply aren’t enough resources – time and money – to ensure that part time staff receive equivalent access to training, and equivalent levels of training, and this impacts students eventually. Marty Olson, the testing guru from SWABE, one of our supplemental service providers, is scheduled to train staff on the new CASAS this June.