Adult basic education gets reprieve

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Tobey Veenstra
The Broadside

After reaching an all-time high of 1,600 total students last school year, the Adult Basic Education program at Central Oregon Community College is now seeing the number of students start to decline.

“It’s down a little bit [from last school year],” said Interim Director of ABE Debbie Hagan. “We see it a little before COCC … Right now [the number of enrolled students at] the college is starting to plateau.”

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The ABE program is designed for students interested in pursuing an education at COCC but aren’t ready for college instruction. ABE provides basic reading, writing, spelling, math, study skills, basic computer technology skills, GED test preparation and high school completion courses, according to the ABE page on the COCC website.

The recent increase in students trying to enroll at COCC has made it a popular program.

“It’s been a really interesting year … We’re seeing this return of people,” said Hagan, referring to an increase in adults returning to or entering college for the first time because of the recession.

Placement tests, which determine appropriate math and writing levels for new students, are provided by COCC’s CAP (Career services, Academic advising and Personal counseling) Center. Students who score low on their placement tests are referred to the ABE program.
“I’ve been at COCC in this program for 21 years,” said Hagan. “The CAP center has never seen this huge an increase in students … Students scored so low on their placement tests; they need to pass that to get financial aid.”

In the math placement test, students who score low have the choice of taking an ABE math course or Math 10, explained CAP Center Director Vickery Viles. She thinks one of the reasons more students enrolled in ABE courses was because of the high enrollment in COCC courses.

“This Spring especially, I think it was harder for students to get into their math and writing classes,” said Viles. “I think some of them took [ABE] courses in order to improve their skills … and take advantage of the program.”

Another difference in the program this school year is the newly implemented learning standards.

The Oregon Council of Adult Basic Skills Development adopted learning standards in April, 2010, according to the Oregon ABS Standards website.

“We have learning standards this time,” said Hagan. “For years in Oregon, all the Adult Basic Skills programs have done their own thing … Finally, two and a half years ago, the directors decided it was time to look at standards in the GED programs.”

According to the Oregon ABS Standards website, the standards are centered around the following four criteria:
• Maintaining a focus on adults
• Drawing from research to describe the development of knowledge, skills and strategies across levels
• Being as clear as possible and providing supports and examples for the reader
• Formatting the document in a way that permits flexible use in integrated, multi‐level and single‐level classrooms.

Enrollment for the ABE program occurs through the quarter, according to the ABE page on the COCC website. For more information, visit http://abe.cocc.edu/ or call ABE at 541-504-2950.

Tobey Veenstra can be reached at tveenstra@cocc.edu

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