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About the Bureau

History and Facts about Adult Education.


The New Hampshire Bureau of Adult Education - A Short History

Today’s adult education programs (Adult Basic Education, Adult High School, and English for Speakers of Other Languages) began as part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty in 1964. The Economic Opportunity Act sent funds to each state to develop adult literacy programs. New Hampshire began with a few evening Adult Basic Education classes at some high schools.

During the late 1960's and early 1970's several local communities started daytime classes which evolved into community-based learning centers. The Adult Learning Centers in Nashua and Dover and Second Start in Concord began at this time. During the 1980's all three went on to win recognition from the U.S. Secretary of Education as the outstanding adult education program in the northeast for a given year (Second Start twice.) During the time that this national recognition program continued, New Hampshire was the only state with three award-winners.

In the 1970's, New Hampshire introduced two new delivery systems for adult education: the Adult Diploma Program and the Adult Tutorial Program. New state regulations were adopted to allow local school districts to grant high school diplomas to adults who completed required credits by taking evening classes. Today twenty school districts offer the Adult High School diploma option.

Adult Tutorial Programs were developed to serve each county. A tutorial coordinator recruited and trained volunteers to tutor adults who could not attend classes. By 1989, there were 1,100 volunteer tutors matched with adult learners. Adult Tutorial Programs are now called Adult Learner Services Programs, offering small classes as well as one-on-one tutoring for the convenience of learners.

English as a Second Language programs were a small part of New Hampshire adult education in the early years, but by the late 1970's some ESL classes expanded rapidly, filled with refugees from Southeast Asia. English as a Second Language enrollment tapered off in subsequent years but has been increasing steadily since 1990. English for Speakers of Other Language students now comprise nearly one-third of the learners in Bureau of Adult Education programs.

Today, New Hampshire Bureau of Adult Education programs serve more than 8,000 learners each year. They are led by Art Ellison who has been the bureau’s administrator since 1980. During the past 20 years, more than 20,000 New Hampshire participants have earned a high school credential, and many more have learned to speak English and to improve the basic reading and math skills they need to be effective parents, workers, and community members.

Facts About Adult Education

Many adults need better basic skills for success at home and work

The national Adult Literacy Survey studied literacy levels of Americans on real-life tasks like addressing an envelope and reading a street map. The Survey placed people on one of five literacy levels.

  • 1 out of 4 Americans placed at the lowest literacy level, meaning they have trouble with simple, everyday tasks.
  • Another 25% scored at Literacy Level 2, meaning they would probably not be able to do the tasks required by most of today’s jobs.
  • New Hampshire adults did better than the national average, BUT more than 295,000 people scored at the lowest 2 literacy levels.
  • 12% of NH adults were at Literacy Level 1, needing a lot of improvement.
  • 25% were at Literacy Level 2, needing some improvement.

Many adults lack a high school diploma

  • In the U.S., 34 million people 18 and older (16 percent of the population) have not graduated from high school.
  • New Hampshire has one of the highest percentages of high school graduates in the nation (only 12.7% non-graduates) but there are still 125,000 adults without high school credentials.
  • Last year 1,560 New Hampshire adults passed the GED Tests to earn high school equivalency certificates.
  • Since GED Testing began in 1943, there have been more than 59,000 graduates in New Hampshire.

Many adults want to learn English

  • English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESL) is the fastest growing adult education in the country.
  • 48% of all adult education learners in U.S. federally-funded adult education programs are in ESL classes.
  • New Hampshire has fewer English language learners than many states, but ESL classes are growing here, too.
  • ESL students make up 32% of NH adult education participants.
  • ESL adult learners have increased from 700 in 1985 to more than 2500 last year.