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Sources: Jeff Zacharakis, 785-532-5872,;
and David Thompson, 785-532-5766,

Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009


MANHATTAN -- The Kansas Board of Regents' adult education program and Kansas State University's department of educational leadership's Adult Basic Education Leadership Academy will receive the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education-Commission of Professors of Adult Education's 2009 Curriculum Innovation Award at its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 5, in Cleveland, Ohio.

The award recognizes innovative approaches to the education of adult educators and is awarded every two years. Receiving the award will be Dianne Glass, director of adult education for the Kansas Board of Regents and state director for adult education and state administrator for Kansas GED testing; and Jeff Zacharakis, associate professor of educational leadership at K-State.

"The collaboration between the regents' adult education program and K-State's Adult Basic Education Leadership Academy represents one of the most innovative approaches in the country to developing needed curriculum for adult education practitioners," said David Thompson, professor and head of K-State's department of educational leadership.

The Adult Basic Education Leadership Academy is a three-year program developed to strengthen the leadership and management skills of directors and coordinators at the state's 30 adult learning centers. In Kansas, all postsecondary education, including adult learning and literacy, is administered under the Kansas Board of Regents. In 2006, the board's adult education program conducted a professional development needs assessment and found that the greatest need was in management and leadership. The program then contacted K-State's Zacharakis and department of educational leadership to develop and administer a professional development curriculum.

Requirements for the program included that the board's adult education program would select the participants; that both a credit and noncredit option would be offered; and the curriculum would be negotiated and, if needed, would be adjusted to meet the changing needs of the state's adult learning centers.

"As a result, a three-year blueprint of the program was first proposed, but following each semester the academy content is adjusted as needed," Thompson said.

The Kansas Board of Regents/K-State Adult Basic Leadership Academy has 42 participants, 10 of whom are noncredit students who either have a master's degree or no desire to pursue one; five doctoral students; and 27 students seeking a master's. Tuition is paid by the Kansas Board of Regents or by the adult learning centers. All graduate students must meet requirements of K-State's Graduate School before being admitted. If a student successfully completes the three-year academy, they will earn 18 graduate credit hours. The remaining required courses for master's and doctorate degrees are earned outside the academy. The degrees are in adult and continuing education offered through K-State's department of educational leadership.

The Adult Basic Education Leadership Academy has a three-day workshop each summer, and seven two-day workshops throughout the rest of the year for a total of around 100 contact hours annually. The workshops are offered in a residential setting at K-State at Salina because of its central location in the state.

"The first year of the academy focused on a general overview of organization, administration and program planning. The most notable outcome is that every adult learning center in the state conducted a stakeholder analysis and finalized a strategic plan," Zacharakis said. "The second most important outcome is that academy members developed a set of leadership standards that are being used to develop future professional development programs and set benchmarks for center leaders."

The second year focused on staff management, team building, marketing and advocacy. The curriculum reflected the angst and pressure academy participants were facing by being "the best kept secret" in their communities, Zacharakis said. In order to strengthen the management curriculum, K-State partnered with Wichita State University's Center for Management Development, whose faculty taught eight half-day workshops.

"The primary outcome of the second year was the development of adult learning center marketing/advocacy plans," Zacharakis said. "Many marketing plans included using Facebook and YouTube. One example is a Youtube video developed by the Wichita Area Technical College Adult Learning Center, which can be viewed at

The third year of the Adult Basic Leadership Academy, which began in July 2009, is focusing on instructional design and coaching.

"This year's goals are to develop stronger instruction and more efficient use of instructor/student contact hours," Zacharakis said. "Since Kansas is one of the few states that requires managed enrollment -- required attendance and a minimum number of student contact hours -- improving instruction is a high priority for each adult learning center and is a management/leadership issue. Each center is funded on a competitive point scale that is determined by the number of student educational gains. Hence, in a period when state and federal funding is frozen and, in some cases, declining, the only way centers can grow and serve more students is to improve instruction and efficient use of limited resources."

The partnership between the Kansas Board of Regents, K-State and the state's adult learning centers has necessitated a new way of looking at curriculum development, Thompson said. "To accomplish this, K-State has become more creative in how it develops programs that meet the needs of Kansans," he said.

 "Even though the third year of the Adult Basic Education Leadership Academy is just beginning, the results have been significant. Most centers have initiated marketing campaigns not only targeting students but also their community stakeholders," Zacharakis said.

"In addition, most centers have invited elected local state and federal officials to visit and learn about adult basic education, adult secondary education and GED education," he said. "Five of the centers have already hosted visits with members of the Kansas congressional delegation and a state senator. Collectively, the centers are becoming more effective at marketing and advocating for the important work they are doing and how it contributes to a stronger community."