Racial Equity in Adult Education Grant Update – Part 3

Racial Equity in Adult Education Grant Update – Part 3

Check out Part 1 of this series for an introduction to the Racial Equity Team and the overall goals of the Racial Equity in Adult Education grant.

Part 2 of the series explains the initial phases of the grant’s activities and other steps taken in the first year.

Challenges and barriers

As stated in Part 2 of this article series, this project faced some challenges and barriers.

Student survey language translation

One challenge was the lack of translations for the student surveys. The Racial Equity Team met with a representative from Urban Planet to discuss translating the survey. The representative informed us of the top languages spoken by Minnesota ABE students, concluding with 6 or 7 main languages, and emphasized that there are many more languages spoken by students. The team did not know how to pick and choose which languages the survey should be translated to, so after this conversation, while keeping available resources in mind, the team came to the decision to keep it in English.

Right away the team knew this was creating a barrier for students with low English abilities, but after talking about this situation with the advisory groups and a representative from the State of MN, the team persevered. Throughout the creation of the student survey, the team actively kept in mind the language barrier. This survey required the most time and consideration. The team met weekly for work sessions and were in continuous conversation discussing the details of the survey. It was reviewed thoroughly by the Racial Equity and Partners Advisory Group during the creation and the final edits. The Racial Equity Adult Learner Advisory Group also assisted the team in overcoming the language barrier. They were able to speak on behalf of their classmates and dictate the phrasing of the survey questions.

This barrier is something the team has not taken lightly and will work to eliminate in future projects. The team sent the survey out to consortium managers with the request that educators/staff assist students in whatever ways they can, without persuading their answers.

Department of Corrections research approval process

Another obstacle the project faced was the inclusion of students taking ABE classes within the Department of Corrections. From the start of this project, the team knew that students residing in the DOC make up a large portion of Minnesota ABE students and needed to be included in this project. As stated before, the Racial Equity Adult Learner (REAL) Advisory Group had two students representing the DOC, and their participation and enthusiasm was immensely valuable. There were also two individuals on the Racial Equity ABE and Partners (REAP) Advisory group representing DOC staff.

Unfortunately, after sending the surveys out to consortium managers, the team noticed that there were no surveys being returned from the DOC. In looking into the reason why, the two representatives from the REAP Advisory Group discovered that all research involving incarcerated people needs to be reviewed by the DOC Research and Evaluation Committee (REAC). The two DOC representatives were not aware of this and neither was the team.

The REAC approval and review process requires an intense application, including an abstract summarizing the objectives, methods, and implications of the research, a literature review, and a background check. The application is due September 1, 2022, and the Research and Evaluation Committee will meet on September 15 to review. This application process does not guarantee approval. Currently the team is working on the Human Subjects Application Packet and will be submitting it for review for the next REAC meeting.

The team was taken aback by this, but it will not stop them from pursuing the inclusion of these students. Dispersing surveys to students in the DOC will be a priority activity in the second year of the grant. If the survey is approved, the team will plan to distribute them as soon as possible and collect them at the end of October 2022.

Future Projects

New Racial Equity Adult Learner (REAL) Advisory Group members

After a successful year with the REAP and REAL Advisory Groups, new groups are in the process of being formed. The Racial Equity ABE and Partners (REAP) Advisory Group was finalized on July 26, consisting of 9 members. The team will soon be sending out applications for the Racial Equity Adult Learner (REAL) Advisory Group. Please share this application information with students that would be interested in joining; the deadline is September 23, 2022.

Focus groups

Now that surveys have been distributed and collected from administrators, educators and students, the team will evaluate, analyze and synthesize the data. During this process, recurring themes will be identified and further discussed in focus groups. Conducting focus groups will provide a deeper understanding of the survey results. This will give students the opportunity to share a more in-depth version of their experiences within ABE.

As of now, the plan is to conduct two focus groups – one in person for metro area students and another virtual one for greater Minnesota students and for incarcerated students. The focus group participants will be chosen to reflect students from diverse backgrounds and from varying regions within Minnesota. Once all the information from the student focus groups is collected, and the data from the surveys fully analyzed, the team can start making recommendations on actions. This process will be guided by the REAP and REAL Advisory Groups and reviewed at Statewide ABE Professional Development (PD) Committee meetings.

Statewide ABE Professional Development (PD) Committee

Throughout the grant, either See or Addy has been attending and will continue to attend quarterly PD Committee meetings. At these meetings they will have opportunities to make suggestions to the group, and to work with the group regarding equity-based PD efforts. Once these efforts are organized and finalized, the team will communicate these efforts through presentations at Summer Institute, the Spring ABE conference, and any independent webinars.

Equity lens for decision-making

The team hopes to make equity the center of all decision-making by creating a standard for an equity lens. Using an equity lens in creating and reviewing policy will assist in pursuing fair outcomes and experiences of ABE students.

“An equity lens is a process for analyzing and diagnosing the impact of the design and implementation of policies on under-served and marginalized individuals and groups, and to identify and potentially eliminate barriers.”
(Source: Minnesota State Office of Equity and Inclusion, Applying an Equity Lens to Policy Review, https://www.minnstate.edu/system/equity/docs/Equity-Lens-to-Policy-Review1.pdf)

Enforcing a protocol for policy review institutionalizes the consideration of equity into all decision-making. Aside from centering equity in decision-making, the Racial Equity Team will also maintain a list of PD opportunities in the ABE PD catalog and PD calendar by submitting them to the statewide PD newsletter.


Work such as this has no end. This is a group effort of all those in ABE: MDE staff, ABE partners, consortium managers, educators, volunteer and support staff, and even the students. Working in collaboration can lead to uncovering existing inequities and finding solutions to eliminate them. To hear more about this grant – including details of the surveys, a review of Year 1, and the plan for Year 2 – join the Racial Equity Team at MN ABE Summer Institute on August 17 at 9:30-10:15 AM.

Thank you for following the Racial Equity Team on this journey.

Image credit:

Equity vs Equality” by MN Pollution Control Agency is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Addy Wolbaum, DEI Assistant Southwest ABE
See Moua-Leske, Grant & Program Manager Southwest ABE