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Monitoring and evaluating adult education programs in the District of Columbia

Lulu Mary Davies, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In the present context of increasing unemployment and budgetary constraints, providing targeted assistance and quality adult education is of paramount importance. Survey data collected over the years indicate the pressing need for quality adult education programs in the District of Columbia. According to the National Adult Literacy Survey of 1996 and the 1999 Statistical Report from the D.C. Department of Employment Services, the District of Columbia had the lowest literacy proficiency (61%) in the nation when compared to the 50 states of the United States. In a similar manner, the National Adult Literacy Survey of 1999 reported that over 50% of the District's public high school students had dropped out. For those students who stayed in school and graduated, many tested below high school reading levels. Also in terms of unemployment, the District of Columbia reported the highest unemployment rate (8.8%) in the nation (1999 Statistical Report, Department of Employment Services). Based on these complexities, concerns were raised among adult education practitioners concerning the capacity of existing adult education programs in the District to provide employment-focused adult education training. This dissertation focuses on the role of adult education program managers in order to strengthen programs and proposes that monitoring has the potential to serve as a management tool to identify management training needs. Monitoring can also ensure that these needs are met through the identification and provision of on-going technical assistance. The dissertation utilizes a case study approach to examine ways in which adult education program managers can build on strengths and address areas of weaknesses with the help of an effective monitoring strategy. Data was collected through structured and unstructured interviews, direct observations, site visits and an analysis of documents and reports in order to provide a full understanding of the potential of monitoring to improve management skills. In addition, theories of formative evaluation, decentralization and social capital were examined and relationships were established. The study found that monitoring has the potential to build local capacities by helping managers identify their areas of weakness and facilitating a process through which these managers identify appropriate types of technical assistance. The study also found that managers developed areas of strengths as a result of targeted monitoring. Changes in attitudes, perceptions and behaviors were observed during the monitoring process. Managers began to communicate with each other more and share information. The study concludes that monitoring has the potential to increase social networking among managers, which enhances management's performance. In the final chapter, the study describes the impact of communication and participation issues on the monitoring process and closes with a discussion of future trends and suggestions for further research.

Subject Area

Adult education|Continuing education

Recommended Citation

Davies, Lulu Mary, "Monitoring and evaluating adult education programs in the District of Columbia" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3110479.