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Skip Navigation LinksHome > Oral History > JULIET E. CRUTCHFIELD


California Department of Education,1981 - Present

Adult Education Policy and Planning Unit Program Consultant, 1988 - Present

High Youth Risk Unit Program Consultant, 1985 - 1988

Adult Education Unit Program Consultant, 1984 - 1985

Adult Education Assistant II, 1981 - 1984

Oakland Unified School District 1965 - 1967 and 1969 - 1981

Neighborhood Centers Educational Advisor, 1978 - 1979 and 1980 - 1981

Neighborhood Centers Acting Principal, 1979 - 1980

Neighborhood Centers Instructor, 1969 - 1979

Madison Junior High School Instructor, 1965 - 1967

Audio file

Challenges in maintaining ABE programs

Excerpt from an interview with:
December 6, 1995
Sacramento, California

Now, you mentioned the ESL student knocking down the doors.


Why is it possible that the ABE students don't have to come knock down the doors?

Oh, okay. They … first of all, they speak the language, so they are able to deal with a lot of things. Language is no barrier, in other words. And some of them have become very, very skillful at hiding the fact that maybe they can't read or....

Most of them can compute pretty good. You try to shortchange them on change for a dollar or a twenty, and usually you can't do that. Their pretty good with money, and maybe that's because that's something that brings in another modality, you're handling it or whatever, but [they're] pretty good with that. They've learned how to get by without being able to read.

And actually, our society as a whole, this is Juliet's opinion, is drifting in that way. Because you go into McDonald's or somewhere like that and there's an icon. There's a lot of icons in the world now. There's an icon of the hamburger and the shape of fries or whatever, so you press that as the clerk in the restaurant. The street signs, by and large, if you want to think of them that way, you have a stop sign that's standardized. You don't need to read S-T-O-P. So they're able to get by. They're skillful, if there's really something that's text, written text, and it's, oh, what's the word, it's… ?


Dense, yes. Then they have learned, "Well, I left my eyeglasses at home. Would you read this for me?" or something. So they've learned to get by that way, wherein the ESL students.... Also, there's a stigma attached for the ABE students, so they may be very well ashamed to come and admit that they can't do this or that, where there's no stigma attached for the ESL students.

Okay. Not always successful at their efforts, but anyway, the state has not been totally indifferent to this discrepancy between the ESL and ABE programs. What have been some of the specific actions that the state has taken to try to promote basic skills instruction?

Well, in terms of the federal program, and in terms of that section which we call Section 321 [of the federal Adult Education Act, later changed to National Literacy act], which are local assistance grants to agencies, qualifying agencies, there has been a differential in the amount of money given per increment, let's just call it that, for ABE programs in contrast with ESL programs. So there's been a higher unit rate or a higher dollar amount given to adult basic education programs. And I can kind of remember when that came about, and I would like to claim credit for that.

Take the credit for it! [Chuckling]

Maybe somebody else would not agree with that statement, but I remember we were sitting at a staff meeting, and all the reasons that I've told you, it's harder to serve ABE and et cetera, and I made the statement that I thought there should be a different rate. And I remember the reaction of some of the people, other consultants around the table, was very hostile, in fact, because the argument was made that the need might have been greater for the ESL students. So that's a legitimate argument, in that there's no doubt that there's a need there. But when you look at some statistics we had collected at that time, you just have a pocket of people out there that aren't and weren't being served.

Aren't being served. And still aren't.

Right. So there was a differential made, in terms of a unit rate or funding, but we never really held programs' feet to the fire, in terms of making sure that that money really went for an ABE classroom or setting. And, in my opinion, the money was not significantly greater than … to really jazz local programs up. Remember, I said it's much easier for the local administrator to just sit back and let the money roll in, so to speak, let the a.d.a. roll in, so it wasn't motivating enough.