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The GLA Coaching Model

by Robin Mitchell

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing”

Walt Disney. 

On January 8th, 2024, Goodwill Finger Lakes will open the first phase of our Excel Center project, the Goodwill Learning Academy (GLA). This is the start of us working in a physical space, with an actual classroom and the opportunity to serve adults in our community. It feels like a beginning. From 211/988, to Good Neighbor, to Goodwill Vision Services, we are an organization that rightly prides itself on service to our community. GLA is a continuation of that same mission work and the start of our journey as an organization that serves our community in the adult education space.  

Personally...I cannot wait. 

As we have introduced the idea of GLA to future students, our funders, legislators, and the wider community, some broader questions have arisen. These undoubtedly come from people who have heard us talk about the Excel Center for some time and are concerned that this feels like a pivot. It’s well worth summarizing these questions and then spending some time answering them to demonstrate our thinking. We don’t feel like we are pivoting as much as simply getting started. The work is here to be done whether we have legislation or not. 

And so, the questions: 

What will GLA do? 

How do you know it will work? 

How does it connect to the Excel Center? 

Firstly, and unequivocally, we remain steadfast in our work to bring an Excel Center to Rochester. It remains our goal and is a proven concept that will have an impact on our community. There are now thirty-nine centers across the country and more states move past the legislation process each year. Colorado and South Carolina are the latest to get it across the line. And yet, frustratingly, New York has not been one of them. Legislative change is messy and lengthy. It can be confusing. We take a few steps forward and get presented with a new roadblock. The timeframe isn’t always assured. 

Yet we cannot stand still. 

And so GLA begins the work of providing support to those same 38,000 adults in our community who we know lack a high school diploma today. Our purpose is to provide coaching and remove barriers so that potential adult students can begin their adult education journey, receive remediation if needed, explore all viable pathways, and ultimately persist in their program with our support. 

For students that we have started to serve already, this has looked much like the following. 

·    Let’s fully understand your situation, where you live, and your educational aspirations. 

·    Let’s make sure that we can mitigate barriers like transport and childcare.  

·    Let’s visit a couple of programs together and decide which one fits best.  

·    Let’s provide foundational support if you're not quite academically ready to enter the program of your choice. 

·    Let’s meet weekly to set and evaluate education goals and try and get ahead of any roadblocks. 

·    Let’s have our own space in the middle of town so that we have a place for you to work with a teacher and a coach on homework, and a place for discussing issues and concerns outside of the program. 

And finally, let us make sure that students are then provided tools and support to encourage ongoing persistence.  

GLA then, is the student's unrelenting educational advocate and persistence is the key term.

We know that adult education programs all suffer from a degree of churn. Attrition in the adult education field is well known but it is worth spending a little time on the scale of the challenge and our opportunity to help. A study by Greenberg et al. (2011) Persisters and Nonpersisters: Identifying the characteristics of who stays and who leaves, showed persistence rates below 50% in adult literacy programs. Community colleges face the same type of challenges. How do we get adults to stay? And yet, when organizations have utilized coaching, there is evidence that the attrition levels improve. When CUNY LaGuardia introduced a GED Bridge program, that included education counseling, students were 27.1% more likely to complete the program versus those in the traditional program. Similarly, a Lab of Economic Opportunity study titled Stay the Course demonstrated a 31.5% increase in persistence and completion in their control group when extensive education case management was provided. 

These are big jumps, and our goal is to demonstrate the same jump in outcomes when a student in adult education also receives GLA coaching.  

That is the goal in the short term. 

In the long-term, our vision remains Excel Center High School for adults, appreciating the central component of the model is coaching. Visit an Excel Center in Memphis and see just how prominent the coaching environment is to the center as a whole (see picture below). As we build our GLA model, it fits hand in hand with our Excel Center project and as we pass the legislative hurdle, the programs will simply blend into one another. And so, we’re getting started with all of that in mind. Coaching first.

We wish you all the very best start to 2024. 

If you are an adult that would like to utilize our coaching service, please visit the following link: Apply Now