About Programs of Excellence

What is Programs of Excellence?

The California Department of Education (CDE) Adult Education Office sponsored the development of Programs of Excellence awards in 1997 to recognize adult education programs that demonstrate outstanding, innovative, and exemplary services.

To earn the award, programs undergo a challenging certification process involving self-assessment and review of five program components: curriculum and instruction, learner support services, leadership and planning, learner outcomes, and community involvement and collaboration.

Programs of Excellence and Continuous Improvement

Programs of Excellence FlagsThrough Programs of Excellence, the California Department of Education identifies and recognizes exemplary adult education programs in California. However, identifying outstanding programs is not the sole purpose of Programs of Excellence. Perhaps an even more important purpose is to provide a tool for agencies to use to reflect on their service to adult learners and to engage in continuous program improvement.

The Programs of Excellence Components and Quality Indicators Document is an assessment and review tool that administrators and staff can use to identify the strengths of their programs and the areas needing attention.

What Administrators Are Saying about Programs of Excellence

In a recent survey, administrators from programs that have received Programs of Excellence awards comment on how applying for Programs of Excellence contributed to continuous improvement in their agencies. Following is a sample of their responses:

“The Programs of Excellence process initially drove the continuous improvement process. Continuous improvement is now part of the program’s culture.”

--John Kerr, Senior Director,
Baldwin Park Adult and Community Education, Older Adults Program

 “Once we were recognized as a Program of Excellence, we all knew that we had to continue doing wonderful things to keep the status. It was easy to get staff to buy into the fact that we had to do something different to make ourselves better each time we reapplied for recertification. Staff has volunteered many, many hours doing research and working with other state agencies to make us even better.”

--Sue Lytle Gilmore, Principal, A. Warren McClaskey Adult Center,
Sacramento City Unified School District, Adult with Disabilities Program

“It made us look closer at our program and gave us validation for the extra effort we put into our service to students. It also helped us identify areas that we wanted to focus on to take further steps toward excellence.”

--Teresa Potter, Parent Education Coordinator,
San Juan Adult Education, Parent Education Program

State Superintendent O'Connell announces 2007 Programs of Excellence Awards

The California Department of Education released the following announcement regarding Programs of Excellence on 8/17/2007.

SACRAMENTO – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today was proud to announce four adult education programs have been selected as the recipients of the 2007 Programs of Excellence Award.

Receiving this honor are Grossmont Adult School, Napa Valley Adult School, http://www.scae.org/cgi-bin/indexz.cgi Santa Clara Adult Education, and Tehachapi Mountain Adult School.

"These outstanding schools have offered the types of innovative programs and services that address the evolving needs of our adult learners. As a teacher of adult education classes, I recognize the challenges and appreciate the dedication it takes to provide such rigorous, meaningful courses and curriculum," said O'Connell, who is a part-time adult education instructor during the summer. He currently is teaching a class in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"I applaud the hard work of these educators, administrators, and staff who made this recognition possible," he said. "The designation 'Programs of Excellence' is a great honor," he said. "I hope other agencies have the opportunity to review their proven practices and are able to incorporate some of these successful ideas into programs of their own."

The California Department of Education (CDE) Adult Education Office created the Programs of Excellence Award in 1997. Programs that earn this designation are characterized by the outstanding innovative and exemplary services they provide to adult learners.

Award-winning programs must complete a challenging certification process. They must convene a body of diverse stakeholders within their local community to complete a self-assessment and review the following dimensions: curriculum and instruction, learner support services, leadership and planning, learner accomplishment, and community involvement. They submit a written application in which they document evidence of exemplary practices that meet rigorous criteria.

A team of adult education administrators and teachers from across the state reviews the applications in a double-blind review process using a scoring rubric. Programs that qualify during the application review phase then host a team of visiting adult educators led by CDE consultants. The purpose of the site visit is to verify that the exemplary program components are there.

These schools will be honored at the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) luncheon on September 27, 2007, at the Doubletree Hotel in San Diego.

California's adult education system includes adult schools in more than 350 school districts with hundreds of sites, library literacy programs, community college non-credit courses, state and local jail and correctional facilities, and other state agencies. These programs help adults learn to read, earn their high school diploma or General Education Development test (GED), study English in classes practical and relevant to adult lives, and move toward high-wage professions by gaining marketable job skills.

2007 Programs of Excellence Awards

Programs of Excellence is a program that promotes continuous improvement and honors exemplary adult education providers in California. In 1997, the Adult Education Office of the California Department of Education first invited agencies to apply for Programs of Excellence awards. Since then, 57 programs across the state have received this honor. The designation of Programs of Excellence denotes a program that provides outstanding service to adult learners.


Congratulations to the four adult school programs receiving Programs of Excellence awards this year. Click on the names of the award-winning programs to learn more about each program.

Programs of Excellence Award Recipient
Grossmont Adult School’s Parent Education Program (recertification)

Programs of Excellence Award Recipient
Napa Valley Adult School’s English as a Second Language Program

Programs of Excellence Award Recipient
Santa Clara Adult Education’s Health and Safety Program (recertification)

Programs of Excellence Award Recipient
Tehachapi Mountain Adult School’s Adult Basic Education Program

Past Programs of Excellence Award Recipients

Please click on the links below to download lists on award recipients organized alphabetically, by year of award, or by program area.

Programs of Excellence Application Process Suspended for 2007-2008

The California Department of Education (CDE) announces plans to suspend the Programs of Excellence continuous improvement and recognition awards for one year. For the 2008-09 year, the Programs of Excellence quality indicators will be reviewed, streamlined, and converted to an online format. Once the transition has been completed, adult education agencies will be able to access the quality indicators online, review their agency practices, and document their findings at any time during the year. Agencies that wish to submit their findings for review will be able to submit their applications online during fall of 2008.

Because of the complexity of the task, no applications for Programs of Excellence awards will be accepted during 2007. Previous award winners whose re-certifications are due this year have been granted a one-year extension.

New applications and recertification applications (those programs that received awards in 2005) will be accepted in fall 2008. Agencies that wish to use the Programs of Excellence Quality Indicators [PDF] for continuous improvement can continue to access the indicators from this Web page.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Wendi Maxwell in the Adult Education Office of the CDE at 916-324-7115 or at wmaxwell@cde.ca.gov.

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