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Embracing Action: How Massachusetts Established ADEI Training for Adult Educators

PARTNER: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education


LOCATION: Massachusetts

TIMEFRAME: 3 years (Ongoing)

How can complex organizations create ADEI training programs that make an impact?

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is an organization where taking action on Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ADEI) principles is crucial. With educators across the state responsible for teaching a wide range of adult students of different racial/ethnic backgrounds–along with different levels of English proficiency–it is necessary that practitioners develop the knowledge and behaviors to enable all their students to succeed. Through a multi-year contract with DESE, UPD developed a new ADEI training program for the state’s adult educators, leading to better outcomes for adult learners across the state.

Moving at the Speed of Trust

UPD intentionally centered the training sessions around antiracism, ensuring topics that made participants the most uncomfortable were fully addressed. We prioritized trust-building between our ADEI facilitators and participants in order to better explore emotionally-charged subjects. By involving participants from a range of organizations and roles, we increased the opportunity for cross-pollination of perspectives. Personal storytelling from facilitators conveyed issues of racism and discrimination without over-intellectualization. And finally, sessions were oriented towards action, grounding ADEI concepts in steps participants could take in their daily work.

Evolving Over Time

Over the past three years, UPD incorporated survey feedback from participants into the planning process, allowing facilitators to continually improve both the content and delivery of the material.

First year sessions were held virtually due to Covid restrictions and consisted of six 3-hour learning sessions followed by breakout practice. Participants included leadership from community colleges, community based organizations, correctional institutions, and the state agency–completed the course.

Second year participants were asked to attend with teams from their organizations based on survey feedback showing a community of colleagues learned better than those who attended alone. Two of the five sessions were held in person, enabling additional trust and community-building.

In the second and third years, departments were also encouraged to invite adult students to join the ADEI learning series, introducing opportunities for program staff to engage meaningfully with students in their respective programs. Adult students were provided with stipends to compensate for their time and engagement.

“UPD is without a doubt one of the most authentic vendors for ADEI that I’ve worked with. They’ve contributed immensely by engaging students, directors, and state staff all at the same table.”

– Wyvonne Stevens-Carter, Adult Education State Director, Massachusetts DESE


After UPD’s sessions, participants were better prepared to initiate ADEI change work within their organizations. Self-assessment surveys taken before and after training courses reveal the majority of participants who completed the sessions were more comfortable talking about race and diversity with colleagues and students than before, and significantly more ready to take ADEI action.

As a direct result of our ADEI training, several programs across the state developed student leadership initiatives, through which current and former adult students are hired to assist in classrooms and plan engagement activities, bringing new perspectives to the administration.

Adult education organizations that participated have also increased their efforts to hire diverse candidates and to advocate for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students in the service of creating more equitable learning environments.


With an emphasis on trust and action, our facilitators created ADEI training sessions that enhanced the organizational performance of participating adult education programs. Our approach underscores how training can be effectively developed through feedback from participants. With our ongoing work in the state of Massachusetts, we will continue our efforts to better serve the adult education field.

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