CLOSING CAAL: A Message from CAAL’s President

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Many good things must come to an end, including CAAL, which will officially close by the end of this year.  Farewells are never easy and we take this step with mixed feelings. There is so much work to do in Adult Education and CAAL is uniquely positioned to do some important parts of it.  But we have done what we set out to do, and financial considerations, including the end of our McGraw-Hill* funding and space, are key motivating factors.

I’m proud of what CAAL has accomplished in its 15 years (building on the work of the Business Council for Effective Literacy, which I headed up following my Ford Foundation years).  I think it’s fair to say that CAAL has “moved the needle,” through our policy development work, research, initiatives to improve state practice and planning, information clearinghouse, and interactions with domestic and international audiences.  So many people have helped us along the way–a wide range of expert consultants, several task forces and roundtable professionals, the insightful work of numerous other organizations, many amazing McGraw Hill professionals, and a blue-ribbon National Commission on Adult Literacy.

I want to extend my warmest thanks to so many individuals and organizations for making our work possible.

First and foremost, to the incredibly dedicated CAAL core staff ! You have labored long and hard, sometimes without adequate compensation, and with abiding loyalty.  Your collective knowledge, intellectual rigor, and fundamental decency and caring are the CAAL imprint.  I offer my heartfelt thanks to Forrest Chisman, Bess Heitner, Paula Jarowski, Garrett Murphy, Jim Parker, and Gene Sofer.

Many other outstanding professionals have also worked with us over the years. CAAL couldn’t have stood so tall without you.  There is no way to recognize all of you here, but literally hundreds of people have been a vital part of our effort.  You know who you are.  I thank each and every one of you. Very special thanks to Linda del Boccio, Amanda Chan, Rosa Garcia, Cheryl King, Moira Lenehan, Tim Ponder, Elliot Schwartz, and Jane Terry.

I’m humbled by the quality of people who have served with me on CAAL’s Board.  Your service brought weight and cachet to our voice.  Current members are Eunice Askov, Morton Bahr, Mark Lawrance, the Hon. Ray Marshall, Gail Mellow, Mark Musick, Tony Sarmiento, and Andrew Sum.  Former members are Bobby William Austin, Forrest Chisman, the late Samuel Halperin, Grace Hechinger, Harold (Doc) Howe II, Cheryl D. King, Bridget Lamont, Byron McClenney, Garrett Murphy, Tom Sticht, Gary Strong, Tony Zeiss, and Arthur White.  Deepest appreciation to you all.

CAAL owes its very existence to the many sources that provided grants and individual donations. Our organizational donors gave some $4.6 million: The McGraw-Hill Companies ($1,800,250 including in-kind support, thanks to the late Harold W. McGraw, Jr. and his son Terry, Chairman of McGraw Hill), Dollar General Corporation ($1,317,500, mostly for the National Commission on Adult Literacy, thanks to former CEO David Perdue and to Denine Torr), the Mott, Hewlett, and Joyce Foundations ($335,000, $300,000, and $210,000 respectively), Verizon ($207,100), the Ford Foundation ($110,000), Wal-Mart ($100,000), the Lumina, Annie Casey, and Nellie Mae Foundations ($87,000, $77,900 and $50,000), AT&T ($25,000), Household International ($7,500), and the Ostgrodd and Edith C. Blum Foundations and Goldman Sachs ($3,600).

Individual donors contributed $875,000.  My friend and colleague Harold W. McGraw, Jr. was in on the founding of CAAL. He personally donated $800,000.  The balance came from dedicated CAAL board members (especially champions Mark Musick and Sam Halperin) and from other friends and colleagues.

Thanks are also due to you the reader, the students, the teachers, the program directors, the frontline people.  You play an essential role in communities across this land every day—developing and implementing policy, adapting new research, planning programs that are responsive to your local demographics, raising funds, providing services, teaching and learning.  You are the backbone of everything, the motivation for all we have done.  I’m glad to know so many of you and to be enriched by your knowledge and commitment.  I recognized long ago what an extraordinarily decent group of colleagues you are!

Soon after CAAL closes, I plan to set up a consulting group aligned with a university or other nonproifit to carry out special projects in the future. Some of my CAAL and other colleagues may join forces with me.  But for now, thank you all very very much!  You have honored the entire CAAL staff and board with your interest and dedication, your trust and collegiality, and the generosity of your time and thought over the years.

The CAAL website, including its blogs, will remain active indefinitely to ensure continuing access to all of our publications.  Our website ( reflects the results of much of our work over the years—through our array of publications, essays, legislative resources, blogs, and other materials.  It’s gratifying even at this point to see how much traffic the site gets and the continuing interest in our publications, including Reach Higher, America, the final report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy. CAAL’s email service will also remain active for a time so that you can continue to reach me as usual and I can stay in touch with the issues (or contact me at

I hope you’ll stay steadfast in your attention to the messages of the recent PIAAC assessment ( and to the promise of the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (, and Neither is an end in itself, but both offer new opportunities.  Family literacy, correctional education, health literacy, ESL programming, workforce and workplace literacy–all are essential elements of Adult Education.  For years to come, there will be plenty to do in all of these areas, by professionals at all levels, especially to meet the funding challenge.

In Past Gains, Future Goals, 30 state and national leaders offer their current thoughts in a special CAAL Blog about recent achievements and coming priorities. I hope you will find their analyses and suggestions stimulating. There are at least 46 million reasons to keep fighting the fight: the massive number of low-skilled adult students PIAAC tells us are in need of basic skills services.

Here’s to the future!  Here’s to you!  I’m so deeply privileged to have spent so much of my professional life with you.

Gail Spangenberg

*  Note:  The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. has been in transformation for the past couple of years.  Its Education Division was sold in 2013, and the Company is now called McGraw Hill Financial with Standard & Poors at its core.  As a result of these changes, the new McGraw Hill is vacating its space at Rockefeller Center and moving staff to two other locations, the lower Manhattan Financial District and 2 Penn Plaza.


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