LITERACY RESOURCES/RI/ Final Report: July, 2005 - December, 2006

Literacy Resources/Rhode Island continued its work of maximizing collaboration and cooperation among adult educators/literacy providers in Rhode Island, and of strengthening connections among programs and practitioners. LR/RI worked to expand existing professional capacity of the adult education field in Rhode Island, thereby strengthening the quality of adult literacy and language instruction in the state. As well, LR/RI participated in the Office of Adult Education's advisory council, established early in 2006, maintained contact with, and provided feedback to working groups focused on developing policy and practice in the areas of learning disabilities, goal setting, teacher leadership, assessment and professional development.

Practitioner involvement

In response to past years' work with practitioner inquiry processes, in the fall of 2004 LR/RI modified its approach to support of practitioner research and project-based activity. Funded projects for this program year included an extended series of ESOL workshops (for which participants completing all three segments received nominal remuneration) and advocacy initiatives for adults with developmental disabilities. Response to the workshops was very positive; information about the work undertaken appears online at:minigrant0506. As well, a number of local practitioners came forward to present workshops at the state's annual conference; practitioner involvement was also evidenced in sharing sessions, (described below) and through informal communication, both on line and face to face.


Rhode Island was one of several states participating in the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition's (CAELA) three-year state capacity-building initiative developed in the spring of 2005 to help states provide systematic, effective, and quality professional development for adult ESL professionals. Nancy Fritz of the Genesis Center, and Elizabeth Jardine, representing RIDE, attended a second two-day meeting in March, along with Janet Isserlis as part of an extended process of examination and improvement of Rhode Island's provision of instruction to English language learners. Among the goals of the second year's work are the development of standards (in keeping with the state's existing initiative), development of a new teacher orientation process and further work on piloting and disseminating CAELA materials for professional development. A CAELA study circle, focusing on workplace learning, was also piloted by LR/RI, from which a monthly workplace learning sharing group subsequently evolved.

LR/RI-facilitated monthly sharing sessions of ESOL practitioners

Participation in sharing sessions provides a means for practitioners to identify both need and interest in learning and teaching more about particular areas. Fostering participation in these sessions was an ongoing challenge, due in part to the fact that teachers work part time, have little institutional support for their participation and because they teach during mornings, afternoons and evenings, scheduling almost always means someone misses a session. Participation in informal discussions has furthered in-depth exploration of particular topics and issues through the sharing of resources and joint exploration of topics of interest; a core group of participants remains committed to this form of professional development with newer participants cycling in over the year. Since 1997, adult ESOL practitioners have met monthly to discuss topics of interest and to share ideas, learning, materials and approaches. While some participants have come and gone (in a manner that reflects the turnover in the field), generally, a core group of 12-20 practitioners regularly attends this event. It has also become an important first step for practitioners new to the field, and/or mid-career changers contemplating the field for the first time. In addition to open meetings (themes are determined by participants), two workshop events took place - one, in the spring, through an LR/RI minigrant ( see Katherine Meyer's proposal here) and the other, a two-part presentation of methodologies and approaches, facilitated by Nazneen Rahman in October and November. A local practitioner invited a member of the School for International Training's Teacher Knowledge Project to share that work with the group during the summer. Responses to these workshops have been overwhelmingly positive. Generally, the group tends to favor hands-on activities (a sort of ESOL 101), particularly focused on low-level learners, interspersed with discussion and consideration of larger issues - teaching approaches, immigration, legislation and policy impacting our work.

As well, a number of those practitioners taking part in the ESOL share were also part of the content standards development work referenced below, and also participated in the CAELA pilot of the study circle addressing workplace learning.


LR/RI worked with Judy Titzel, Elizabeth Jardine and the content experts to develop a summer standards institute, held in June of this year. Through a series of face-to-face meetings, email and conference calls, the Rhode Island team worked in tandem with our content staff to develop a framework for engaging practitioners in the work of developing standards in the areas of listening and speaking, reading and math.

state conference

LR/RI undertook, with support from RIDE, and assistance from Literacy Volunteers of Rhode Island, Rhode Island's fourth annual education conference, held on May 11. Evaluations of the event - combining content workshops as well as publishers' sessions - were largely positive, with participants indicating interest in and suggestions for future conferences. Abstracts of conference offerings appear online here. Approximately one hundred twenty people attended the conference, as did a number of publishers, displaying information and educational products.

other ongoing activities

- the development and distribution via mail and email of LR/RI's bulletin through which information is regularly shared amongst agencies/practitioners LR/RI links people and information through the bulletin, which is also posted and archived on its web site. The bulletin is directly distributed to over 400 individuals, representing over fifty educational and/or professional development service providers within the state and region.

- participation in regional and national work through on-line discussion groups (listservs), meetings, and task-based committees, and furthering conversations about policy, instruction and pedagogy amongst an international group of participants working in adult language and literacy development. As before, as a result of LR/RI's dissemination efforts, a growing number of practitioners in the state participate in national, international and state-based listservs in the areas of literacy policy and advocacy (NLA), intergenerational literacy learning (NIFL-family), learning disabilities (NIFL-LD), professional development (NIFL-AALPD), program quality (NIFL-PLI), women and literacy (NIFL-WOMENLIT) and English language learning (NIFL-ESL). (NIFL's women and literacy list recently merged with its poverty and race list).

- membership in and participation on the board of directors of the New England Literacy Resource Center; through regional work sponsored by the New England Literacy Resource Center, practitioners remain involved in national projects, including work around the Equipped for the Future role maps and standards, VERA (Voter Education and Registration and Action) and Transition to College. As well, a number of practitioners and colleagues from the state participated in a day long advocacy event in New Hampshire, aimed at building coalition and learning about effective advocacy practice for adult learners and educators.

Janet Isserlis is a member of the LINCS Family Literacy and ESL Special Collections Core Knowledge Groups. These groups oversee content decisions made about the NIFL's

special collections and work throughout the year on maintaining and improving these on line resources.

- development of locally-produced content for LR/RI's own web site. Chief among this content are reports from practitioners, as well as learner-generated writing and statements.

- distribution of The Change Agent in hard copy and through links to The Change Agent on-line, and contribution of content to the online version (extension exercises developed to broaden the usefulness of The Change Agent for beginning level English language literacy learners). See:, and MATSOL, the Massachusetts affiliate of TESOL, which encompasses a Rhode Island affiliate; moderation of TESOL's Adult Education interest section listserv.

- production of a web-based resource system: LR/RI's web site is linked to that of the National Institute For Literacy - through its state directories and search engine, through the Eastern LINCS site and through various postings on NIFL literacy listservs, and is also linked to a number of state literacy resource center web sites listing adult literacy centers and/or resources. Additionally, links to LR/RI can be found at over 60 online sites. Sites linking to LR/RI, and/or to which LR/RI has contributed, appear here.

- LR/RI worked with RIDE staff and staff at Project Learn to develop possibilities for growing learner leadership in the state, and continued to work informally with VALUE, a national learner organization, to support its national and local initiatives.

- LR/RI compiled a list of promising ESOL programs in the state, which was later included in a listing of such programs across the country.

conferences, presentations, trainings

During the 2005-2006 project period, LR/RI represented the state, along with other practitioners, at the fourth annual state adult education conference, facilitating a workshop on planning, reflection, teaching and learning - focused on ESOL literacy at many levels. Janet was part of a panel of educators and scholars discussing community literacy at the American Anthropological Association's annual conference ((November, 2005) and at the American Educational Research Association's annual conference (in April of this year).

Other workshop presentations include facilitation of two ESOL Basics sessions ESOL practitioners on Martha's Vineyard, through SABES Southeast, a workshop on teaching basic level ESOL literacy for Literacy Volunteers of Washington County, and a demonstration for new and returning tutors at English for Action. Janet worked over the past year in order to assist English for Action in strengthening its teacher training and curriculum development work, meeting with both administrative and teaching staff on a regular basis, and recently joined EFA's board of directors.

Janet continued to offer input on issues in adult literacy relevant to health education to Dr. Dannie Ritchie's TCHI (Transcultural Community Health Initiative) work. TCHI's principal objective is to create community health worker (CHW) training programs, to be made available to organizations to train community members to be liaisons between their community and health care providers. The initiative works on many levels and builds on existing networks to improve educational options, provide new labor force options, and promote community organizations, advocacy, and health literacy. LR/RI has attended meetings related to community health and the development of a health workers' curriculum as part of its role in promoting awareness of the needs of people with a wide range of literacy abilities.

In terms of her own professional development, Janet began the process of becoming trained as a BEST Test administrators' trainer, and also attended the LESLLA (Low Educated Second Language and Literacy Acquisition - for Adults) conference in November of this year.

Janet is also a participant in the TIAN (Teachers Investigating Adult Numeracy) project, which was launched in Rhode Island in October, and continues throughout the program year.

advocacy for adult learners and practitioners in the realm of policy and practice LR/RI provides information to the field and other stakeholders, through dissemination of policy updates and other relevant information on its web site, through a dedicated email list and through the bulletin. LR/RI continues to contacted by those within and beyond the field seeking information about literacy and adult education needs and services, and has worked especially to build relationships with providers and others who also work with adult learners in various capacities across disciplines. LR/RI was also on the planning committee of the above-mentioned advocacy event hosted by the New England Literacy Resource Center, and continues to work with NELRC in formulating plans for ongoing advocacy for adult learners and educators.


The LR/RI website is constantly updated, including the archiving of all bulletins. Janet continued her participation in the larger effort of developing the Adult Literacy Education Wiki's page on intergenerational literacy, and has contributed to other sections of the Wiki, a site designed to collect and disseminate practitioner and expert wisdom across all areas of adult education provision.

developing professional development opportunities for adult education practitioners

LR/RI's work has been informed and driven by the rationale that professional development is most meaningful when practitioners have opportunities to process learning, share, rehearse, and reflect upon changes they make in their practice and to have a voice in determining the kinds of professional development in which they participate. The work is also informed by an awareness that adult education workers are at varying stages of capability and readiness to learn - from those for whom a one-off workshop might be of value, to those for whom a more intensive, reflective process would be in order. LR/RI has been committed to providing follow up to its workshops - either through sharing sessions, web-based continuation or other means of extending learning - so that teachers might feel more supported and less isolated in their work.

direct teaching

Janet continued to tutor Jessica Gonzalez at the Adult Correctional Institution. Work with Jessica is geared to support her progress in exploring her own writing and expression. In the past year, Jessica continued to work on writing, keyboarding skills, data base and spread sheet software and has also been working on numeracy-related tasks as part of the project TIAN work. Janet had been tutoring a young woman through a community volunteer effort; her work is focused on very basic reading and writing strategies. This second woman subsequently gained employment at Brown University where she had the opportunity to participate in worksite classes. Janet also tutors one basic level reader, a man in his early 60's, and another man of the same age, who is working on improving his writing skills. The rationale behind this direct teaching work is that in order to provide teacher education, the provider her/himself must be actively teaching. While not able to maintain an ongoing classroom, this contact with learners, nonetheless, informs Janet's work as a teacher educator.

professional development in Rhode Island - collaboration and future plans

Adult learners and practitioners bring strengths as well as needs to educational processes; recognizing and building from these strengths is an intrinsic part of adult education practice and is explicitly addressed in all elements of professional development activity. Professional development needs to occur through a variety of delivery models and in a sustained and ongoing manner if it is to be effective. The need continues to exist for sustained activity over time to enable practitioners to come together to share information, reflect upon practice, read, generate information, advocate, and explore exemplary practice locally and beyond. Raw interview data from the Governor's Task Force asset-map, as well as ongoing anecdotal experience, indicates a range of understandings on the part of program administrators as to what constitutes professional development, where it is needed, by whom and to what extent. A large part of LR/RI's work - in concert with the Professional Development Work Group - has been focused on clarifying understandings of the value of professional development while concurrently providing opportunities for practitioners to participate in a range of professional development activities and processes. To this end, Janet was part of a subcommittee of the PD work group working on the development of an orientation process of teachers new to the state and/or new to adult education. It is anticipated that the new Professional Development Center will bring this work to implementation.

LR/RI worked to afford a greater number of literacy and language development practitioners opportunities to meet with one another and to participate in staff development activities in order to reflect and act upon current experience and thereby increase capacity in terms of:

- knowledge bases / access to exemplary practices, to colleagues and collegial channels and to information (print and other media)
- expansion of understandings of adult education and the perspectives held by various stakeholders within adult education in the state
- participation in assets-based professional development and leadership education to expand understanding of and influence over systemic forces impacting literacy education.

This work is undertaken with the goal of assisting adult educator in obtaining the following:

increased access to professional development resources and processes
increased ability to communicate / interact with the field
increased leadership capacity for individuals and programs
development of sustainable professional development networks engaged in ongoing projects and activities in order to provide the best possible resources and instruction for adult learners in the state.

Literacy educators need a cohesive base for professional development. Too few people access professional development opportunities not only because of lack of funding, but also because most adult educators work in more than one part time position so that finding the time to participate is problematic. Addressing these concerns and building a strong, local base for professional development has driven much of LR/RI's work over the past nine years. A vision that recognizes individuals engaged in adult education as dedicated professionals must encompass provision of ongoing and sustained opportunities for development for them, and by extension, for the communities they serve. LR/RI continues to work on strengthening partnerships and communication among education entities across the state. Recommendations re: all of the above were refined and completed by the PD work group, working with its consultant, Cassandra Drennon, with particulat attention given to assets-based professional development and support to be made available to the field. At this writing, LR/RI is poised to work with a new PDC in ways that best meet the needs, and affirm the strengths of the field.

ongoing communication/information sharing

LR/RI has developed a viable communications network. Its web site and regular bulletin distribution are in place, and, over the years strengthened, so that this information did not stop at the front line (i.e. a program director who may or may not distribute the information). Through proactive outreach, a growing number of adult educators receive copies of the bulletin directly (via mail or email). LR/RI has continuously responded to requests for information in the areas of employment, professional development opportunities and general information about adult education, and received information for dissemination through its bulletin, responding to Rhode Island-specific requests as well as to requests from practitioners nationwide.

LR/RI worked to support Judy Titzel, Donna Curry, Andy Nash and others in the development of teacher education in the areas of math and EFF, standards development and review, and continued development of standards reporting processes. LR/RI is working in concern with these colleagues in order to implement next steps for participants in the standards institute and through Project TIAN, as well as to broaden the net to include educators new to the materials and approaches. As well, we need to continue to assist practitioners in understanding connections between their own observations of learner progress and ways of linking that progress to standards-based reporting systems.

moving the field forward

In its last month, LR/RI remains committed to supporting an assets-based, practitioner-driven means of moving the field forward in ways that broaden our understandings of adult learners' needs and strengths, and recognize and strengthen connections between discrete areas (e.g. health, housing, community wellness, civic participation) and literacy learning itself. Adults come to literacy instruction with experience and expertise and also with questions and needs to be addressed.

Drawing on learners' stated goals, negotiated curricula processes and increased understandings for adult educators about both theoretical underpinnings and methodological realities while posing broader questions in important contexts remains critical to the work of professional development in the state. While RIDE and individual programs have supported practitioners' professional development, there is a pressing need in the state to increase linkages and communication between and among practitioners and programs.

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