LITERACY RESOURCES/RI/1  Progress report, July, 2001

OVERVIEW OF PROJECT PERIOD: 7/01 - 6/02 and workplan 2001 - 2002

Literacy Resources/Rhode Island continues to address its mission of maximizing collaboration and cooperation among adult educators/literacy providers in Rhode Island, and strengthening connections among existing and emerging adult education programs and practitioners. LR/RI works to expand existing professional capacity of the adult education field in Rhode Island, thereby strengthening the quality of adult literacy instruction.

During the past year, LR/RI has built on previous initiatives and explored new directions, particularly in the area of practitioner-driven inquiry. In addition to her ongoing work, described below, LR/RI's project director developed and implemented a program, funded by the United Way of Southeastern New England, through which women in shelter at the Women's Center of RI were invited to participate in literacy-related activities, with and without their children. The project grew in unanticipated ways, including the participation of Brown University students, funded through America Reads, and trained in child language and literacy development. These students collaborated in the project's delivery so that children received literacy-infused, age appropriate activities while their mothers had opportunities to use reading and writing as tools for reflection, healing and action.

LR/RI addresses its interdependent priorities of building capacity and strengthening communication by linking existing Rhode Island adult education, literacy and human resources providers and learners via the Internet, and through direct contact in various forms. Work at the Women's Center is one example of ways that LR/RI has sought to expand awareness of literacy issues to providers of social services and to deepen mutual understandings of adults' needs and strengths ­ both relative to and beyond language and literacy development.

specific activities have included:

- the development and distribution via mail, email, fax, of LR/RI's bulletin through which information is regularly shared amongst agencies/practitioners. LR/RI has continued to link people and information through the bulletin, which is also posted and archived on the web site. The bulletin is directly distributed to over 230 people, representing approximately 80 educational and/or professional development service providers.

- assisting practitioners in connecting to one another through sharing/discussion sessions and facilitated meetings focusing on the areas of ESOL, intergenerational learning, women's issues in adult learning, learning disabilities, assessment, adult secondary education, technology and adult education generally.

Participation in sharing sessions enables practitioners to identify both need and interest in learning and teaching more about particular areas. Participation has furthered more in-depth exploration of particular topics and issues through the processes of sharing resources and jointly exploring topics of interest through practitioners' pursuit of inquiry project funds and other forms of support for their professional development endeavors. Participation in sharing groups has dropped in the past year in some areas (intergenerational learning, assessment, and women's issues for example; however in some instances, that participation has been supplanted by agencies' participation in World Education's Health and Literacy and Women and Violence initiatives, as well as shifts in practitionersı areas of focus).

The ESOL group continues to meet consistently; two practitioners responded to a call for a technology share, and one came forward for a meeting to discuss women and literacy. A recent sharing session, focussing on the MassInc report, New Skills for a New Economy, initiated by a program director, was attended only by that director, the state director for adult education and LR/RI. Although we were a small group, discussion arising from that meeting has led to steps reflected in the action plan that follows this review.

It is possible that without a 'real' product or discrete goal, many educators do not see the value in coming together to discuss their work. The ESOL discussion group often chooses a focus for its meetings; other sharing groups have done so as well in the past. However, it seems that at present, practitioners are more likely to attend events that are either recommended by the state director and/or lead to 'new' skills ­ e.g. workshops for the new GED test.

- participation in regional and national work through listservs, meetings, and task-based committees, geared towards furthering the National Institute for Literacy's LINCS national and regional web sites, work on the publications committee of Northeast Lit Tech, and development of locally-produced content for LR/RI's own web site. Additionally, Janet Isserlis is a member of the LINCS Family Literacy and ESL Special Collections Core Knowledge Groups, and also serves on the National Center for ESL Literacy Education (NCLE) advisory board.

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).

- distribution of Captured Wisdom, a video and CD Rom illustrating ways in which to integrate technology into adult basic education and ESOL programs..

activity relevant to addressing the priorities within and beyond the state

- telephone and face-to-face consultation with educators and interested others including referrals, provision of information about programs, employment and volunteer opportunities, pedagogy, legislation, statistics and responses to requests for information and/or technical assistance, including those from Congressmen Patrick Kennedy and others within and beyond the literacy provider network.

- membership in and participation on the board of directors of the New England Literacy Resource Center.

- production of a web-based resource system: LR/RI's web site is linked to the National Institute For Literacy - through its state directories and Eastern LINCS and through various postings on NIFL literacy listservs, and is also linked through a number of state web sites also listing state literacy resource centers. Additionally, links to LR/RI can be found at over 20 (and counting) online sites, including those of the NIFL ESL Special Collection and others. Current sites which link to LR/RI appear, and/or to which LR/RI has contributed include those listed here

During the project period, LR/RI represented the state at the international TESOL conference (March, 2001), co-facilitating a panel reviewing a document supporting the need for ESOL services within the larger National Literacy Summit Agenda, co-presented a session for the Refugee Concerns Interest Section, the Effects of trauma in adult learning contexts , and co-facilitated a workshop on diversity and women's learning at the Third Annual Women and Literacy Conference in Atlanta. Janet also edited the TESOL Adult Education Interest Sectionıs newsletter for the past two years.

Other workshop presentations include follow-up work on the NIFL fellowship ­ workshops on violence and learning at three SABES centers, and a co-facilitation of a session on women and literacy at the Literacy Assistance Center in New York in December, 2000 .

Janet was one of 15 adult education practitioners in Region I to participate in a week-long intensive < a href ="" web training course in Vermont during the summer of 2000. The course has increased Janet's ability to provide technical assistance to those wishing to create online materials as well as expand her own current web design and production skills. . Through her participation in that course, Janet produced a web site focused on issues of violence for beginning level readers:

advocacy -- advocating for adult learners and practitioners in the realm of policy and practice

During the project year, LR/RI was present at meetings of the Adult Education Commission. LR/RI also provides information to the field, and specifically to members of the Commission, through dissemination of policy updates and other relevant information on its web site and through the bulletin. Janet has been an active member of the Commissionıs advocacy sub-committee and a vocal proponent of learnersı and teachersı rights within the state.

LR/RI has also attended meetings of the Education and Training Collaborative, an ad hoc entity funded by the Poverty Institute, RIDE and others with the goal of exploring the need for, and allocation of adequate resources to education and training for adult learners and TANF recipients in the state. This process, contentious at times, began during the first project year and continues as of this writing.

LR/RI is working with VALUE, a national learner organization, to support its national and local initiatives. Janet has participated in VALUE's board nomination processes and is working with the committee to expand portions of the VALUE web site, and to develop its learner handbook. LR/RI, through its RIDE funding, also sponsored participation of Rhode Island learners at VALUE's upcoming national conference and will work with that learner and others in the state to support and promote learner leadership following the conference and throughout the coming year.


- June/2000: a digest on ESOL learners and trauma, through the National Center for ESL Literacy Education ( )
- Field Notes (Volume 10, Number 1, Summer, 2000) ESOL resources
- Field Notes, (Volume 10, Number 4, Spring, 2001) On the Screen: Women and Violence
- ongoing web development and publication through Literacy Resources/RI website - review:Too Scared to Learn: Women, violence and Education in Adult Basic Education, Volume 10 Number 2.

developing professional development opportunities for adult education practitioners / review of activities

Since its inception, LR/RI has been 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 take part.

LR/RI again worked with the RI Department of Education to facilitate a round of practitioner inquiry projects, posting initial proposals, interim and final reports on its web site and meeting monthly with practitioners. Reports of 2001 inquiry projects are posted on line.

The following describes professional development activities, the planning and/or implementing of which LR/RI was entirely or partially responsible, and/or in which it participated:

direct teaching, conferences, workshops, meetings

LR/RI continues to participate in the New England LD partnership project, providing support to Rhode Island's team of three practitioners in the form of access to technology and needed communications assistance, and in disseminating information about the project on an as-needed basis. LR/RI has also functioned in an advisory capacity to the team. During the year, LD activities included:

The RI Bridges to Practice team implemented a five-part workshop series between in 2001 addressing identified needs of practitioners working with LD adults

- Robin Schwarz facilitated a workshop focussed on LD issues and ESOL learning and teaching; evaluation feedback indicated an interest in inviting her back to the state in the coming year for a follow-up workshop.

LR/RI has met with the regional Bridges planning team and with Steve Brunero, whose work is closely related to that of the Bridges team. Interestingly, the connection to Robin came from that of one of the Inquiry projects, when LR/RI was able to connect Robin to the practitioner working on ESL and LD issues. Robin's generosity in responding evolved to an invitation to share her important work with others in the state.

During the summer of 2000, LR/RI facilitated open computer drop-in sessions at Brownıs Center for Information Technology, enabling students at YouthBuild and area practitioners to utilize the internet, to learn about its offerings and to disseminate information about LR/RI's on line resources. That program continues, albeit in shortened form (fewer sessions) during the summer of 2001.

LR/RI's project director continues to meet with literacy practitioners and program administrators. During the spring she undertook an informal inquiry into in-house professional development practices, meeting with the educational director of one of the larger programs in the state. Although LR/RI sent written documentation to this director and a key staff person of that agency, there has been no response to suggested next steps and the process has been temporarily stalled. The issue of participation in professional development events continues to be one of keen interest and concern, and one which has been discussed periodically with the state director of adult education. Plans for the coming year include attempting to deepen this conversation across the field.

Janet was invited to participate in the development of workplace literacy training for educators involved in both pre-placement and on-site work related instruction, and will be available to that planning group on an as-needed basis. She is also often contacted by program directors and practitioners seeking information about possible sources of technical assistance; Janet is able to provide some of that assistance herself and/or recommend appropriate others.

In addition to the literacy facilitation described above at the Womenıs Center of Rhode Island, Janet also continues to tutor two women at the Adult Correctional Institution. One of those students was recently transferred to an out of state facility, but continues to work with Janet by mail. The second student is due to be released in November. Both learners have made strides in their educational development; Janet plans to work with the woman remaining in state to assist her transition to another educational program upon her release.

As a result of LR/RI's dissemination efforts, a number of practitioners in the state have participated in national and state-based on-line discussion groups (listservs) in the areas of literacy policy and advocacy (NLA), intergenerational literacy learning (NIFL-family), learning disabilities (NIFL-LD) and regional and national concerns around English language learning (NIFL-ESL). Additionally, 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, women and violence, field testing of ELINCS online courses, and transition to secondary studies.

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 people to come together to share information, reflect upon practice, read, generate information and advocate, and explore exemplary practice locally and beyond.

LR/RI works to afford a greater number of literacy and language development practitioners in the state 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 model 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 leadership education to expand understanding of and influence over systemic forces impacting literacy education.

This work is undertaken with the goal of :

increasing access to professional development resources and processes

increasing ability to communicate with the field

increasing leadership capacity for individuals and programs

development of sustainable professional development networks engaged in ongoing projects and activities

Literacy educators need a cohesive base for professional development. A chronic reality is that too few people ac-cess 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 becomes problematic. Addressing these concerns and building a strong, local base for professional development has continued and will continue to drive much of LR/RI's work. A vision that recognizes individuals engaged in adult education as dedicated professionals must en-compass provision of ongoing and sustained opportunities for development for them, and by ex-tension, for the communities they serve. LR/RI continues to work on strengthening partnerships and communication among education entities across the state.

With the shift in RIDE's funding from one to two-year cycles, LR/RI hopes to assist RIDE, where appropriate, in shaping requests for proposals that mirror the strength and vitality of programs and also to assist programs in gaining the skills and resources needed to respond to those RFP's.

Literacy Resources/Rhode Island workplan - July 1, 2001 - June 30, 2002

As it is administered by the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University, LR/RI continues to utilize University technical assistance for implementation of Internet applications and University space for conferences, meetings and colloquia. During the coming work period, LR/RI and the Swearer Center will also oversee fiscal arrangements regarding disbursement of payments for activities as indicated by the state director of adult education, thereby facilitating payment processes to those involved.

LR/RI is constantly working to increase participation in professional development opportunities available to adult educators in the state. These opportunities have come in the form of: sharing sessions, (which encourage practitioners to come together to identify their own strengths and needs, and connect practitioners to human and material resources needed to strengthen and ameliorate practice); participation in inquiry projects, ongoing workshops, and an open invitation to practitioners to utilize LR/RI to cover classes so that teachers may observe and discuss one anotherıs work. As well, LR/RI has supported the state directorıs initiatives (extended LD training, for example) and planned undertakings (GED 2002 trainings), as well as those of the HRIC training teams by disseminating that information through its bulletin and also, when appropriate, providing access to web-based and other supporting materials as part of the larger process of disseminating information and supporting educatorsı professional development.

Specific areas of ongoing focus include/specific actions to be taken over the course of the next funding period:

- increasing use of, support for and access to the internet and related technology by continuing to provide access to practitioners and learners wanting to learn to use the technology, and providing training as needed in order to facilitate integration of technology into adult education practice


LR/RI will re-invite practitioners to participate in sharing/discussion sessions on technology and to offer ongoing internet/computer training to the field on an as-needed basis, in addition to its summer drop in session at the Center for Information Technology. It will also work with the state director of adult education to consider both online packaged learning courses as well as ways to continue to assist educators in learning how to integrate existing trade applications and internet sites into their courses. As well, the Swearer Center for Public Service is engaged in technology education at the Mt. Hope Neighborhood Center which will enable us to develop and demonstrate viable technology training activities, and LR/RI will participate in this process.

- dissemination of information / increasing access to national, regional and local information, conferences, and projects


- maintain an online inventory of program information in concert with LVA-RI/HRIC, increase sharing of in-house and cross/joint collaboration where possible. - continue development of the web site: links, pages developed for particular interests, local practitioners adding content (e.g, EL Civics, created in July of this year) - continue to develop and disseminate the bulletin as noted above

professional development activity


- continue work to expand opportunities, as mentioned above, for practitioners to observe one another within and across programs/agencies

- increase practitioner facilitation of/reporting on sharing sessions so that LR/RI has a less active and more supportive role

- continue to address practitioners' requests for assistance on an as-needed basis

- work with the state director of adult education to address those priorities identified in the MassInc report, New Skills for a New Economy, specifically, intensity of classes, development of weekend classes and technology and distance learning.

- develop and support of inquiry projects, and other priority areas to be identified in concert with the state director and other stakeholders. Expand the ways in which inquiry is undertaken by collaborative development of a new model, seeking practitioner input and strengthening and clarifying expectations of inquiry project participants.

- support Bridges to Practice training team. In addition to providing support to the team, LR/RI will continue to work closely with the state director to ensure that adult educators will receive information about diagnosis/assessment available to learning disabled adults and will also work with the state director and LD team to educate program directors and practitioners about the ramifications of different testing instruments as part of a substantive statewide effort towards systemic change. Where feasible, LR/RI will serve as a coordinating entity, through which the state's LD training team can receive support (mailing, meeting space, information dissemination, meeting facilitation on an as-needed basis) and will also participate in ensuring that the field becomes aware of the diagnostic assessment procedures available to up to 125 adults in the state through the agreement between RIDE and URI, should this assessment/diagnoses work be continued into the next project period. At this writing, Bridges funding has not been confirmed; should the National Institute for Literacy not fund this effort, LR/RI will work to find ways to support the teamıs ongoing work within the state.

- develop new funding sources for professional development opportunities which strengthen connections between the adult education field and other social service/community providers whose clients / customers utilize services across domains.

LR/RI has worked informally with staff of the Department of Children Youth and Families in order to expand DCYF workers' awarenesses of ways in which literacy impacts upon the lives and activities of their clients, and will explore additional means of communicating with other social service providers whose clients/customers overlap with those of adult education.

Other areas of professional development for which additional support will be necessary include supporting programs in implementing two-year grants under the Workforce Investment Act, improved means of assessing and reporting on learner/program progress, as well as an ongoing responsiveness to practitioners' requests for information, assistance and access to one another.

LR/RI's work will be evaluated through the use of paper/pencil evaluation at the completion of workshop sessions, as well as pre-post surveys of those participating in the workshops and discussion groups and other means of assessing the project's usefulness in terms of direct classroom instruction and increased practitioner knowledge/learning. Indicators of success will be found in teachers' and program directors assessment of improved classroom practice, and (where feasible) through learners' reports as well.

ongoing communication/information sharing

LR/RI has developed a viable communications network. Its web site and regular bulletin distribution are in place, but also need to be strengthened so that this information is not stopped at the front line (i.e. a program director who may or may not distribute the information). To this end, a growing number of adult educators receive copies of the bulletin directly (via mail or email). Increased proactive outreach to others in the field will continue. LR/RI continuously responds to requests for information in the areas of employment, professional development opportunities and general information about adult education, receives information for dissemination through its bulletin (these requests arrive via phone, fax and email), and also responds to both Rhode Island-specific requests as well as requests from practitioners nationwide. Its project director attends meetings of the state's key literacy groups, in an ongoing attempt to ensure that information is shared as broadly as possible amongst key stakeholders.

Development of teacher education in the areas of math and also supporting efforts to assist teachers with the changes in GED 2002: for example:

From a memo to the state director: It seems that we need assistance not only in preparing for the new GED, but also in helping teachers - ABE, ASE and ESOL look at ways of integrating and incorporating math thinking and critical thinking into their ongoing curricula. This professional support could take the form of ongoing sharing/discussion groups as well as periodic workshops with the sharing groups in place to support the learning and exploration that we hope teachers will undertake vis a vis math. We've discussed practitioners who may be well positioned to facilitate these sharing sessions as well as some of the workshops - depending on what further needs are identified by practitioners.

I'd see a series of sharing sessions (monthly) to commence at the beginning of the academic year and continue through the academic year. Through these sharing sessions we could learn more about what practitioners feel their areas of strength and weakness around math to be and plan workshops and other events to support their learning. In order to help teachers understand that math isn't just for "math teachers" we'll need to think about how to invite folks in a way that helps them see, from the beginning, ways in which math is already connected to their ongoing work.

moving the field forward

LR/RI remains committed to building 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 met. 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 LR/RI does. On a day to day level LR/RI is committed, too, to assisting programs in understanding means of assessing learner goals and of reporting those goals to relevant funding sources. Part of this process includes sharing information about standards and reporting on line and through direct contact, as well as supporting initiatives of the state director (training for the GED 2002, assistance in outreach to practitioners for an NELRC course on Learning to Learn), and supporting other agenciesı efforts to share information about their workshops and events

LR/RI depends upon the participation of and input from adult learners, educators and administrators across the state, and appreciates suggestions received from literacy workers both within and beyond the Rhode Island. 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. Enabling these linkages to develop organically and over time seems a wise strategy in attempting to institu-tionalize the possibilities inherent in ongoing sharing and communication for those teaching in and administering programs for adult learners in the state. Literacy Resources/RI proposes to maintain its commitment to the state's adult education field in disseminating information and providing support for and access to professional development across the state in order to meet the needs of the learner populations as fully as possible in the manners described above and in ongoing consultation with the field.




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