In 2012, LNY received funding from the Walmart Foundation – Associate’s Choice Program to develop a Smart Consumer Literacy Program. Smart Consumer focuses on low reading/math level adult learners – helping them understand new consumer skills: budgeting, developing shopping lists, sales and coupon information, and comparison shopping. Learner and tutor pairs were given two $25 Walmart gift cards and they headed off to practice and demonstrate new skills. LNY affiliates participating in the project included: LV Clinton Co., Literacy Nassau, Literacy Orange, LV Rensselaer Co., LV Livingston Co., Literacy Buffalo–Niagara.
Feedback from project participants was incredibly positive. A letter to LNY from Linda Feldmann, Program Director at Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County captures the excitement everyone felt about the Smart Consumer Project. More importantly, Linda’s letter and the stories by tutor, Caroline Stallard and adult learner, Mayumi show the importance of literacy tutoring – how it changes the lives of learners and tutors and enriches us all.
Dear Literacy New York:
I wanted to share an anecdote with you from one of our tutors, Carolyn Stallard. Carolyn is moving away from our area to pursue her postgraduate degree. She has been tutoring a young woman from Japan. I asked Carolyn to tell me what the high point of her tutoring experience had been, and she said it had been completing the Smart Consumer Literacy program with her learner.
Carolyn said that her learner had been very engaged and motivated by the program, and had set the completion of the program within a specific period of time as a personal goal. The literacy level was slightly higher than the learner’s ability, so it was challenging, and the content was interesting. Carolyn told me that the look on her learner’s face upon completion of the Smart Consumer Literacy program was the high point of her tutoring experience. So, I wanted you to know. Thanks for making it available to our tutors and learners!
To give you a little picture of these two women, I’ve attached the stories they wrote for this year’s edition of Student and Tutor Stories: In Their Own Words.
Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County
1915 Fifth Avenue
Troy, N.Y. 12180
A Healthy Baby – by Mayumi
I gave birth to a healthy baby in January 2013.
I thought that it was uneasy to give birth in the United States because I am not good at English.
However, I learned the birth terminology from my tutor. She taught me how to respond at the hospital, and I was able to give birth in this country.
Giving birth in the United States has become a valuable experience for me.
My daughter loves her baby brother very much. Every day, my children make me happy.
My Friend Mayu – Carolyn Stallard
Picture this: It’s a quiet Monday morning at the East Greenbush Public Library. I pull into the parking lot, wondering how I will recognize the woman I have signed up to tutor through Literacy Volunteers. As I step out of my car, I see a Japanese woman getting out of her car, and she smiles at me. “Are you Mayumi?” I ask. She nods her head and we walk into the building together, relieved to have found each other so easily.
Inside, we find a table and begin to get to know each other. Right away, I can tell this is going to be a good experience. Mayumi explains that she is going to have a baby in a few months. This will be her first childbirth within the United States, so she wants to learn enough English to be able to communicate at the hospital. She pulls out a list of pregnancy terms and we begin reviewing the words. As we pull up pictures of baby bottles and breast pumps on my laptop, the man at the table next to ours glances over at us. I can only imagine what he must be thinking!
In elementary school, I had the privilege of tutoring two older boys from Pakistan. Each day, my best friend and I would leave our 2nd grade classroom and walk upstairs to teach English to these boys. The experience left quite an impression on me, and ever since then I have been interested in working with people from other cultures. It wasn’t until joining Literacy Volunteers, however, that I had the chance to once again teach ESOL. I am very grateful for the opportunity to tutor Mayumi and have learned as much from her as she has (hopefully) learned from me.
Tutoring Mayumi over the past few months has been a great experience. From the very first session right up until our last meeting, it has been amazing to watch her progress in her English abilities and confidence level. I was especially proud when she was able to call the hospital to schedule a tour and ask questions about the pregnancy ward, and I was overjoyed to visit her at home to meet her new baby earlier this month. I have loved getting to know Mayu as a student and as a person, and I look forward to restarting our tutoring sessions next month. I am so grateful for this experience and am happy to be able to call Mayu my friend.
Along with the National Coalition for Literacy (NCL), no one keeps abreast of adult literacy and education policy better than Jeff Carter. Jeff shares his insights on his Literacy | Policy blog at http://literacypolicy.org/ You can also follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffcrtr. His recent post outlines the Senate Immigration Reform Bill.
Outline of Senate Immigration Reform Bill
Posted on April 16, 2013 by Jeff Carter
The American Immigration Lawyers Association has posted a 17- page outline of the Senate Immigration reform bill which apparently will be called the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.” The outline does not provide much clarification regarding the English language requirement discussed in the principles statement released by the “Gang of Eight” Senators last January. In that document, they listed learning English and civics as one of the requirements that undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S. would need to meet in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency.
Read more at literacypolicy.org
According to a Pew Internet and American Life report, the number of people (age 16 and older) who read e-books increased from 16% to 23% in the past year. The number of those (16 and older) reading printed books fell from 72% to 67%. As the Pew report details, the move toward e-book reading coincides with an increase in the number of electronic reading devices and tablets. By the end of 2012, 19% of Americans (16 and older) owned e-book reading devices compared to 10% last year. Tablet ownership reached 25% of Americans (16 and older) in 2012, up from 10% in 2012.
Download the complete E-Book Reading Jumps; Print Book Reading Declines Pew Research report.
“In a world inundated by information, Susan Barnett says, “it is the compelling stories, not the issues, that will stand out and be remembered.” Stories, she says, “are the way we’ve communicated throughout human history: stories are powerful; they grab and hold our attention; they put a face on an issue and make it personal; they make people care; and, move them to action – both within your organization and outside of it.”
Barnett’s May, 2012 article on the Network for Good website is one of many Learning Center resources including free e-guides, articles, Webinars, case studies, research, and best practices. The Year-End Fundraising Resource Center includes Year-End Fundraising Essentials: How to make it easy for your donors to give this year, Woo & Wow with Social Media, You Had Me at “Hello” – The Mobile Frontier – and more. Sign up for the free, weekly Tips Newsletter and check out the Events 101 – Featured Stories.
In her article, Barnett quotes communication’s guru, Andy Goodman, who says it so well:
Even if you have reams of evidence on your side, remember:
numbers numb, jargon jars, and nobody ever marched
on Washington because of a pie chart.
If you want to connect with your audience, tell them a story.
Susan J. Ellis, President of Energize, Inc. published a May 2011 article that asked: “How do you get your community (and funders and the media) to give time and energy to your organization if it isn’t the current popular cause, is rarely noticed, or is so familiar it seems dated?” Does this sound like the adult literacy issue?
According to Susan, adult illiteracy was once at the top of the charts, “marked by intensive media stories (news items and human interest features), large grants to fund projects, and a flurry of subsequent activity…” How do we “challenge people to do something hard” and “how do we reconcile the long-term demands” of our cause “with the what’s new today push of media attention?”
Read the complete article at: www.energizeinc.com/hot/2011/11may.php
Why Long Fundraising Letters Outpull Shorter Ones
Jeff Brooks • November 2012 • Guidestar.org
“In surveys and focus groups, donors often complain about long fundraising messages. They say exactly what you or I would say: I don’t have time to read something that long. Why don’t they get to the point?”
“That’s what they say. But in real life, donors respond more often to long messages. We don’t know why” but as Brooks says: one possibility is: “the Aunt Ruth Theory: many donors just enjoy reading. More words mean more reading pleasure, and that means more connection and increased chances a person will give.”
Brooks goes on to say: “Some people believe the era of long messages is ending. They say text messaging, 140-character tweets, and changes in the ways people communicate and retrieve information work against people sitting down to read the way Aunt Ruth does. Maybe. But so far, longer messages are holding their own.” Read the complete GuideStar article here
WKBW News and the Buffalo – Niagara Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners honored Susan Shaft, Associate Executive Director at Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara with their October Women in Leadership award. Read the complete story and watch the video
Randy Trask, President and CEO of GED Testing Service, posted a blog piece: How Adult Education Can Help Close the Skills Gap on the Huffington Post 9/26/2012. Trask makes some good points about WIA reauthorization and employers investing more in education and job training programs. His comments about the new GED test elicited the following response from Lecester Johnson, Executive Director, Academy of Hope in Washington, DC.
October 4, 2012
The blog posted on the Huffington Post on Sept. 26 entitled “How Adult Education Can Help Close the Skills Gap” sounds incredibly promising but is, unfortunately, incomplete, potentially misleading and based on a faulty analysis of the current state of adult education in the United States.
The author, Mr. Trask, is right on point about the need to invest in adult education. What is incorrect is his implication that the problem is a matter of expectations and that rolling out a test with higher standards will in itself increase the number of adults prepared for college and careers. There is a critical and much more subtle issue of access that Mr. Trask is completely silent about. The revamping of the GED is, in theory, a step in the right direction. As adult educators, we absolutely want non-traditional adult learners to have career and college ready skills. That has been Academy of Hope’s mission in the District for close to 28 years. The fundamental problem is that this new GED test has the potential to leave thousands of D.C. adults behind. Here’s why.
Prohibitive Cost. What the author fails to mention is that the cost of the new GED is going to double or even triple. The current paper-based GED costs $50 — a fee that is already excessive for most of the learners at Academy of Hope. We have had to raise money to help cover this cost. The 2014 GED is set to cost $120 its first year with no guarantee of what the cost will be in subsequent years. The GED is, as Mr. Trask put it so eloquently, not an endpoint but a stepping stone to higher education and training, but raising the price of the GED will effectively make it inaccessible for those who need it the most: low-income and low-skilled adults.
Lack of Training and Resources. Mr. Trask also fails to mention, even as he advocates for government and private entities to invest more in adult education, that neither the GED Testing Service nor any official entity has provided sufficient resources for adult education providers to be able to prepare adult learners for the new exam. To date the GED Testing Service’s sole publication has been a three-chapter assessment toolkit which sheds some light on the format of the test and the type of questions but not nearly enough information on the content of the test. In order for adult education providers, whether they are part of the local public school system, community colleges or community-based organizations, to effectively prepare learners for the new test, we need a comprehensive process of technical training, resources and clear guidelines.
Rush to market. According to information released by the GED Testing Service, the new test will be launched in January of 2014. At a later date, possibly six to 12 months later, the practice test will be rolled out. At an even later date (12-24 months), a diagnostic exam will be released. This means that for up to two years, adults who wish to take the GED will have no way to assess their preparedness for the exam and will likely end up taking the exam multiple times, thereby increasing the cost. Perhaps the rush to push this product onto the market is because one of the parent companies of the GED Testing Service is Pearson VUE, a for-profit commercial testing company. Whatever the motivation, this is absolutely the wrong way of introducing a massively re-developed test that is the only nationally accepted and adopted equivalent of a high school diploma.
Adult education needs to be at the center of policy and national discourse, not just because of the financial implications, but because it is an integral and legitimate sector of how we educate people in this country.
Mr. Trask cites valid statistics about the labor market demanding more high skilled workers, the increased earning potential of workers with a high school credential and how a better educated populace brings down rates of incarceration and dependency on social services. More importantly, adults who improve their education are transformed; they gain confidence, self-esteem, a sense of purpose and empowerment. They become greater contributors to their children’s education, they are able to better understand and manage their health and that of their families, and they can participate more fully in society as informed citizens. The federal, state and local governments need to invest in training for adult educators and access to computers and Internet service, especially for low-income adults preparing to take the GED exam.
If the GED Testing Service truly believes that adult education can help close the skills gap and intends for the GED to be that stepping stone, then it needs to maintain the current cost of the test and refrain from launching the test before it can provide all the requisite resources, practice material and technical support for providers and learners.
Literacy New York staff worked with ElevationWeb.org and their Project Manager, Lucy Monroy to design and implement the new site. Several features, including the LNY Affiliates Only – password protected area – will be ready soon. Once in place, LNY affiliates will be able to access critical funding information and LNY and NYS Education Department forms.
Also to be added: a Board of Directors password-protected area (for Board materials and communications) and a Blog for LNY network trainers. Other features, updates and modifications will occur through an ongoing Website improvement process. LNY’s goal: to make our Website a resource-rich adult literacy portal for LNY affiliates and our literacy partners and friends.
A couple of years ago at the White Eagle Training Institute, LNY Trainers used author Anna Quindlen’s quote: “Writing helps us make sense of our lives” in their Program Initiative workshop. It’s a quote that clearly states one of the goals of this Blog: to write and communicate about the literacy work we do, to better understand its impact, to explore issues and develop new strategies to help us in our work – and to “make sense” of all of it.
A Great Adult Literacy Resource
On September 12, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) re-launched LINCS– the Literacy Information and Communication System (which for many years was part of the National Institute for Literacy). According to OVAE, “the improved, online professional learning community provides adult educators with access to resources; on-demand web-based professional development opportunities: online courses and face-to-face trainings; a connected network: community of practice; and real-time discussions.”
The new site provides a collection of quality, evidence-based online resources and the LINCS Community with 16 topic area groups including Technology and Learning, Disabilities in Adult Education, Diversity and Literacy and more. In the first week after the launch, over 1000 members joined the Community and the topic group areas have become very active.
LINCS will offer an Orientation to the LINCS Community/ Live Event in October to “help new users learn more about participating in a community of practice.” Find out more at: lincs.ed.gov and check out News & Events.