Rhode Island state plan - professional development [SEC. 223. STATE LEADERSHIP ACTIVITIES]

draft 2/21/99

read other Adult Education State Plans

H.R. 1385 Workforce Investment Act of 1998

Title II--Adult Education And Literacy Subtitle A--Adult Education and Literacy Programs (continued)


(a) IN GENERAL- Each eligible agency shall use funds made available under section 222(a)(2) for one or more of the following adult education and literacy activities:

(1) The establishment or operation of professional development programs to improve the quality of instruction provided pursuant to local activities required under section 231(b), including instruction incorporating phonemic awareness, systematic phonics, fluency, and reading comprehension, and instruction provided by volunteers or by personnel of a State or outlying area.

(2) The provision of technical assistance to eligible providers of adult education and literacy activities.

(3) The provision of technology assistance, including staff training, to eligible providers of adult education and literacy activities to enable the eligible providers to improve the quality of such activities.

(4) The support of State or regional networks of literacy resource centers.

(5) The monitoring and evaluation of the quality of, and the improvement in, adult education and literacy activities.

(6) Incentives for --

(7) Developing and disseminating curricula, including curricula incorporating phonemic awareness, systematic phonics, fluency, and reading comprehension.

(8) Other activities of statewide significance that promote the purpose of this title.

(9) Coordination with existing support services, such as transportation, child care, and other assistance designed to increase rates of enrollment in, and successful completion of, adult education and literacy activities, to adults enrolled in such activities.

(10) Integration of literacy instruction and occupational skill training, and promoting linkages with employers.

(11) Linkages with postsecondary educational institutions.

RIDE statement?

Literacy Resources/RI, the state's literacy resource center is commited to developing, strengthening and supporting professional development which is practitioner-driven and participatory in nature, and research-based in its approach. To this end, the following leadership activities are proposed as part of Rhode Island's transitional plan for 1999-2000. This plan will form the basis of continued discussion towards the development of the state's overall planning process for the remaining four years required by the Workforce Investment Act

activity ---> agency/ies ---> LR/RI, RIDE, programs

1. professional development for instruction

While one-off workshops can spark interest, and generate dialogue, professional development needs to occur through a variety of delivery models and in a sustained and ongoing manner in order to be effective 1 . The need exists for sustained professional development activity over time to enable people to come together to share information, reflect upon practice, read, generate information, advocate, and explore exemplary practice locally and beyond as part of the ongoing work of strengthening and improving educational provision in the state. The state of Michigan, in articulating its state plan, indicates that "[s]taff shall be involved in the program improvement process and share in decisions relative to student outcomes," and speaks of [p]rograms [having] an ongoing staff development process that considers the specific needs of its staff, offers training in the skills necessary to provide quality instruction, and includes opportunities for practice and systematic follow-up. 2 These qualities also speak to the rationale underlying the professional development activities proposed throughout this section.

LR/RI works to increase RI's adult education 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:

Toward that end, mini-grant awards have been offered, in addition to sponsorship of practitioner-developed and implemented workshops. As well, a core group of practitioners have become proactive in planning and participating in discussion sessions across the topics listed in section 4, and in sharing best practices with one another during meetings and through postings on LR/RI's web site.

Other formalized activities around professional development include:

There is a need in the state to increase linkages and communication between and among adult literacy practitioners, learners advocates and programs. Enabling these linkages to develop organically and over time seems a wise strategy in attempting to institutionalize the possibilities inherent in ongoing sharing and communication for those teaching in and administering programs for adult learners in the state. Based on input from the field, a professional development advisory board will be formed in the coming year to enable practitioners and learners to participate proactively in broadening input into and awareness of the state's professional development activities, and in working towards increasing opportunties for collaboration and reduction of duplication of activities where appropriate. Such a board should provide a structure through which to examine and discuss requests for professional development and to increase practitioners' input into suggesting areas in which they seek and/or can offer professional development opportunities colleagially.

Areas initially identified for particular attention 3 include

2. technical assistance ---> LR/RI, RIDE

The state director of adult education and LR/RI assist programs and individuals in obtaining assistance on an as-needed basis in the areas of curriculum articulation and development, access to resources, grant writing, technology planning and networking. Technical assistance is available to programs to enable them to talk through proposals, envision long term professional development planning activities, develop administrative solutions and procedures and otherwise have the support needed to accomplish their stated goals. Technical assistance activity has included discussion of particular proposals for workplace education, technology planning, curriculum development, and assessment. Based on input from the field, increased opportunities to learn more about grant writing, leveraging of funding, documentation (of both program and learner progress/outcomes), and report-writing strategies will continue to be made available, and will be more broadly publicized to the field.

3. technology assistance, including staff training ---> LR/RI, NIFL/Eastern LINCS

LR/RI provides open ended access to the internet through weekly drop-in session held during the summer months, as well as through sessions held on an as-needed basis both at LR/RI and at various educational agencies for adult learners and practitioners. Through the National Institute for Literacy's LINCS (Literacy Information aNd Communication System), numerous additional opportunities have been made available to the field in the areas of technology planning, implementation and usage.

As a result of LR/RI's dissemination efforts, (and in some cases, with its assistance), a number of practitioners in the state have subscribed to and participate in national on-line discussion groups (listservs) in the areas of literacy policy and advocacy (NIFL-NLA), intergenerational literacy learning (NIFL-family), learning disabilities (NIFL-LD), women and literacy (NIFL-women) and regional and national lists focussing on English language learning (NIFL-ESL and ESOLM). Since it is administered by the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University, LR/RI is able to utilize university technical assistance for the implementation of internet applications and university space for conferences, meetings and colloquia, in addition to providing access to student workers for the development and teaching of internet applications.

LR/RI and RIDE also disseminate information about other technology training offered regionally and nationally; to date five Rhode Island practitioners have participated in such training, and two programs have undertaken extensive work in the area of technology planning, with assistance from Eastern LINCS (Northeast Literacy Tech, since 2001)  and the National Center for Adult Literacy

4. State literacy resource center

LR/RI has as its goal the development of practitioner-driven and -sustained professional development activities leading to continuous improvement in classroom services delivered to learners in the state. LR/RI works to maximize collaboration and cooperation among literacy providers in Rhode Island. This work occurs through

Additional activity/events relevant to addressing the priority within and beyond the state: developing professional development opportunities for adult education practitioners.

LR/RI's project director works directly with practitioners and learners to provide assistance with classroom work, and/or coverage for teachers to enable them to observe and reflect upon one another's teaching, and fostering writing from learners for the web site. Recent input from the field suggests that this model is of interest, but that greater effort needs to be given to involving practitioners in such work.

LR/RI works with state-based literacy practitioners and program administrators, and participates in regional and national events including the Eastern LINCS Adult Literacy Technology Hub consortium, ongoing Internet publications work, and on advisory boards for the New England Literacy Resource Center's (NELRC) Voter Education, Registration and Action (VERA) and Adult Multiple Intelligences (AMI) projects. Regional work sponsored by the NELRC has enabled practitioners in the state to become actively involved in national projects, including work around the Equipped for the Future role maps and standards, VERA, AMI, and practitioner-based research. LR/RI also works closely with a practitioner leader participating in the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy's Practitioner Dissemination and Research Network, (PDRN) which involves dissemination of information about NCSALL research work to practitioners in the state.

As a result of this work (some of which began before LR/RI's inception, some of which has been created since its beginning), Rhode Island practitioners are better positioned to participate in regional and national endeavors. LR/RI has also co-hosted (with the Swearer Center for Public Service) national and international speakers and workshops around writing and learning, women and violence and home ownership.

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 the determination of the kinds of professional development in which they take part. Literacy/adult educators nationally and in Rhode Island need a cohesive base for professional development. Too few people are able to 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 becomes problematic. Work on addressing these concerns and building a strong, local base for professional development continues to drive much of LR/RI's activity.

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. Input from the field highlights the need for adequately paid planning and teaching time, and an acknowledgement of the professional work done by literacy practitioners. Collaboration with volunteers and the agencies utilizing their services is important in the larger process of improving language and literacy provision, and ultimately learning, as well.

Other areas of professional development for which additional support is sought necessarily include planning for changes under the Workforce Investment Act, improved means of assessing, articulating and reporting on learner/program progress, as well as an ongoing responsiveness to practitioners' requests for information, assistance and access to one another. Changes in federal legislation affecting both learners and practitioners continue to shape the parameters within which this work can be accomplished.

As the state develops its five year adult education plan, LR/RI is committed to working with the State Director of Adult Education in seeking input from stakeholders across the state in allocating resources made available under the five year state application, and is particularly committed to developing a professional development plan for state adult educators as well. LR/RI wants to increase participation in professional development activities, encouraging practitioners to come together to identify their own strengths and needs, and to connect practitioners to human and material resources needed to improve practice. It is anticipated that some of this work will occur through the research needed into formulating the state's plans for education and professional support; as well, monthly sharing/discussion meetings will continue to be offered in the content areas cited above.

Specific areas of ongoing focus include:

- increasing use of, support for and access to the internet and related technology

- increasing access to national, regional and local information, conferences, and work

- creating an inventory of programs' work - identifying who does what, what professional development is supported and sought; increased sharing of in-house and cross/joint-agency workshops/discussions groups

- dissemination of information through the bulletin

- continued development of the web site: links, pages developed for particular interests

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

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

-- LR/RI has participated in the work of the Mayor's task force on literacy studying the state of adult education provision in the city and forming recommendations based on that study.

-- LR/RI is present at meetings of the Adult Literacy Council, the Adult Education Commission, and the Governor's blue ribbon panel on adult education. In addition to attendance at these meetings, LR/RI provides information to the field through dissemination of policy updates and other relevant information on its web site and through its bulletin.

-- LR/RI is working with VALUE, a new national learner organization to support its national and local endeavors, including participation in Adult Education Week events held in May at the State House in Providence. 

5. monitoring and evaluation programs---> RIDE, LR/RI RIDE and LR/RI are available to support programs in developing appropriate monitoring and evaluation systems. RIDE will utilize funds under the auspices of the state leadership section to monitor and evluate procedures, are described in [RIDE narrative?] 

6. incentives for programs and performance programs ---> RIDE, LR/RI

(A) program coordination and integration

Systemic change is required in order to enable prorgram directors and staff to know more about one another's work and program opportunities available to learners statewide so that programs can coordinate and integrate their efforts to a broader extent. This is not so much a call for reduction of duplication of effort, (as all indicators lead to the clear need for services), so much a hope that critical first steps can be made towards more comprehensive development of programs and ancillary supports needed for learners/participants in those programs.

(B) performance awards

Possibilities exist for programs staffs to identify and disseminate information about promising and exemplary practices, in areas to be prioritized. Criteria should be developed to enable programs to identify areas of practice which they wish to examine and then to enable programs to explore those areas in ways that will be supported and subsequently acknowleged/made available to the larger field. What does the field want or need in terms of awards and acknowledgement that can be equitably assessed and granted?

- subsidies for practitioners seeking CEU's? 

7. developing and disseminating curricula

LR/RI has provided assistance to programs in the areas of developing and articulating curricula for both direct instruction and for professional development processes. Lesson plan and other work contributed by the field has been posted on the website.

Those areas addressed in the language of the WIA -- curricula incorporating phonemic awareness, systematic phonics, fluency, and reading comprehension -- will be addressed within the curriculum related activities envisioned for the state. LR/RI will work to make resource material relevants to those areas increasingly available through its website, sharing sessions and workshops on an as-needed basis. As well, input from practitioners indicates an interest in (re)examining standards and materials to be made available to programs statewide. 8. other activities of statewide significance

Since the dissolution of the state's affiliation with the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), there has been no statewide conference, per se. LR/RI, considering results of several focus group sessions held by its predecessor (The RI Literacy Resource Center), and listening to practitioners in the field, began a process of sharing and discussion sessions, believing that this form of professional development would best enable practitioners to identify both their own needs and strengths and subsequently participate in the development of statewide and local professional development activities.

In 1997, one practitioner came forward with a plan for an intergenerational literacy conference and engaged others in the field in deciding format, keynote speaker and content for that conference. LR/RI provided technical assistance in the form of advice and through publicizing the event online and in the Bulletin. That conference and a smaller, mini-conference held some weeks later, led to the acknowledgment that practitioners do in fact appreciate hearing from outside experts; two more half day conferences have been scheduled for the spring of 1999.

[omit next three paragraphs?

RI is a small state, but one that is difficult to bring together. As in other areas, chronic issues of time and remuneration plague the field. Where practitioners repeatedly state that they want access to one another and to professional development activity, these events are often under attended. Notable exceptions, however, include:

- sessions organized by the state's Practitioner Leader (of NCSALL's PDRN project)

- one a focus group to discuss the publication Focus on Basics, and a presentation of one of NCSALL's current research projects; - a presentation of findings from the national project, Equipped for the Future, in which local practitioners had participated during its early phases;

- practitioner-led sessions around learning disabilities.

Other ongoing sharing/discussion groups have small but regular attendance, with core groups accommodating newcomers regularly.

Over the transition year, it seems advisable to revisit the findings of the RILRC's initial focus group sessions and to elicit greater input from practitioners - teachers, counselors and administrators - in seeking not only staff development that supports these stakeholders' needs and strengths but also building the conditions -- ample time and remuneration -- needed to enable them to participate in these activities.]

-- LR/RI proposes that under the new legislation, it (or a designated entity) work as a clearinghouse to assist agencies in learning of and collaborating where feasible in professional development activities. 353 funds have often been difficult to obtain in a timely manner; a clearinghouse delineating those projects requested through 353 funding or its equivalent could be kept on the LR/RI web site for others to access once proposals have been read and evaluated. Agencies would then be better equipped to share information and resources across programs and to advocate jointly for increased access to information and resources in an informed manner. As well it is hoped that agencies may wish to collaborate with one another in the development and writing of projects prior to submitting proposals to RIDE and/or other funders.

9. coordination with support services ---> RIDE, program, HRIC, DHS

On a program level, this coordination does exist. However, given the limited nature of communication between and among programs, such coordination is not well known amongst the larger adult education community. LR/RI could assist in increasing awareness of and publicizing this information. Part of the larger work of coordination necessarily entails educating professionals in all areas (education, health, labor, social service, etc) about the work being done involving the adults who attend adult education programs and utilize the services being offered in the community/by state agencies.

10. linkages with employers and skills training

The Human Resources Investment Council, the Governor's blue ribbon panel, and the Workforce Literacy Collaborative are all focused on these linkages, with agencies such as the Institute for Labor Studies and Research and other programs participating to varying degrees in the development and provision of workplace and work-related training and instruction. Information about and emerging from workplace education (exemplary practice, connections to a network of educators providing services in workplaces and workplace representatives) should be more widely shared, through dissemination of information online, in meetings and in hard copy. 

11. linkages with post secondary

RIDE/URI/CCE connections?

LR/RI distributes its bulletin to representatives of the state's community college system, to Rhode Island College and to the University of Rhode Island. LR/RI is also participating with faculty at the University of Rhode Island in building connections between the university's studies into women and violence and its own work around women and literacy -- much of which is work pursued by the women's discussion group, meeting monthly since the fall of 1997. Other connections may exist at the program level. Additionally, informal consultations have occurred with education instructors at Brown University and many professional development opportunities/workshops are made available to all those named above, and in some instances, to postsecondary students as well.

addendum: This information was made available to the field as part of the process of developing LR/RI's professional development plan, and represents the rationale behind its development.

It is important for the field to consider the extent to which an entity such as LR/RI can provide access to needed services and resources and/or the extent to which programs might prefer to work in a less inter-related manner. What will best assist practitioners in doing their jobs?

assumptions about professional development:

Professional development works from strengths, not deficits. Practitioners are already capable of teaching well, while wanting to improve their practice in intentional ways.

Although people learn in different ways, the research on professional development suggests that one-off workshops are least likely to be useful to practitioners. While there are situations through which a workshop can be useful (such as in learning to use a particular piece of software ), without follow-up, or ongoing support - through a more knowledgeable peer, or mentor, or through a series of related activities, regular contact with colleagues

Staff development works best when it is practitioner - driven and -supported.

In addition to increased access to learning about classroom practice, professional development should also encompass

- access to information

- access to resources

- access to others in the field


- full time, supported professional development /recognition

forms of development:



study circles



sharing/discussion groups

[ see also arkansas typography of professional development activity ]

approaches to development : participatory 'expert' delivered

practitioners' qualities / 'best' practices

abilities/skills and knowledge to be measured through use of professional portfolios recommendations, based on what criteria

certification/practitioner recognition


1 see definitions/explanations of profesional development activites, from the Arkansas Adult Learning Professional/Staff development Plan, 1996-99, by Patricia White

2 From Michigan's state plan online at

3 As part of the process of developing this piece of the state plan, meetings were held with practitioners to address their concerns and interest in professional development; as well, input via telephone, mail and email is included here. 

draft last updated 2/25/99
page updated 2/27/03

To learn more about the state plan and the ways in which this draft has been incorporated into it, please contact Bob Mason, 401-222-4600, ext. 12180.

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