LITERACY RESOURCES/RI Progress report, July, 2004

OVERVIEW OF PROJECT PERIOD: 7/03 - 6/04 and workplan 2004 - 2005

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 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 and language instruction in the state. As well, LR/RI has, since September of 2003, been part of an extended process of re-visioning an adult education system for the state, through participation in various work groups of the Governor's Task Force on Adult Literacy. The goal of this work is in large measure congruent with that of LR/RI, namely to strengthen provision of learning opportunities to adults in the state and to provide professional development support to those whose jobs it is to work with those adult learners.

During the 2003-2004 program year, LR/RI built on previous initiatives and explored new directions, continuing in the area of practitioner-driven research projects, and also collaborating with RIDE and other state directors/literacy resource center personnel around the country in undertaking a process of sustained reflection and analysis regarding systemic approaches to professional development, most notably through participation in work group 3, professional development, of the above-mentioned task force. Additionally, LR/RI participated in meetings of the task force's workgroups on assessment, program quality and governance.

Leadership in action

During FY 02-03, Bob Mason, state director of adult education, and Janet Isserlis participated in a two-part professional development institute with the goal of helping us collaboratively analyze strengths and needs among literacy practitioners and to explore and implement mentorship opportunities for adult educators in the state. Believing that a strengths-based approach to mentoring enables practitioners to capitalize on one another's expertise and also serves to grow a viable professional development community within a culture that must support professional development and advancement, a survey was developed and distributed to the field, in order for RIDE and LR/RI to identify areas of strength and need amongst adult educators across the state. Our preliminary analyses of that ill-responded-to survey have fortuitously been aided by the asset mapping project of the governor's task force; it is our hope that the results of that survey process will provide us with the solid data we lacked resources to amass, and that said data will feed our work in the coming program year.

Practitioner inquiry

In response to past years' work with practitioner inquiry processes, RIDE and LR/RI agreed to slightly alter this year’s practitioner research work to accommodate teachers newer to research processes, by somewhat simplifying the expectation away from the recursive inquiry process to one resembling more traditional forms of research. We came to this decision after several meetings held in the summer of 2003. An initial meeting of practitioners interested in research took place on July 31st; as a result of their input (documented at, plans were made to alter the research focus for this program year to include a broader range of possible work – including literature reviews, surveys and other forms of research. It was hoped that this approach, which creates a more limited scope of work, would make the process more available to newer teachers. For the coming year, it is envisioned that a combination of approaches (more traditional, quantitative methodologies as well as inquiry-driven approaches) may be employed. Six practitioners took part in a modified research/inquiry process; their work appears in full report form at Their feedback on the process indicates that the coming year might accommodate both inquiry (as a process of reflection and learning) as well as more traditional research approaches, as implemented during this program year (see Workplan).

Practitioner involvement

LR/RI facilitated monthly sharing sessions of ESOL practitioners, disseminated information through its bulletin and website and continued to be present to professional development, policy and advocacy activity throughout the state, as detailed within this report. A new initiative related to this began in June of this year, and is aimed at EL/Civics practitioners wishing to focus their discussions on work related to language and civic participation learning.

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 is an ongoing struggle, 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 will miss a session. While 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, it remains a challenge to find ways to actively engage practitioners who would like to be involved in such sessions, but for whom the means to do so remain elusive. In the summer of 2003, the ESOL sharing group – a thriving group of practitioners who have met monthly for the past seven years – expressed interest in research models, particularly those deemed ‘appropriate’ for purposes of informing reports to funding sources, and were among those who informed changes into practitioner research work, as delineated above. In addition to their input into the research process, they were instrumental in bringing Rosalyn David, a researcher from the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL) to Providence, to demonstrate a reading research and instruction web site which she co-created. (

LR/RI undertook, with capable assistance from others in the adult education community, Rhode Island’s second (now) annual education conference, held on April 22, in a slightly expanded format from that of the< a href =""> first conference held in the spring of 2003. Over one hundred thirty people attended the conference, as did a number of publishers and programs displaying information and educational products. Evaluations of that conference were extremely positive, and will inform planning of the next conference, to be held in the spring of 2005 (see Workplan).

Other ongoing activities relevant to addressing the priorities within and beyond the state - the development and distribution via mail, email, and fax, 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 approximately 300 people, representing over forty educational and/or professional development service providers.

- participation in regional and national work through on-line discussion groups (listservs), meetings, and task-based committees, geared towards furthering the National Institute for Literacy's LINCS national and regional web sites, 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).

- 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.

Janet Isserlis is a member of the LINCS Family Literacy, Women and 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 inquiry participants, 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.,

-telephone and face-to-face consultation with adult students, educators, policy makers 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.

- participation in activities of MATSOL, the Massachusetts affiliate of TESOL, which is developing 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 at

conferences, presentations, trainings

During the 2003-2004 project period, LR/RI represented the state, along with other practitioners, at the second annual state adult education conference, participating directly in two workshops – one, co-facilitated with Dr. Dannie Ritchie, a medical doctor and public health researcher, addressing issues of health literacy, and at the second, Janet moderated a panel of current practitioner researchers.

Janet co-facilitated a workshop on violence and learning at the WELEARN conference on women and literacy, held at the University of Massachusetts in March, 2003. Other workshop presentations include co-facilitation of a full-day workshop on issues relevant to intergenerational literacy, at the Literacy Assistance Center, in New York City, and participation in ESOL training with our colleagues at SABES Southeast in June of this year. Janet also presented an overview of issues in adult literacy relevant to health education to Dr. Ritchie's working group during the spring as part of Dr. Ritchie's TCHI (the Transcultural Community Health Initiative) initiative. TCHI’s principal objective is to create a series of community health worker (CHW) training programs. These programs will be made available to community organizations to train community members to be liaisons between their community and health care providers. The health worker training programs will be offered in community-based organizations i.e. Minority Health Promotion Centers, and will be able to stand-alone or be part of a career ladder for diverse underrepresented communities. 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 been in regular contact with Dr. Ritchie, and has also attended meetings related to community health as part of its role in promoting awareness of the needs of people with a wide range of literacy abilities.

Janet facilitated a staff development workshop (approaches for ESOL instruction) for teachers at Progreso Latino in the spring of this year. The agency has expressed interest in a follow up session, and the agency’s lead teacher has participated in a number of sharing sessions. Janet also facilitated monthly sharing/discussion groups of ESOL practitioners and, with input from the field, launched a regular session for ESOL/ELCivics teachers, to carry on through the coming year.

In April, Janet participated in a two-day meeting of members of the LINCS Family Literacy and Assessment Special Collections Core Knowledge Groups, at which time issues of resources informed by research and best practices were discussed. Through this working meeting, continued plans were developed for strengthening these two particular collections, along with strategizing ways of increasing their relevance and availability to all in the field.

As one of 20 adult education and rehabilitation practitioners invited to participate in an intensive three-day train the trainer course sponsored by The American Foundation for the Blind's National Literacy Center in 2002, Janet was again invited to Atlanta (in the fall of 2003) for a two-day symposium of practitioners in the areas of literacy and services for the blind and visually impaired. The project, "Bridging the Gap: Best Practices for Instructing Adults Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired and Have Low Literacy Skills", has as its goal effecting systemic change in the way literacy instruction is delivered to people with visual impairments.. In collaboration with Boston's ALRI and SABES SE Janet worked to develop and publicize a two-part series of trainings, "Crossing Boundaries," which were held in the fall of 2003 at the SABES SE site. Practitioners from Rhode Island and Massachusetts learned about visual disabilities and the connections between adult learning for those with visual impairments. Janet, along with Sally Gabb at SABES and Maria Elena Gonzalez, at the ALRI, developed the trainings to support practitioner participation as well as to work towards systematizing both rehabilitation and literacy providers’ capacities to meet the needs of adults with visual impairments. Two workshops were held in the fall to address these needs; these workshops gave focus to adult learning needs of people with visual disabilities, and also drew on the expertise of our colleagues at the Carroll Center and the American Foundation for the Blind. Tina Tucker, staff liaison from the AFB attended and favorably reviewed the first of the two sessions, while offering invaluable input for both participants and facilitators.

Work with the AFB has also led to connections forged between LR/RI and the Office of Rehabilitative Services, and, most recently, collaboration with a number of providers in assisting a blind student in seeking access to test preparation materials for the GED. LR/RI is also part of an ad-hoc workgroup, organized by AFB, to develop a position paper re: making tests accessible for adult learners.

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

During the project year, LR/RI participated in meetings of the Adult Education Commission, and then, as mentioned above, at the Governor's Task Force. In addition to attendance at these meetings, LR/RI provides information to the field and other stakeholders, through dissemination of policy updates and other relevant information on its web site 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.

Janet was part of a team of stakeholders who worked to develop a Request for Proposals for the Governor's Innovation Fund grants, and was a reader of submitted proposals for that funding. As well, she has reads proposals for funding for EL/Civics, workforce development and library services. She has also contributed to the development of RIDE Requests for Proposals, giving feedback on an as-needed basis.

LR/RI participated in the development of a small (and successfully funded) grant to document practice at Providence's Interim School, a public school program through which disruptive middle school students are given academic and affective counseling and support in an effort to keep them out of the juvenile justice system. Given the increase in youth participation in adult learning, this program provides valuable information about the potential to assist youth in staying in school, while also informing the adult education community about ongoing efforts impacting on future students in our system, as well as on the children of those students already present within ABE/ESOL programs.

LR/RI continues to work with VALUE (, a national learner organization, to support its national and local initiatives. Along with Luis and Maria Vargas, student and former student, respectively, of Project LEARN, Janet co-facilitated a workshop on teamwork at the Learner Leadership Institute held June 26-28 in Tampa. In addition to Luis and Maria, another student from the Washington County Adult Learning Center also attended this conference, and have met during the year to develop plans for encouraging learner leadership in the state. This initiative moves slowly; a meeting called to encourage other adult learners to participate last spring was poorly attended. Efforts continue, through outreach to agencies and through information postings in the bulletin to strengthen this work. Preliminary data from the Governor’s Task Force asset-map indicates that many programs report addressing learner leadership in some fashion; LR/RI will follow up with those reporting to the survey as part of its ongoing effort to increase development of learner leadership in the coming program year.


- “The Good Mother” Exploring Mothering Discourses in Family Literacy Texts, with Suzanne Smythe, fall, 2003 Literacy Harvest, New York City: Literacy Assistance Center.

- participant in the writing of The Criminalisation of Women , Women in Action, No. 3, 2003 "Four experts … working within the penology system or in advocacy on women's issues chat online and discuss their views on the increasing number of incarcerated women and the reasons behind it; the role media plays in perpetuating stereotypes of women in prison; and the challenges that lie ahead in their advocacy for incarcerated women and/or prison reform."

- Contributor to Extending Practices... Building Networks: An Institute on Research in Practice in Adult Literacy, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

developing professional development opportunities for adult education practitioners

LR/RI's work is 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 is 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.

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

direct teaching

Janet continued to tutor Jessica Gonzalez at the Adult Correctional Institution. Jessica continues to work on learning software applications and on other work supporting her attempt to pass the GED, as well as participating in education programs offered at the site. Work with Jessica is geared to support her progress in preparing for the GED and also in exploring her own writing and expression. In the past year, Jessica has continued to work on writing, keyboarding skills, data base software and learning to speak French. Janet also began tutoring a young woman through a community volunteer effort; her work is focused on very basic reading and writing strategies. In both instances, 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 people to come together to share information, reflect upon practice, read, generate information and advocate, and explore exemplary practice locally and beyond. As well, raw interview data from the Governor's Task Force asset-map 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 will be 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.

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 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 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 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.

Literacy Resources/Rhode Island workplan - July 1, 2004 - June 30, 2005

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