10th Annual Literacy Leadership Institute

Attention directors, program managers, and board members!

The 10th annual Literacy Leadership Institute will take place at the Hilton Altamonte Springs. This is an exciting professional development opportunity designed for directors, program managers, and board members of non-profit and library based adult and family literacy organizations.The Leadership Institute will feature of variety of expert speakers from around Florida. The topics addressed include:

  • The New GED Test Series
  • Fund Development
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Board Development
  • Volunteer Recruitment and Retention
  • Social Media

On top of all these wonderful presenters, attendees can get up to $350 in travel expenses reimbursed (restrictions apply)! Don’t miss your chance to attend this training. Sign up by March 1 in order to guarantee your spot.

When: March 21-22, 2013

Where: Hilton Altamonte Springs. Make your reservations online by March 1 to take advantage of the $99 group rate!

More information on the Leadership Institute and the registration form can be found here. If you have any questions please contact Jessica Ward, Education & Training Coordinator, at (407) 246 – 7110 ext. 203 or wardj@floridaliteracy.org.

This training opportunity is made possible by Florida’s Adult and Family Literacy Resource Center and funded through a grant from the Florida Department of Education, Division of Career and Adult Education.

We look forward to seeing you in March!

Which Adult Basic Education Program is right for your Adult Learners?

Here in Florida adult learners are fortunate enough to have the choice between two methods of earning a high school diploma or its equivalent. One can either enroll in an Adult High School program or take the General Education Development (GED) exam. While the AHS programs yield a high school diploma recognized by the state of Florida, passing the GED exam is the equivalent to obtaining a diploma. So what are the differences in these programs? Are there benefits/disadvantages of choosing one method over the other? How can you help your adult learners decide which program is right for them? Lucky for you, my dear reader, I did my homework.

Although each method effectively earns your adult learner a diploma or its equivalent (as long as he/she does his/her homework!), there are some factors to consider. You’ll first want to discover exactly how late into your adult learner’s high school career did he/she drop out. The Florida high school diploma requires that students receive 24 credits in order to graduate, so if your adult learner already has earned a good amount of these credits, he/she can simply enroll in an AHS program to finish what they started. If this endeavor would require the adult learner to spend a considerable amount of time and money pursuing an adult high school diploma, taking the GED is probably the choice route. This is likely the biggest factor to consider when choosing between AHS or GED.

In terms of coursework, both paths sufficiently prepare adult learners in the 4 core areas of Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science. The GED exam assesses these areas while the FCATs/EOCs assess these areas for AHS programs. Furthermore, successful completion of either program is recognized by state colleges and universities as equal to a high school education. Digital literacy skills may also factor into an adult learner’s decision since the GED exam becomes completely digital on January 2014.

Another factor is time, which of course drags along money. Adult learners usually prepare for the GED exam in 6 weeks, and it costs $120 for Florida residents. Re-takes in Florida cost $14 per sub-test, except for the Language Arts Writing section which costs $16, and $26 per sub-test for the 2014 GED test on computers. AHS programs require students to purchase books along with $30 per course for Florida state residents or $120 per course for out-of-state residents. Courses are more flexible for AHS programs, but they also take longer, normally lasting the length of a semester at college. It’s also worth noting that when preparing to move to high education, recipients of an adult high school diploma and those that passed the GED may qualify for a Bright Futures Scholarship.

It would be a shame not to finish this little five-paragraph essay (or drop that phrase for SEO) without some sort of conclusion. Before your adult learners enroll in an Adult Basic Education program, make sure that they consider all the factors. The amount of high school credits previously completed, time it will take to receive a diploma or its equivalent, and the costs of each program.

For more information on adult education, visit http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/adulted/.

For AHS programs- http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/dwdframe/pdf/AHS.pdf

For the GED exam- http://www.gedtestingservice.com/ged-testing-service

Greg Smith: An Ever Changing Landscape Makes Community Outreach and Advocacy More Important Than Ever

Greg Smith, Executive Director of the Florida Literacy Coalition

Thanks to all of you who were able to join me for our recent webinar on Community Outreach and Advocacy.    If you missed the session, it is still available to view on FLC’s website.

One of the themes that I tried to emphasize is the importance of being proactive in developing and communicating key messages that you want others to know about your program and the difference that you make in the lives of your adult learners.

It’s easy for communications and advocacy to take a back seat to the many other things that we need to get done on a day-to-day basis.  After all, investment of time and effort in this area doesn’t always produce immediate and recognizable benefits.  Literacy programs have always been under resourced and the downturn in the economy has made matters even worse.  Moreover, demand for services is still high with over 70% of Florida’s community-based literacy organizations reporting that they have waiting lists for instruction.

While it may be a challenge, it’s now more important than ever to make sure that our communities, including key decision makers, are aware of the work that we do.   This includes elected officials at the local, state and national level.  The legislative and political landscape is ever changing.  Even since our webinar, a bill has surfaced that could have a substantial impact adult literacy.

In Congress, H.R.3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011, includes a provision that would require those seeking unemployment benefits to meet minimum education requirements in addition to work search requirements.  To meet these requirements, an individual would need to have earned a high school diploma or GED credential or other State-recognized equivalent. If one doesn’t have such a credential, he/she would need to be enrolled and making satisfactory progress in classes leading to a diploma, GED or its equivalent.  Under the bill, which has passed the House, these requirements can be waived by states if they are deemed to be unduly burdensome.

This is a good example of legislation that may have pros and cons depending on your perspective.  What would be the potential impact of such a law?  Would it create an additional demand for services, and if so, from where would the resources come to meet this demand?   Congress needs to hear from adult education and literacy practitioners on this issue.

This bill is also good example of legislation that, if passed, would provide an opportunity to let state policy makers know your thoughts on if and how such a provision should be implemented here in Florida.  You’re the experts and they need to know your thoughts on matters important to our field.  They should also hear from adult learners who may be impacted by such legislation.  Educate yourself on what you can do in an official capacity and what you may need to do as a private citizen.   The National Coalition for Literacy has good guidelines on what you can legally do.

With Florida’s legislative session just around the corner, this is a good time to stay informed, get plugged in and become actively engaged in the process.  We’ll try to keep you updated on significant new developments.

Here are some great national and state resources to keep you informed and/or engaged.


      National Coalition for Literacy
                Legislative Action Center http://www.capwiz.com/ncl/home/
Advocacy Tool Kit http://www.national-coalition-literacy.org

      ProLiteracy http://www.proliteracy.org/page.aspx?pid=601

      National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE) The Return on Investment (ROI) From Adult Education and Training.”


      Florida Senate, http://www.flsenate.gov

      Florida House, http://www.flhouse.gov

      ACE of Florida http://www.aceofflorida.org/advocacy/legislative-alerts

      FLDOE, Career and Adult Education  http://www.fldoe.org/Workforce/legislation.asp

      FLDOE, Statistics by Legislative District http://fldoehub.org/PerformanceProfile

      FLC, FL Data and Statistics Reference Guide http://www.floridaliteracy.org/about_literacy__facts_and_statistics.html

Megan Bakan: Writing through the Senses

What is one of the more difficult tasks for adult basic education students? Often it is writing.  They (and we) have difficulty thinking of topics and developing them into interesting and detailed compositions.  In order to write we must have something to say.  Sometimes we get writer’s block.  How can we help our students get past this block?  One way is to help them access their knowledge and memories through their senses. If we can access information and memories then we have something to say and something to write about.

How do we gather information about the world?  We gather information through our senses.  We store this information, our memories, through our senses too. We have six basic senses:

1. Vision – seeing
2. Auditory – hearing
3. Gustatory – taste
4. Olfactory – smell
5. Tactile – the texture of how something feels (a bumpy rock versus a smooth rock)
6. Kinesthetic – muscle memory for tasks (how to dial a phone number on a rotary versus cell phone)

The activities, which can be found by clicking the “get it now” button, are adapted from a presentation given by Kathy St. John. Each of them provides the participant with an opportunity to tap into their senses before they begin writing.  Our senses are a valuable storehouse of knowledge; they can breathe life into our writing. Have fun!

Learning to Achieve: Help for those working with students with learning disabilities

Roberta Reiss

Learning to Achieve (L2A) is an interactive series of professional development modules focusing on meeting the needs of adults with learning disabilities (LD) seeking instruction in literacy programs.  The three on-line “prep” modules and the eight “face-to-face” modules are research-based instruction provided by the Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS).  Whether on-line or in-person, each module is designed for approximately 90 minutes of interactive learning to inform and train adult tutors or service providers.

L2A Online Modules:

  • LD and Neuroscience: The science and research supporting neurologically based LDs
  • LD and English Language Learners: The unique needs of special populations learning English
  • LD and Accommodations:  Reasonable and appropriate accommodations to improve learning

L2A “Face-to-Face” Modules:

  1. Definition of LD: Providing six basic consensus statements that define and identify LD
  2. Self-Determination: Enhancing self-advocacy to empower adult learners
  3. Legal Issues, Self-Disclosure, and Confidentiality:  Protecting the rights of the adult learner
  4. Explicit Instruction for Strategy Learning:  Research-based strategies to augment adult learning
  5. Reading Disabilities: Providing a clear picture of reading preferences, difficulties, and disabilities
  6. Written Expression Disabilities:  Identifying and improving transcription and generation challenges
  7. Content Learning:  Learning with a purpose and sequence for a degree, credential, employment, citizenship, or life goal
  8. Workforce Preparation Strategies:  Preparing adult learners with basic and applied skills for employment success

Dr. Betsy Stoutmorrill

During October and November, L2A trainers Betsy Stoutmorrill and Roberta Reiss provided five full-days to train 174 literacy volunteers, adult education instructors, service providers, and program administrations.  Trainings were held in Lady Lake, Marianna, Lake City, Palm City, and Port Charlotte. The training session provided an amazing opportunity for professionals and volunteers from a variety of literacy programs to work together and gain knowledge of not only specific learning disabilities but also of research-based strategies and teaching tools.

“Providing the L2A modules to four different groups was an amazing and enlightening opportunity for me,” says Betsy Stoutmorrill.  “I was inspired by all the dedicated volunteers and professionals who asked tough questions and invested their time to attend this training to improve their teaching and understanding of learning disabilities.”

The hope is that additional training days can be offered throughout Florida to introduce more people to L2A or for those who attended a training to complete the online modules.  Thanks to the partnerships between LINCS, the Florida Literacy Coalition, and the individual sponsoring regions, this training will make a difference in the educational and personal success of many adult learners and support the growth and development of the professionals and volunteers who dedicate themselves to adult literacy.    Funding for these trainings were provided through grants, but more funding is needed to continue these important trainings.

“I talk to so many literacy program directors and coordinators who fear that volunteer tutors feel inadequate to the task of working with adult learners with learning disabilities.  This training has allowed us to demystify the topic and to share the best practices based on the most current research.  Judging from the feedback so far, I think we have gone a long way in addressing the challenges,” states Roberta Reiss.

Creating a Safe Space in the Adult Ed Classroom

In the adult education classroom, where people come from a variety of ethnic, economic and social backgrounds, it is important to create an environment where all students have the opportunity to learn. In order to do this, one must create a safe space.

According to advocates for youth, a safe space is “A place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others.” If a student feels as if they cannot be themselves or that they are at risk of being hurt, their learning experience will be hindered since their focus will be elsewhere. It goes back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, if someone feels that they are in danger, their concern isn’t going to be learning math.

Several organizations, such as System for Adult Basic Education Support, have chosen to be a resource when teachers ask questions such as “What do I say when a slur comes up in my class?” or “When and how do I introduce anti-oppression, or “teaching tolerance,” materials into my curriculum?” Teachers feel that they need more dialogue and discussion to better understand and respond to controversial and uncomfortable topics. So why is it that we are focused on silence?

Remaining silent about issues might ease the class by preventing confrontation, but it does not lead to a safe environment for students. As a teacher, you should use inclusive language and challenge any slur you hear in the classroom. Use it as an opportunity for learning. Be open to all sorts of differences amongst your students and make sure everyone has the opportunity to learn. Other things you can do include diversifying your curriculum, provide appropriate health care education that applies to different genders, races and sexual orientation, and be a role model by condemning discrimination.

Learning Disabilities

Unlike physical ailments, learning disabilities often go undetected because they are hard to see and many people do not understand the signs. They also differ from person to person, so two people can have the same disability, but different challenges. Learning disabilities can affect a someone’s listening, speaking, reading, writing and/or mathematics skills. As many as 1 out of 5 people in the United States has a learning disability. It is estimated that 27% of children with learning disabilities drop out of high school, creating a need to address learning disabilities in adult learners. This fall, Florida Literacy Coalition is hosting a series of professional development workshops focused on Learning Disabilities. Here are a few words from one of our facilitators, Roberta Reiss.

Roberta Reiss

“Over the years I have worked with hundreds of capable and well-trained literacy tutors.  One refrain I heard quite often was, “I can’t help you with an adult learner with learning disabilities.  I just don’t have the expertise.”  It turns out that working with a learner with a reading or writing disability involves easy comprehension strategies that are just “good teaching”.  The FLC’s upcoming events on Learning to Achieve, a program based on the latest research, are designed to help volunteer tutors understand Learning Disabilities, learn about the legal protection offered those who have these disabilities, and examine teaching strategies that have proven success.  Of course, no one is expected to diagnose a disability or offer legal advice, but the program lays a great foundation for understanding the rights of adult learners with LD and seeing why the strategies work.  I hope you can attend one of the several sessions held around the state, and would love to see you at one of mine!

In the meantime, here are a couple of interesting websites to take a look at:

Hopefully you will be able to join us this fall at one of the statewide workshops. Click here for a full listing of locations and program descriptions.

Gail Rice: Language Experience Approach

Since writing is one of the last skills to develop, native speakers of English who are not proficient in reading are less likely to be proficient in writing. Students that have been shamed in the past for their failures in writing, may dislike writing and write as little as possible.  ESL (English as a Second Language) learners may also experience the same problems because they are aware of their mistakes speaking English.  Thus, ESL and native speaking students are less likely to write because they do not want to see a paper loaded with red marks and corrections.

The language experience approach (LEA) is a powerful tool for tutors to use with any learner who has enough conversational ability to carry on simple conversations, even if that person has no reading skills at all.  It uses the language of the learner, dictated to and written down by the tutor, as the basis of the reading material.  The material is then familiar and understandable since it is based on the learner’s experience, making it easier to read.

But what if learners make grammatical or other mistakes when dictating to the tutor?  What about mistakes that native speakers and ESL learners make in their own writing?

Some tutors feel that they should correct all mistakes and if not they are reinforcing those mistakes.  But such an approach defeats the purpose of the LEA and ensures that struggling writers will become more discouraged and less likely to write.

These issues and others will be discussed at the Tutor Celebration of Learning Seminar offered by the Florida Literacy Council and the Adult Literacy League on the morning of September 17, 2011.

“What’s Happening to my Family?”- Debra Hargrove

I recently read a post from someone I follow on Twitter. He’s a district K-12 technology specialist, and well recognized and admired in the Twitter world. A recent post on his blog was titled, “Digital Cleansing” . Steven literally went on vacation with no access to the tech world. Granted, he had a cell phone, but only for emergencies.

I was intrigued. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere without my Iphone or Ipad. After all, I’m responsible for keeping a lot of people up to date with what’s going on in the world of technology; whether it’s developing online courses, presenting workshops, passing along great websites, sharing my Twitter resources, or simply being available to answer a question or two from a colleague who happens to trust my expertise. I couldn’t imagine “unplugging” for seven days. Could I do it? Would I do it?

I tried. I really did.

But what if the people you are on vacation with DON’T want to unplug? I have to say I was a bit saddened by what I experienced. Now, I’m not going to sit here and duplicate all the thoughts and insights that my Twitter colleague shared. I’d recommend reading his post.  No, what I’m more interested in sharing with you is what I experienced by trying to unplug …when you’re vacationing with a 13 year-old grandson “texting maniac”, a 35 year old daughter “Facebook” and “Four Square” fanatic and a 59 year old “Ipad for EVERYTHING” spouse.

We went to the beach for 5 days. This place is an island. There’s no shopping, no malls, no restaurant chains. Nothing. You eat, sleep, swim, and get back to the basics of good ole family vacation time. Clark W. Griswold would have been proud of our choice of location.

I packed the sunscreen, floats, towels, a few magazines, my Ipad (Only to read my book) and the faithful Hargrove family fun time games of Monopoly and Seinfeld Trivia. I created my phone “away” messages, my email “out of office assistant” messages and was excited about the trip.

We arrived and unpacked. I was ready to jump in the pool. That’s when it started. We couldn’t go to the pool without both my daughter and grandson first “checking in” to the house we rented so they could race to see who would become the “Mayor” of the place. Then, they had to “check in” to the pool, the beach, and so on. It was NUTS! And what’s the purpose? My grandson even became the “Mayor” of the kitchen, for goodness sake.  We insisted he stop when he announced he was working on becoming the “Mayor” of the bathroom! Those two could not be without their cell phones for longer than an hour. Thank goodness there was water around. Between those two posting pictures to Facebook and texting, I felt like I was on vacation by myself.

I kept thinking, what’s happening to my family? How did this get so far out of control?

Thank goodness my grandson still loves to play board games. Except we were the only two playing. Ipads, cell phones and CNBC took first precedent for the other two members of the family.

We broke out the family favorite: Monopoly.  And by the way, I STILL think Monopoly is a great strategic game for kids. I’m ALL for family game night. Did you know that they apparently have a new version of Monopoly that uses a debit card instead of Monopoly money? What’s THAT about? So now, we don’t teach kids how to count and sort money? That’s just great. First, the use of electronics to communicate forces schools to consider removing cursive writing from the curriculum. Now learning games are electronic? Is that REALLY healthy?

I don’t know. We had a great time at the beach though. We rode the golf cart around the island, took pictures of the sunsets and walked on the beach. We played Volleyball in the pool, dove in the ocean for sand dollars, and looked for sharks teeth. Those are the times I will cherish. Those are the times that we WERE unplugged, and it felt great.

So here I sit;my first day back, 256 emails, including the one reminding me about this guest blog.

So I while I was supposed to write about Technology and Literacy or What’s New with Florida TechNet, I hope you’ll understand that I first needed to share my family vacation with you. I wanted you to know that even someone who KNOWS about the responsibilities of being a good Digital citizen struggles to keep balance in her own world.

And while I encourage and promote Social Media and the use of technology for learning and growing, I also want to remind you to NOT get so involved in this sterile way of communicating that you forget what’s important in your life. I’ve promised myself to keep the balance. I hope you do to.

By the way, my grandson beat me 2 games out of 3. Moral of the story: ALWAYS BUY THE RAILROADS!

Key Features of WTI’s Career Pathways to Success Program

In a recent FLC webinar, Judy Johnson, of Witlacoochie Technical Institute, provided session participants with helpful information about implementing a career pathways program.  Read some of the highlights of the webinar and be sure to contact Hope Lynn @ FLC if you want to partner with us in developing a career pathways coaching program!


1:  A focus on Career Pathways provides a context for academic achievement, motivation for students to remain in school, guidance for career selection and a foundation for career pursuit, use of career preparation to provide interdisciplinary problem-solving and critical thinking application, and a foundation for lifelong learning—and lifelong earning.

2:  Strong Advisory Committee that includes Adult Education Students, WTI Administrative Staff, WTI Student Services Staff, WTI Adult Education and CTE Instructors, College of Central Florida Staff, Workforce Board Members, Program Advisory Council Members

3:  Improved Student Performance as documented by assessment scores and postsecondary transition data.

4:  Enhanced Intake and Referral Process that includes identification of a Career Pathway and the development of an Educational and Career Pathway Transition Plan.

5:  Enhanced Recruitment and Retention Strategies include goal setting and needs assessment to identify barriers to program completion, and providing workshops and services designed to assist students in overcoming those barriers. These include access to free daycare at our suite as well as workshops on such topics as Time Management, Organization, Financial Literacy, Test Taking Skills, Study Skills, Financial Aide, and Navigating the Postsecondary Application Process. Tutoring in Math and Writing is also provided.

6:  Career Counseling is provided by the Career Transition Facilitator and WTI Guidance Counselors. They coordinate the transition process by providing ongoing academic and career counseling through use of the Educational and Career Pathway Transition Plan, CHOICES, and Career Pathway roadmaps developed with our staff.

7:  The creation and implementation of a local relational database that allows all stakeholders to have access to student information and provides a mechanism for tracking student progress and goal attainment. The Educational and Career Pathway Transition Plan is generated within the database and provides structure and motivation for student success.