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    We’re in This Together: How Chapters and Affiliates Can Work With Other Organizations to Promote Literacy Worldwide

    By Leandra Elion
     | Jul 13, 2017

    MRAJust the very act of reading this article sets us apart from millions of people in the world who do not have the skills to read and write. According to UNESCO, 12% of the world’s population is not functionally literate. Reading this staggering statistic and thinking about the vast numbers of people affected can be overwhelming. But the solution is not for the individual to solve; it is for all of us to solve.

    And when we want to be part of this work, it turns out that we are not alone. There are so many people and organizations around the world that are doing the important work of advancing literacy.

    The following is just one example. This is how the Massachusetts Reading Association (MRA) has become involved in the work of two important projects to advance literacy in South Africa.

    Forming partnerships

    Since 2009, MRA has made financial donations to the Family Literacy Project (FLP), a program based in a rural area in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Rooted in the knowledge that literacy begins at home before a child even enters formal schooling, the FLP supports parents and caregivers to create everyday opportunities to build early literacy skills. FLP trains home visitors to visit isolated rural families and support their literacy interactions with children. Very often the parents and caregivers want to improve their own literacy skills, and the FLP provides this training as well.

    In addition, the organization runs community libraries so adults and children alike can build and strengthen their reading skills. FLP runs four community libraries and other smaller libraries in boxes, much like Little Free Libraries, so that people throughout the 15 villages in the region can have access to reading materials. An outgrowth of these libraries has been reading clubs for children and teenagers.

    MRA’s newest international partnership was established last summer when our members attended a session at the ILA conference in Boston. Judith Baker, a consultant for the South African organization African Storybook, presented its creative and pragmatic work. One of the barriers to literacy in Africa is the lack of reading material in a child’s mother tongue. African Storybook has found a way to address this lack of reading material, not only for vernacular languages but also for culturally relevant characters and settings. African Storybook’s goal is to provide open access to picture storybooks in the languages of Africa so that children can develop literacy in their home language and experience the enjoyment and spark of imagination that reading can bring.

    On the basis of the difficulty of providing printed books and acknowledging that cell phone use is widespread throughout Africa, African Storybook creates stories in a digital format that can be downloaded and read on smartphones. Because the stories are all created as open source material, people can translate the stories into their language. They can also write their own stories to add to the collection.

    What you can do

    I traveled to South Africa, the country where I am originally from, last August. The purpose of my trip was not only to visit family but also to explore closer literacy connections between my former home and my new home in Massachusetts. During my visit, I was fortunate enough to make connections with the directors of both of these projects.

    In Johannesburg I met with the project leader of African Storybook, Tessa Welch. The remoteness of FLP precluded a visit, but I had many conversations with its director, Pierre Horn. From these discussions, it was obvious that financial support is always welcome. It takes money to buy books for FLP’s community libraries. It takes money to develop the apps and software to make stories accessible through African Storybook. But our support for the crucial literacy work of these organizations will go beyond our continued financial support.

    MRA’s International Projects Committee has plans to exchange expertise and strengthen the personal connections between the organizations. FLP is looking for skilled literacy teachers to provide training, especially in the area of struggling readers. This, of course, necessitates face-to-face training, either in Massachusetts or in South Africa. The logistics of raising funds and recruiting volunteers to travel and teach has become our new challenge to embrace.

    African Storybook needs people to translate and edit their open source stories into a myriad of African languages. Anyone literate in an African language can help directly in this project. And even if MRA and ILA members may not be fluent themselves, through our associations with universities and others, we can recruit the needed editors and translators.

    These are just two examples of what MRA is doing, but they show what any chapter or affiliate can do to get involved and make a global impact. Here are some starting points that can help your organization:

    • Form an International Projects Committee to explore and promote international literacy projects.
    • List the assets (not just financial) of your organization. Do you have members who are teacher educators, are EL teachers fluent in other languages, have experience teaching abroad, have emigrated from or who have connections to other countries?
    • Attend conferences and look for presentations that focus on international literacy initiatives.
    • Connect on social media to learn about new projects and initiatives. Follow @ILAToday on Twitter and also search for ideas with #InternationalLiteracy or #WorldLiteracy.

    Possibilities abound to promote literacy worldwide. By connecting with people in your local literacy organization and with people engaged in literacy work around the world, our ability to read, write, and communicate will, as ILA promotes, connect us with people and empower all of us to achieve things we never thought possible.

    Leandra ElionLeandra Elion is the chair of the International Projects Committee for the Massachusetts Reading Association, a 2016 ILA Award of Excellence recipient.

    This article originally appeared in the January/February issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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    ILA–NCTE Advisory Explains Research Base Supporting Teacher Preparation Programs

    BY DAN MANGAN
     | Jun 28, 2017

    Teacher Preparation Not just anyone can be an effective teacher, let alone an effective literacy teacher. Yet the tenor of recent policy debates in the United States has often been highly critical of the nation’s teaching corps, and especially so with respect to initial licensure programs.

    While these programs demonstrate differing levels of quality and rigor, the creeping assumption has been that the nation’s schools need better teachers than they are getting, and that alternative pathways to teacher certification should be an urgent priority.

    But there’s a crucial defect at the very root of the discussion, a defect which a combined task force of the International Literacy Association (ILA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has now brought to light, namely the lack of research behind many of the negative claims regarding teacher preparation.

    Victoria RiskoThe ILA–NCTE Literacy Teacher Preparation research advisory was researched by the joint task force and drafted by Victoria J. Risko (pictured on the right), professor emerita at Peabody College's Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University, and Louann Reid (pictured below), professor and chair of the Department of English at Colorado State University. It brings to the policy clash a much-needed counterpoint, answering the narrowness of political remedies with a set of defining, evidence-based characteristics of effective teacher preparation programs.

    Louann ReidPredicated on an extensive review of the research findings, the advisory acknowledges the lack of any large-scale, longitudinal study to date that follows teachers across their coursework and into their careers.

    However, it emphasizes that a convergence across numerous studies of teacher learning and practice, as well as evidence from analyses of effective teacher preparation programs, identify four critical quality indicators for prospective teachers’ learning and new teachers’ performance:

    • Knowledge development. Teacher preparation entails the acquisition of a foundational knowledge of multiple literacies, literacy learning, language development, curriculum, theories of teaching and learning, and subject matter content and pedagogy. Coursework addresses issues such as race, class, gender, culture, language, educational equity, and teaching for social justice. This preparation broadens new teachers’ perspectives and helps them to see students’ differences as assets.
    • Authentic contexts. Instructional competency is developed by strong field experience in authentic settings. Field experience with guidance and mentoring develops prospective new teachers’ skills in providing differentiated instruction, including engagement with culturally and linguistically diverse students. It also develops their personal approaches to pedagogy and assessment, and encourages them to join professional learning communities. Lacking such preparation, a new classroom teacher may become overwhelmed.
    • Ongoing teacher development. Effective teacher preparation programs equip prospective teachers to engage in self-critique and analytical thinking and inspire them to seek continuous professional learning. They provide carefully planned and mentored opportunities for debriefing and reconciling prior beliefs with new knowledge and theories about pedagogy. Without this guidance, prospective teachers may struggle with adapting their approaches to meet students’ needs and responding to the challenges every classroom presents.
    • Ongoing assessments. Four critical assessment points are prominent across teacher preparation programs of excellence: program admission, monitoring students’ progress, benchmarking students’ accomplishments (for example, by building personal teaching portfolios), and tracking success by gathering data on graduates.

    Risko, who served as ILA’s lead on the project, emphasizes that claims disavowing the value of teacher education programs are not supported by research.

    “We are reporting on the substantial evidence documenting the impact of teacher preparation courses on teachers’ learning, on their teaching practices in the classroom as new teachers and, with some investigations, the impact of teacher preparation on pupil learning,” Risko says.

    Reid, who served as NCTE’s lead, stresses two additional points about the advisory.

    “An expert teacher never stops learning, and novice teachers need to realize that it’s OK not to know everything right away,” she says.

    Reid recommends that preparation programs include partnerships with school districts that have strong induction programs.

     “Some new teachers heed the advice to forget everything they learned in the university because they are now in the real world,” she says.  

    The ILA–NCTE advisory is a treasure trove for policy advocates and literacy researchers. More than 140 key reference citations are included in its reference and resource sections. Risko and Reid gave additional insights about the piece in an interview on Education Talk Radio.

    Dan ManganDan Mangan is the director of public affairs at the International Literacy Association.


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    LCEF Poll Shows Growing Perception of Racial Disparities in Education

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | May 04, 2017

    LCEF Poll2017 is a pivotal year for education policy in the United States. Right now, state leaders are creating plans and policies to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which serves to ensure excellence and equity in all public schools.

    Historically, education policy has not reflected the diverse needs and desires of all communities. As we reshape the education system, is critically important that families of color—the new majority of public school parents—are represented in conversations about education reform.

    To amplify their voices, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, by way of Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, conducted its second annual New Education Majority Poll: a national survey that "captures the beliefs of Black and Latino parents and families and reveals the actual perspectives, aspirations, and concerns that they have about their children’s education and the education system itself." 

    The poll revealed that perceptions of racial disparities among black and Latino parents are more pronounced than last year. Key findings include the following:

    • The overwhelming majority of survey participants believe schools with mostly white students receive more funding than schools with mostly black students and schools with mostly Latino students.
    • Both groups cited lack of funding as the main reason for racial disparities in education, followed by racial bias, lower teacher quality, lack of opportunity, lack of parental involvement, poor school facilities, and language problems.
    • Black and Latino parents and family members whose children attend schools with mostly white students are more likely to rate their child’s school as “excellent.”
    • Parents and family members of color whose child’s teachers are mostly white are more likely to agree with the statement “Schools in the U.S. are not really trying to educate black/Latino students” than those with mostly black or mostly Latino teachers.
    • Both groups cite qualified teachers as the most important indicator of classroom success, followed by a strong curriculum and a safe environment.
    • Black and Latino parents would like their children to be more challenged in school and want all students to be held to the same standards. 
    • Both groups believe that report cards, followed by the student-teacher ratio, are the two most important pieces of information to determine school quality.
    • Parents of color have high expectations for their children, and want their children’s teachers to mirror these expectations.
    • Both groups believe that school funding is best spent on resources (specifically books and computers); advanced classes; increased teacher pay; and extracurricular activities, vocational classes, and after school programs.

    The report concludes with a list of proposed policy changes to address and remedy the concerns expressed by poll participants. Recommendations include integrating implicit bias and cultural responsiveness training into teacher preparation and professional development; monitoring resource distribution (including strong teachers and rigorous courses); preparing, hiring, supporting, and retaining high-quality black and Latino teachers; and designing stronger accountability systems that focus on high academic achievement.

    The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for laws and policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of every person in the United States. In so doing, we also seek to promote an appreciation for the rich diversity of the country, and attitudes that are accepting of our differences and similarities. We were founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (then called the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights), the nation’s premier civil and human rights coalition of more than 200 national organizations.

    Alina O'Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    Standards 2017: Practicum/Clinical Experiences

    BY APRIL HALL
     | Mar 28, 2017

    A draft of ILA’s eagerly awaited Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 (Standards 2017) will be available for public comment from April 17 to May 8. In the weeks leading up to the public comment period, we’ll take a look at the significant changes proposed in Standards 2017, which will be submitted for Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) approval in fall 2017 and published in early 2018. Once approved by CAEP, ILA’s new set of seven standards will become the ruler by which preparation programs for literacy professionals, specifically reading/literacy specialists, are measured.

    AutumnDodgeHeadShot_220
    Autumn Dodge

    Standard 7, Practicum/Clinical Experiences, is a new addition to the document. Never before have the Standards addressed clinical and field experience necessary for being a successful educator.

    Autumn Dodge, assistant professor at St. John's University in New York, was the lead writer on Standard 7 and said it was vital to add this aspect of teacher preparation to the document.

    "This new standard addresses what we see as the need to provide standards and expectations for practicum experience for the different roles," Dodge said. "We needed to define what practicum experiences are, differentiating between field and clinical experiences."

    Dodge said that those preparing literacy specialists, coaches, and coordinators indicated there was a need for guidance about possible practicum experiences for candidates for those roles, including ideas about ongoing mentoring or a network of colleagues to help specialized literacy professionals address challenges in their schools.

    "We commonly have those expectations for preservice teachers, but they are not as clear for specialized literacy professionals at universities," she said. The team received a waiver from CAEP to create and add Standard 7 to the specialized literacy professional roles. Diane Kern, committee cochair and associate professor at the University of Rhode Island, said this is the key reason the Standard was added.

    "For all specialized literacy professionals, we will require classroom experience," Kern said. "It can be their own classrooms or schools."

    "Programs will not be required to have an on-site literacy clinic (e.g., work in extracurricular literacy enrichment programs), although programs with clinical experiences are encouraged to continue this excellent way to prepare candidates to work with children and youths in the role of literacy interventionist." Such clinical experiences can also provide valuable coaching opportunities, under supervision, for novice specialists. Dodge and Kern agreed that an integral part of Standard 7 is allowing for blended learning or exclusively online studies.

    "That is a question teacher educators have been asking us, and we had to clearly define what experiences and supervision were necessary," Kern said.

    "There are a lot of ideas of how to use video clips and online media discussions between faculty supervisors and candidates. There still can be supervisor coaching online," Dodge said. "Candidates can video record their teaching experiences, share with faculty, supervisors, and their peers. Even online, there can be consistent reflection, critique, and revision of their practice."

    The writing team on Standard 7 was

    • Allison Swan Dagen, associate professor of Literacy Studies, West Virginia University
    • Beverly DeVries, professor of Reading, Southern Nazarene University, OK
    • Anne McGill-Franzen, professor and director of the reading center, University of Tennessee
    • Jeanne Schumm, professor emerita, University of Miami, FL

    Review all of Standards 2017 when they are posted and give your feedback during the open public comment period starting April 17.

    April HallApril Hall was editor of Literacy Daily. A journalist for more than 20 years, she has specialized in education, writing and editing for newspapers, websites, and magazines.

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    Standards 2017: Professional Learning and Leadership

    By April Hall
     | Mar 21, 2017

    A draft of ILA’s eagerly awaited Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 (Standards 2017) will be available for public comment from April 17 to May 8. In the weeks leading up to the public comment period, we’ll take a look at the significant changes proposed in Standards 2017, which will be submitted for Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) approval in fall 2017 and published in early 2018. Once approved by CAEP, ILA’s new set of seven standards will become the ruler by which preparation programs for literacy professionals, specifically reading/literacy specialists, are measured.

    Jacy Ippolito, associate professor of Secondary and Higher Education, Salem State University in Massachusetts, was the lead writer on Standard 6, Professional Learning and Leadership, and said the most important shift for Standard 6 comes from the separation of the literacy specialist and literacy coach roles.

    JacyIppolito_w330
    Jacy Ippolito

    “Currently, very few universities and states offer separate credentials for reading/literacy specialists and literacy coaches; while some graduate programs offer coaching courses or experiences for literacy specialist candidates, very few offer separate coaching preparation programs or credentials.” Ippolito said. “Pulling the roles apart is both reflecting and pushing the field to prepare and endorse coaches beyond the specialist role.”

    He said using the term literacy leader is also new to the Standard. “It’s incredibly important for literacy specialists to continue working directly with students, but there are many aspects of the role that go beyond intervention work that include working as a ‘literacy leader’ helping to shape literacy teaching, learning, and assessment schoolwide.”

    He said that the focus for literacy coaches is on facilitating adult professional learning, whereas specialists have a primary responsibility for student learning and helping other staff collect and make use of assessment data. At the same time, specialists must have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to work collaboratively with teachers to develop and implement effective instructional practices. Such collaborative work may involve coplanning, coteaching, or coaching.

    “We’re looking at the different roles in a more granular way than the Standards 2010,” Ippolito said. “But we still focus on understanding adult learning and facilitating professional learning; we still focus on individual and group improvement. The keywords across the standard are facilitation and advocacy. In the 2017 Standards, we’re shifting more toward advocacy work with students, schools, and communities.”

    The writing team on Standard 6 was

    • Kevin Marie Laxalt, coordinator for Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Initiative, Nevada Department of Education
    • Debra Price, professor for the Department of Language, Literacy, and Special Populations, Sam Houston State University-Huntsville, TX
    • Misty Sailors, professor of Literacy Education, University of Texas-San Antonio

    Once the entire Standards 2017 are posted, be sure to review the draft and give your input during the open public comment period starting April 17.

    April HallApril Hall was editor of Literacy Daily. A journalist for more than 20 years, she has specialized in education, writing and editing for newspapers, websites, and magazines.


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