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    Get the Facts, Spread the Word

    by April Hall
     | Sep 08, 2015

    LAK 090815International Literacy Day (ILD) is about spreading awareness about the work that remains to be done to obliterate illiteracy across the globe. Nearly 800 million people worldwide are illiterate, 126 million of whom are children. That’s about 12% of the people on the planet.

    To spark awareness on how to take #800Mil2Nil, ILA has put together the first of many tools we plan to put in the hands of literacy champions. This initial effort, comprised of four infographics, arms advocates with the information vital to spreading awareness about illiteracy. Downloading these infographics from the Take Action section of the ILA website and spreading them via social media will shine the light on not only the impact but also the causes of illiteracy everywhere. Spread this information using the hashtag #800Mil2Nil to keep the discussion going on how we can eliminate illiteracy.

    The ILD 2015 Activity Kit, released this Spring in preparation for ILD can also be used year-round. This free kit has a wealth of classroom activities that can be used throughout the school year. The kit’s content is focused on The Philippines, whose people peacefully caused meaningful change through collective action to not only overthrow a dictator, but also to raise literacy rates in the country to an impressive 97.5%.

    As a tangible product of efforts to spread literacy to all, communities all over the world—including the one at International Literacy Association headquarters in Newark, DE—will establish Little Free Libraries in honor of ILD. The libraries will bring books to people who may not otherwise have access to reading material and volunteers will keep the shelves stocked for children and adults alike.

    Through awareness, education, and collective action, we can solve the illiteracy problem. What will you do to bring #800Mil2Nil?

    April Hall is editor ofLiteracy Daily. A journalist for about 20 years, she has specialized in education, writing and editing for newspapers, websites, and magazines.

     
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    Preliminary ILA Report Finds Wide Differences in State-Level Literacy Teacher Preparation

    By ILA Staff
     | Aug 19, 2015

    teacher-preparation-report-1The International Literacy Association issued its Preliminary Report on Teacher Preparation for Literacy Instruction Tuesday, the first of a two-part report by its Teacher Preparation Task Force, reviewing U.S literacy teacher preparation and how state departments of education differ in their requirements. The preliminary report uncovered inconsistent standards and criteria for preparing teachers on how to teach literacy.

    “While there are limitations to this data and further review is underway, our initial findings show that few states require coursework related to preparation to teach literacy,” said Deanna Birdyshaw, cochair of the ILA Teacher Preparation Task Force. “Further investigation of both state and preservice teacher preparation programs is necessary. The data contained here reflect the first phase of our study of what states’ requirements are for preservice teachers in terms of developing their skills as literacy instructors.”

    The 13-member task force is cochaired by Elizabeth Swaggerty, associate professor of Reading Education at East Carolina University, in addition to Birdyshaw, lecturer at University of Michigan, and includes leading literacy experts from across the United States.

    The task force used a two-part procedure to inform this preliminary report. The first part included compiling information about requirements for teacher preparation in literacy from 50 state education department websites between July and October 2014. The task force then interviewed state education department officials from 23 states to confirm the data collected and to increase understanding of how literacy instruction was addressed in the certification guidelines.

    The second-year goal is to interview Teacher Education Programs officials, administrators, and professors in all 50 states to determine how they are integrating the guidelines.

    Implications of findings

    “Our primary takeaway is that all stakeholders need to be involved in the conversation about how to improve preparation of preservice teachers to design and implement instruction that increases the literacy learning of children in kindergarten through grade 12,” Swaggerty said. “We hope this initial report is a starting point for that conversation.”

    Given the importance that state education standards and assessments play in the review of Teacher Education Programs, analysis of the data suggests:

    • Research that investigates preservice program features that prepare candidates to develop students’ literacy across all grades and in all disciplines should be conducted. This research should be shared with all stakeholders, particularly state departments and teacher preparation programs.
    • Collaboration among all educational stakeholders, particularly state education departments, teacher preparation programs, and K–12 educators, is necessary to improve the preparation of candidates to teach literacy. State guidelines for preservice teacher preparation should make explicit reference to what candidates should know and be able to do in relation to literacy instruction.
    • All preservice teachers should be required to participate in activities during their practica that develop their ability to design literacy instruction and monitor literacy growth.

    In considering the findings, the task force recognized three primary limitations to the research.

    • This is a preliminary report with the second phase ongoing.
    • Teacher education programs are in transition, with state education department officials from 15 of the 23 states interviewed stating that changes were being made to teacher certification requirements in the coming year.
    • State education officials interviewed were knowledgeable about the teaching requirements, but not necessarily experts in the areas related specifically to teaching literacy.  

    “Today’s teachers must be well prepared to help students acquire the literacy skills they will need to learn, work, and live in a complex world,” said Dan Mangan, ILA’s Director of Public Affairs. “The preliminary work of this task force has helped us to better understand the landscape of state-level standards and criteria for teacher preparation for literacy instruction through a research-validated framework. We look forward to insights from the second phase of the task force to determine how best to move ahead to ensure the more than 250,000 new teachers entering the work force annually are prepared.”

    To read the full text of the report, visit http://literacyworldwide.org/prelimprepreport.

     
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    Expert Panel Faces the Challenges of Teacher Prep

    by April Hall
     | Jul 19, 2015

    teacher prep panel 071915First-year teachers are struggling in the classroom and teacher preparation must be nimble enough to find the challenges and make the necessary improvements. Many of those challenges and more were discussed in depth during the International Literacy Association’s panel, “Cultivating Literacy Achievement Through Quality Teacher Preparation,” held yesterday at the ILA 2015 conference in St. Louis, MO.

    About 100 people sat in on the panel, many identifying themselves as administrators and teacher educators with a stake in the future of teacher prep. For those who weren’t able to attend, there was a livestream of the panel online that was free and open to the public, sponsored by JDL Horizons.

    Dan Mangan, director of public affairs for ILA, opened the discussion by saying the goal was to “bring about a unique and powerful dialogue by convening voices from all of the key teacher prep stakeholders, including educators, researchers, representatives of national professional organizations, the federal government, and the media to collectively examine how we can better prepare our teachers to drive student literacy achievement.”

    Mangan then introduced William H. Teale, professor at University of Illinois at Chicago and director of the school’s Center for Literacy. Teale is also the vice president elect of ILA’s Board of Directors, who takes office directly after the conference.

    Teale spoke about cutting through the noise and debate and getting to the research that will point the way toward improvement teacher preparation. To that end, ILA has formed a joint task force with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) to “review the research base and report on what the best current scientific evidence tells us about the content and conduct of programs that effectively prepare teachers who can teach reading and writing well.”

    “Rather than pointing fingers and fueling the educational wars that have attracted attention in the past, this kind of work provides the information that can improve literacy teacher education for this and the next generation of America’s educators,” he said.

    One aspect of ILA’s work in teacher preparation includes revising the group’s Standards for Reading Professionals, which will now be called the Standards for Literacy Professionals. This two-year process began at a meeting in St. Louis Thursday. The standards are used as a basis for certification programs to receive national recognition from Council for the Accreditation of Educators Preparation (CAEP).

    “In other words, the standard will need to meet the Goldilocks principle—they cannot be so general as to be meaningless—nor can they be so specific that they are impossible to implement. Rather, they will need to be ‘just right,’” said Rita Bean, Professor Emerita at University of Pittsburgh.

    In gathering information about standards across the country, there have been challenges, said Deanna Birdyshaw, lecturer at the University of Michigan.

    First, certification guidelines are ever-changing, she said. The current information they have is a snapshot from April to October 2014. Second, many state officials were not well-versed specifically in literacy standards.

    Overall, in looking at state standards, Birdyshaw and her team found certification guidelines were not explicit in what literacy educators need to be certified—let alone effective. The team’s next step is to contact every teacher prep program in the country as they have talked to every state’s Department of Education .

    The talk then turned to the panel, moderated by Jessica Bock, education reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where the experts opened by talking about the progress that has be made to date in teacher preparation.

    “The good thing is people are becoming more aware there is a need for a change,” said Linda McKee, Senior Director of Performance Measurement and Assessment Policy, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). “We’re very aware that changes need to be made, but we’re moving forward in that.”

    With changing standards and politically charged revisions and legislations, educators sometimes find themselves at odds with administrators ranging from local school boards to the U.S. Department of Education.

    A former classroom teacher, panelist Laurie Calvert is now the teacher liaison for USDOE. She said communication and cooperation will be key to improving teacher preparation.

    “The Department doesn’t want to attack teacher preparation, we just want more transparency,” she said. After meeting with teachers about a variety of topics, Calvert said the one thing she has seen a group agree on is that the large majority felt unprepared to go into the classroom.

    In fact, panelist Louann Reid, professor and chair of the Department of English at Colorado State University and NCTE project lead on the ILA-NCTE teacher preparation taskforce, said teachers in general say their education program did very little to prepare them at all, but in the second and third year in the classroom, they find the usefulness in their training, which may seem contradictory.

    “We need more research that will expand our understanding,” Reid said.

    There needs more understanding not only between researchers and educators, but between educators as well, panelists said.

    McKee suggested “a change in the way we are thinking about working.” She said teachers are siloed within their field, whether that is K–12 education, higher education, or research. She called for a “unified profession.”

    “There is an awful lot of opportunity for cultural misunderstanding between K to 12 and higher education,” Reid continued. “Instead, they can work together given the time and resources.”

    Bryan Joffe, director of Education and Youth Development for the School Superintendents Association, who also served on the panel, said teacher training programs and schools that feed into each other (revolving students and teachers) should work together to align their culture and challenges with the preparation preservice teachers receive.

    As we approach changes in assessment of teacher prep and adjust programs accordingly, panelist Christopher Koch, interim president of CAEP, said stakeholders should be “intentional” and “bring everyone involved to the table.”

    He noted that when sweeping movements are made, there is often pushback to undo any changes, which is a waste of time.

    In Illinois, he said, officials postponed putting assessments for teachers into place while all parties sat down “to work out a policy that made sense for us. We had buy-in.”

    After the discussion, there was a question-and-answer portion that allowed attendees to both give their opinion on what is happening in their field when it comes to preparation and professional development, as well as ask the panelists for their opinion and advice to make teachers’ transition into the classroom smoother and more successful.

    The panel was the second of several convenings ILA will host to explore pressing topics in literacy and education. An archive of the panel is available at EduVision.

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

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    Making a Collective Impact on Illiteracy

    by April Hall
     | Apr 15, 2015

    Collaboration was the overarching theme of the world-class panel convened Tuesday by the International Literacy Association, for its inaugural Leaders for Literacy Day.

    A full house at the International Institute of Education, located in United Nations Plaza in New York, listened to panelists ranging from corporate partners to academics share their thoughts and ideas on what is needed to advance literacy worldwide.

    The panel included Susan B. Neuman, professor and chair of the Teaching and Learning Department at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education;Steven Duggan, director of worldwide education strategy for Microsoft Corporation; Bernadette Dwyer, a lecturer in Literacy Studies at St. Patrick's College, Dublin City University; David L. Kirp, professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley; and ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post.

    Liz Willen, editor-in-chief of The Hechinger Report, moderated the discussion; Allan E. Goodman, president and CEO of the IIE opened the event, and ILA President Jill Lewis-Spector also made remarks.

    The panel convened to face some sobering facts. Around the world there are still 781 million adults who are illiterate; women account for two-thirds. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 14 percent of adults in the U.S. alone are functionally illiterate—a number that hasn’t budged in a decade, Post said. She characterized the problem as “vast in scope and stubborn in character.”

    Lily Valtchanova, liaison officer at UNESCO, also cited the failure to meet the UN Millenium Development Goal to cut global illiteracy in half by 2015 and the need to move forward to attain new sustainable educational goals.

    To battle this epidemic, the panel highlighted the role of technology, community, and how cooperation between nongovernmental organizations (NGO), corporations, and researchers can lead to innovative solutions and support for people struggling around the world.

    Even in communities that aren’t fighting poverty or lacking in resources, the picture is not perfect, panelists said.

    “We can’t talk about being digitally literate, we have to talk about becoming digitally literate,” Dwyer said. Without training teachers in the technology they already possess, the full potential of classroom technology cannot be realized.

    More than that, there is an inequity in access to technology, Dwyer said. Tech access is widening the knowledge gap between the affluent and the impoverished, contributing to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

    Microsoft, Duggan said, has recently turned its attention to the importance of literacy and creating tools for the most basic of needs.

    “We’re only focused on literacy because we started to listen,” Duggan said. For nine months, Microsoft representatives asked educators about what foundational challenges they faced. The resounding response was literacy, as “it affects everything else.”

    When Microsoft dug deeper, they found too few books were printed in minority languages around the world. Some children simply had no books with which to learn. In months, Microsoft was able to launch Lit4Life and the Chekhov Story Author App. Educators around the world can use these tools to write, design, and publish their books to a cloud accessible by students. A book recording option was added when the education team learned 31 percent of illiterate children live in an illiterate home.

    Technology may not always be the answer, though. In many communities advocates need to go in and—like the Microsoft Education Team did—listen.

    Neuman said while researching summer reading loss, she found one urban community that had not a single preschool-appropriate book available for children. More than 300 children would have to share one elementary-level book. For that community, it wasn’t about taking in computers—it was a desperate need for text.

    Kirp said asking parents what they need elicits similar responses regardless of neighborhood.

    “No matter who you ask, you’ll get the same kind of ‘We want for our kids what we didn’t have for ourselves,’” Kirp said. The specificity of those wants may shift from neighborhood to neighborhood, but the sentiment is universal.

    Kirp himself uses the following standard: “I always think, would I want this [program] for a child that I love,” he said.

    Moving quickly on challenges allows for the gift of failure, Duggan said. Failure is something educators everywhere, and organizations that want to help them, shouldn’t fear.

    “Failure is great,” he said to a few chuckles. “We have to embrace a culture of failure, but we need real-time data and to fail quickly. When we fail, we learn.

    “If we just focus on delivering some good services, not devices, we can scaffold literacy for all right now,” Duggan continued.

    Post agreed that failure must become an option in the Age of Literacy to spur innovation, and it may be time to re-evaluate the way NGOs operate—to not fear failure in order to learn and to work together rather than against each other.

    “We are diffusing power because we’re all vying for the small pot of money that is out there,” Post said. “We need to build meaningful partnerships.”

    Duggan agreed, saying corporate/non-profit alliances are also vital to surmounting the huge challenges to achieving worldwide literacy.

    “I’ve made some good connections [today] and I’m walking away with a lot of new e-mail addresses,” he said. “I’m opening up some interesting dialogs and I hope to open up even more.”

    Attendee Pam Allyn, global literacy advocate and founder of the nonprofit LitWorld, was encouraged by the suggestion of collaborative action.

    “I think collaboration is the key,” Allyn said. “I think in the past, NGOs have been extremely competitive… And I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think we’re serving children’s best interests that way…. Really, to put us all together is going to make the difference for millions and millions of children.”

    Allyn was one of the many stakeholders from Nairobi to New York, including several ILA Board members, who participated in fast-paced Twitter chats on Tuesday, where literacy leaders shared experiences and strategies on how to engage today’s students, how to take charge of professional development, and how to become a powerful advocate. The virtual global discussions were part of a continuing campaign asking people around the globe, “How will you make this the #AgeofLiteracy?”

    Several bloggers also participated in the exchange by making posts exploring the Age of Literacy theme.

    Starting these conversations is the first step. In the future, ILA will convene more of panels to address challenges in eradicating illiteracy, and draw on the expertise of thought leaders to mobilize people in government, schools, and homes to start a literacy movement and spread literacy for all.

    Interested in the cause? You can join the conversation here.

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

     
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    Become a Leader for Literacy

    by April Hall
     | Apr 01, 2015

    The International Literacy Association has declared April 14, 2015 Leaders for Literacy Day. On that day, ILA will host critical physical and digital conversations with international literacy advocates and practitioners.

    A panel of thought leaders and status quo interrupters will face head-on the topics that will shape the future of literacy across the world. How can educators, governments, and private sector and philanthropic leaders collaborate to develop, assess and share approaches that work in advancing literacy?

    “We hope to talk about the state of literacy and policy implications for the future,” said Susan B. Neuman, professor and chair of the Teaching and Learning Department at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University. Neuman, former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, will be one of the panelists at the marquis portion of the program hosted by the Institute of International Education in United Nations Plaza.

    Neuman, author of Giving Children a Fighting Chance, said she will talk about the importance of introducing literacy and reading at a young age to “set the stage for the development of information capital.”

    This panel will launch a movement to address the crisis that nearly 800 million adults around the world are illiterate. Including illiterate children, it adds up to 12% of the world’s population. Leaders for Literacy Day will be the first step in mobilizing stakeholders who will be the future of literacy and building a successful society.

    The panel will also include Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education; Steven Duggan, director of worldwide education strategy for Microsoft Corporation; Bernadette Dwyer, a lecturer in Literacy Studies at St. Patrick's College, Dublin City University; David L. Kirp, professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley; and ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. The panel will be moderated by Liz Willen, editor-in-chief of The Hechinger Report. The ILA communications team will live-tweet the panel.

    Through the hashtag #AgeofLiteracy, advocates have already shared on social media what they will do to further literacy around the world. On April 14, that hashtag will be used for one-hour intervals of discussion focused on the most important topics facing the literacy community. All discussions will be nonconventional Twitter chats where conversations will develop organically outside of a standard Q&A format.

    The conversation on the pre-event Twitter will include:

    Bloggers are also invited to take part by writing about the age of literacy for their audiences. ILA will then share those posts via social media.

    Some suggested topics:

    • How is literacy critical to the advancement of society today?
    • What is needed to advance literacy rates around the world?
    • How can governments, businesses, NGOs, and community leaders work together to advance literacy?

    Log on to Twitter April 14 at noon and follow #AgeofLiteracy to see what literacy advocates are saying and join the conversation.

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

     
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