[Assessment 1466] Thinking about the NIFL

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tsticht at znet.com tsticht at znet.com
Mon Nov 17 18:35:51 EST 2008


Colleagues:

In July 1991, the President of the United States signed Public Law 102-73
which, among other things, established the National Institute for Literacy
(NIFL). The law called on the NIFL to conduct basic and applied research
and demonstrations. Though the actual agenda for the NIFL was not
specified, examples of questions to be addressed were given. These
included:

1. How do adults learn to read and write and acquire other skills
(listening, speaking, reasoning, etc.)?
2. How does the literacy level of the parents affect the skills development
and schooling of the parent’s children?
3. What are better ways to assess literacy skills?
4. How can better instructional programs be developed?
5. What are good methods for assisting adults and families to acquire
literacy skills, including the use of technology; methods for adults with
special learning needs (learning disabilities), and limited English
proficient (LEP) adults?
6. How can the most disadvantaged be effectively reached and taught literacy
skills?
7. How can technology be used to instruct and to increase the knowledge
base?
8. How can research effort of others be built on?
9. How can the field attract, train and retrain professional and volunteer
teachers?

We are now nearing the end of 2008, some 18 years after the NIFL was
established, and I am wondering what adult literacy professionals think of
these questions: were they appropriate for the work of the NIFL, if so, how
well have they been addressed, and if there were other questions that took
priority and were addressed by the NIFL, and how any one or all of these
activities have improved the field of adult literacy education up to now.

Some adult literacy advocates have called for changing the present NIFL’s
focus on lifelong learning of literacy from birth through adulthood, and
returning it to its original focus on adult literacy education. Is this a
good idea?

What do you think the NIFL should be doing to advance the field of adult
literacy education that it is not doing now?

Tom Sticht