[Assessment 1529] Re: Demetrion's comments on Pragmatic Solutions

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gdemetrion at msn.com gdemetrion at msn.com
Fri Dec 12 16:55:17 EST 2008



Thank you Cathay and Jim,

I think we need to utilize all the mediating stratgies we can, including CASAS assessments, which program managers can draw upon as an indicator of learning development, however one may use the term. And the concern aboutgetting top heavy with qualitative documentation is all too much. There is simply no end to the qualitative process take it from someone who knows. However, what about using video vignettes, which may the be placed on-line where students can describe what they have learned and something about the process they have been working through, sometimes over multiple years.

The whole issue of what is literacy is something the field has been grappling with since the modernization thesis of the post Cold War Era and Paulo Freire's world shaking polemic(meant in the best sense of the term) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (BTW, someone, perhaps Andres should be working on a 40 year assessment review of that book. What does it mean in the land of literacy that we are entering the Obama era and how does Freire factor in?).

In terms of the relationship between reading and literacy, that is a complex issue, and to draw on a term we don't use much anymore, a contestable ine at that.

Nonetheless, I sketched out a framework for a research project in my much under-read essay,Postpositivist Scientitific Philosophy: Mediating Convergences http://www.the-rathouse.com/Postpositivism.htm. I won't bore the list with a discussion of this piece, but I will post my 19 hypotheses which require a great deal of testing and research, which if taken on, would ,I believe, go a long way toward working out some of that complex relationship between reading mastery and literacy development that, conceivably could be fleshed out through a collaborative research project See below,

George Demetrion
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Recall the provisional statements about adult literacy education based upon Nivcholas Rescher’s “duly-hedged synthesis” as a first-cut resolution to our problem, which fuses elements of learning to read with that of learning to learn.

1. I. Literacy facilitates knowledge acquisition in the grappling with and mastery of print-based texts.
2. II. Literacy is enhanced to the extent to which individuals gain the capacity to read and write print-based texts.
III. Growth in literacy is experienced to the extent to which readers progressively comprehend and draw meaning from texts and appropriate them into their lives.
4. IV. Literacy has a technological component in the mastery of reading, writing and the comprehension of texts and a metaphorical dimension that resides in transactions between the reader and the text in which meaning making and significance lies beyond the text into that of appropriation, however variously that may be defined.

Each of these statements, as working hypotheses requires additional clarification, including the grappling with new contradictions that may arise as the investigative proceeds. Let us take these statements one at a time.

Literacy facilitates knowledge acquisition in the grappling with and mastery of print-based texts.

· 1. Knowledge acquisition may refer to understanding and progressively attaining the skills and knowledge needed for the technical mastery of reading and writing.
· 2. Literacy may refer to the enhanced ability to read to the extent of providing an independent resource that students can apply to texts that they encounter either in the instructional program or outside of it without assistance from others.
· 3. Knowledge acquisition may refer to the mastery of the content of print-based texts at varying levels of literal and inferential comprehension.
· 4. Literacy may refer to the knowledge needed for such acquisition regardless as to how much or how little a student learns to read.
· 5. While both learning to read and learning to learn are valid indicators of literacy, educators need to determine where priorities should be placed in terms of various student need and ability and what focal points of concentration stimulate what aspects of learning for any given student or groups of students.

Literacy is enhanced to the extent to which individuals gain the capacity to read and write print-based texts.

· 6. If not by definition, it is at least a strong inference among most adult literacy educators and students that literacy includes the ability to read and write print-based texts and may even be its main purpose.
· 7. All things being equal, increased capacity to read and write texts enhances literacy, whether a literal or metaphorical definition of literacy is adopted.
· 8. The extent to which adult literacy students increase their ability to read print-based texts varies widely. Such variability needs to be factored into the reading and writing aspects of a given program and corresponding modes of assessment and accountability regardless of reading methodologies and the instructional content selected.

Growth in literacy is experienced to the extent to which readers progressively comprehend and draw meaning from texts and appropriate them into their lives.

· 9, The capacity to comprehend and draw meaning from print-based texts in a supportive instructional environment does not depend on the ability to read the text independently.
· 10. Students who have enhanced their ability to read and write have gained additional skills in comprehending and drawing meaning from texts in their ability to study independently. As a general rule, this capacity enhances a student’s mastery of the content embedded in printed texts.
· 11. There may or may not be any intrinsic correlations between comprehending the authorial meaning(s) of a text and a student drawing meaning from it. While literacy may be enhanced through either, as a general rule, it is strengthened most so when reasonable inferences between the two can be made.

Literacy has a technological component in the mastery of reading, writing and the comprehension of texts, and a metaphorical dimension that resides in transactions between the reader and the text in which meaning making and significance lies beyond the text into that of appropriation, however variously that may be defined.

· 11. Literacy, in the most comprehensive of definitions includes both the technological mastery of reading and writing, along with that of comprehension and deriving meaning from print-based texts.
· 13. Taking the capacities of students into account, literacy progresses most when all of these dimensions are factored in, in which none of them serves as the privileged foundation of the definition.
· 14. Even adults who remain at beginning levels of reading and writing ability who do not even come to approximating independent fluency can benefit as a result of the progress they achieve in the areas of comprehension and meaning making, although how durable such learning is and its significance requires much research.
· 15. The extent to which even advanced students who progress in their reading and writing benefit in doing so also requires discriminating analysis. The salience to which gains in reading ability short of the GED certification open up opportunity structures for life improvement requires careful analysis in which the separation of variables may prove difficult.
· 16, Even if little in the realm of opportunity structures is attained, being able to read, write, and comprehend print-based texts and appropriating such knowledge for one’s own purposes has a certain value in itself (although how much so remains in question) as a form of self development that may or may not have broader societal impact.
· 17. What is determined as efficacious in relation to adult literacy education may have as much to do with values of individual students and programs that seek to support them as with specific impacts subject to objective forms of direct measurability.
· 18. Literacy is a cultural metaphor of considerable pluralistic range and scope of knowledge acquisition that includes the technical capacity of reading and writing as an important, but undetermined variable of the broader definition encapsulated in the term, “multiliteracies.”
· 19. Definitions of literacy that programs appropriate will be shaped by the sum total of cultural, social, political, economic, and intellectual influences interacting on them. In short, the cultural matrix as a variant in adult literacy education is unavoidable.


1.



Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2008 12:12:17 -0800From: cathayreta at sbcglobal.netTo: assessment at nifl.govSubject: [Assessment 1527] Re: Demetrion's comments on Pragmatic Solutions




Well said, George and Jim. Now how do we collectively demonstrate our students' successes, therefore our program's success, to funders?

I was administer of a small program when the National Reporting System was implemented and we were mandated to use CASAS testing to continue to receive WIA funding. I, along with a number of colleagues, informed the state we would not be accepting WIA funds any longer because of philosophical differences in use of the tests. We would not do that to our students, thank you very much. Of course I laid out all of the reasons for that and it was a powerful statement (I think). But in looking back I realize it lost all of its "teeth" because I had nothing to offer in lieu of the standardized tests to show funds coming to my program were a good investment. I think this is where we, as a field, fall short. We need to be ready to not just respond, but to be proactive in stating, "Our programs work. Here's the evidence we can give you."

Humbly,

Cathay--- On Fri, 12/12/08, Schneider, Jim <jschneider at eicc.edu> wrote:
From: Schneider, Jim <jschneider at eicc.edu>Subject: [Assessment 1526] Demetrion's comments on Pragmatic SolutionsTo: gdemetrion at msn.com, "The Assessment Discussion List" <assessment at nifl.gov>Date: Friday, December 12, 2008, 11:28 AM





<Pragmatically we need to come up with some workable solutions that at least move toward viable mid-level solutions, but to the extent that broader definitions of the meaning and purpose of adult literacy education is more clearly and realistically built into policy formulations we're going to remain stymied in the most fundamental sense even when some progress is being made in sharpening our understanding of assessment tools and fitting them into our programs. Such latter work is essential, though I think it's important that we not allow various mystifications that we are actually measuring literacy growth (when we haven't defined the terms) to seep in, such as, for example, the conflation between reading and literacy. Best, George Demetrion>

AMEN!


The field was hijacked in 1998 by the implementation of the NRS. We were hypnotized (or hit over the head as the case may be), by the notion that standardized assessments and procedures were reliable, valid measures of the skills possessed by learners at entry, as well as a reliable, valid measure of the learning that occurs in the classroom.



Unfortunately our learners were not similarly hypnotized and come to us with a wide range of learning difficulties, negative emotions and anxiety about testing, and varying levels of focus and concentration when taking the assessments. Little wonder that some learners look severely impaired upon entry and attain their GED in a matter of weeks – quite capable of knowing which assessments really matter to them, and which are merely “busy work” required to gain entry to the program. Or why other learners look amazingly capable upon entry only to wallow in the classroom for weeks, months and/or years when the reality of the high-stakes tests cause their minds to lock-up like a Microsoft program.



Once upon a time, the field operated under broader definitions of the meaning and purpose of adult literacy education.I fear that those days are long gone. However, Mr. Demetrion’s call for realistic policy formations and recognizing the mystifications (isn’t this a great word?) of our current fixation on standardized tests as the only possible measure of learner gains and accomplishments is a welcome sight for these weary eyes. All the discussion regarding accountability and program improvement would be so much more palatable if the funding to achieve it was commensurate.



Jim Schneider





From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf Of gdemetrion at msn.comSent: Friday, December 12, 2008 7:48 AMTo: assessment at nifl.govSubject: [Assessment 1523] Re: Getting staff used to using data



Good morning all,

One of the dilemmas of taking on such studies is that of creating another level of work, and therefore time allocation which in turn would need justification and therefore "evidence" that such time expenditure is a worthy fiscal investment, often when time and money are scarce commodities.



On the question at hand, I'm wondering to what extent such correlations can be made when (a) there are so many intervening variables, and (b) when relationships between professional development and direct program improvement are typically longer term and perhaps more typically reflect changes in the "softer" organizational climate of a learning organization. This is not to deny that there can be some direct impacts, which in principle, can be measurable at least in some instances, though I'd be weary of justifying PD on such terms (cost-benefits metaphors--and let's not forget the metaphorical dimension of language in play here). I think broader arguments can be made for Professional Development which perhaps can be drawn in from research both in our own field (NCSALL has done some work here as have other institutes) and in other fields. One needs to consider as well, the quality, content, and context in which PD takes place, how it is internalized within the thinking and practice of practitioners and its role within broader adult education programs, including the organizational and pedagogical development of such organizations on a system-wide basis. These are matters of major consequences, a discussion of which perhaps better belongs on the PD forum.



On assessment, if one, year after year is working with students at a broadly similar level and range, and if year after year the standardized testing scores (pre and post) are broadly the same, then perhaps the issue there is the purpose or the purposes of adult literacy education where "growth" (a Deweyan metaphor of intriguing consequences) does take place over time, typically in ways that are subtle, but not so effectively "measured" by the various "instruments" available to document such impact.



Pragmatically we need to come up with some workable solutions that at least move toward viable mid-level solutions, but to the extent that broader definitions of the meaning and purpose of adult literacy education is more clearly and realistically built into policy formulations we're going to remain stymied in the most fundamental sense even when some progress is being made in sharpening our understanding of assessment tools and fitting them into our programs. Such latter work is essential, though I think it's important that we not allow various mystifications that we are actually measuring literacy growth (when we haven't defined the terms) to seep in, such as, for example, the conflation between reading and literacy.



Best, George Demetrion




From: nfaux at vcu.eduTo: assessment at nifl.govDate: Thu, 11 Dec 2008 18:07:48 -0500Subject: [Assessment 1520] Re: Getting staff used to using data


Hi Barry,Could you please explain how you are correlating student attendance and retention with teacher participation in professional development, or the workshops that you offer? We are exploring ways of doing this, also.Nancy

*********************************************************Nancy R. FauxESOL SpecialistVirginia Adult Learning Resource CenterVirginia Commonwealth University3600 W. Broad Street, Suite 669Richmond, VA 23230-4930nfaux at vcu.eduhttp://www.valrc.org1-800-237-0178



-----assessment-bounces at nifl.gov wrote: -----

To: "The Assessment Discussion List" <assessment at nifl.gov>From: "Bakin, Barry" <barry.bakin at lausd.net>Sent by: assessment-bounces at nifl.govDate: 12/11/2008 12:06PMSubject: [Assessment 1510] Re: Getting staff used to using dataData is not just for classroom instructional staff to analyze. Our staff meeting yesterday(of teacher trainers responsible for staff development)focused on using attendance and ADA statistics collected since 1999 as a way to determine whether or not our team's staff development efforts over the last several years has resulted in increases in student attendance and retention by students whose teachers have taken staff development workshops. We have an immediate and pressing interest for doing so, as expected district-wide budget shortfalls of millions of dollars are leading some at the district level to advocate for the elimination of staff-development programs in the coming year. We obviously feel that teachers who improve their skills will retain students better than those who don't, but we'd like to be able to point to data that demonstrates that.Barry BakinESL Teacher AdviserDivision of Adult and Career EducationLos Angeles Unified School District-------------------------------National Institute for LiteracyAssessment mailing listAssessment at nifl.govTo unsubscribe or change your subscription settings, please go to http://www.nifl.gov/mailman/listinfo/assessmentEmail delivered to nfaux at vcu.edu








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