WIA Community Conversations Transcripts - Reading and Writing Skills

WIA Community Conversations Transcripts

Reading and Writing Skills

WIA Community Conversations | Other WIA Community Conversations Transcripts

Subject: [ReadWrite
300] Reading and Writing Skills Questions
From: AEState
Date: Mon Jan 11
09:17:33 EST 2010

Dear Reading and Writing Skills List Participants,

My name is
Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education.
Thank you for planning time this week to participate in a virtual session of
the WIA Community Conversations (http://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/10WIA).
I know it adds to your day to read and respond to discussion list posts, and I
deeply appreciate you giving so much of your time.

This week, I ask that you discuss the successes and needs you see for adult
education with respect to this discussion list's topic. I'm hoping that you'll
be candid and honest, and that there will be an open and frank discussion on
the list in this regard.

I'm here to listen, and to learn. This discussion is different from the typical
discussion list guest discussions. I'm not going to react to your suggestions
or answer questions. Please know, however, that what you suggest is worthwhile
for the Department to consider as it forms its policy position on WIA
reauthorization. Based on what I learn from the WIA Community Conversations, my
hope is to be able to say what the real issues are that impact the field, our
students, and our practitioners.

Additionally, I will present all conversation comments to the State Directors
of Adult Education at their annual meeting in February. I will obtain their feedback
as well.

If you are interested in what others are saying across the country, in addition
to what you hear from this list discussion, please visit the Department of
Education's blog http://www.edgovblogs.org/duncan/2009/11/workforce-investment-act-reauthorization/ .

The transcripts from face-to-face sessions hosted by OVAE are linked to the
blog. We will link transcripts of these discussion list sessions to the blog as

To start the discussion, please reply to this email with your thoughts on any of
the following questions:

  • What
    are the ingredients needed to adequately prepare adult learners to successfully
    read and write at work and/or college settings?
  • What
    do you see as some of the greatest challenges? What are some innovative solutions
    to those challenges?
  • How
    might WIA reauthorization support the learning goals of all adult learners with
    respect to reading and writing? What are your hopes?

I look
forward to hearing from you,


Dr. Brenda

Assistant Secretary

Office of Vocational and Adult Education

United States Department of Education

400 Maryland Ave. S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202

Subject: [ReadWrite
302] Ingredients Needed to Prep Adults to Read & Write at Work and/or
From: Becca Loli
Date: Mon Jan 11
14:43:48 EST 2010

Conversations re: WIA reauthorization

What are the ingredients needed to adequately prepare adult learners to
successfully read and write at work and/or college settings?

Adult students need to see the need for them to improve reading and writing
skills. They need to understand the impact these skills have on their ability
to succeed in either the employment and/or educational contexts. Teachers,
supervisors & managers should be aware of their students' and employees'
abilities, and know where to refer them and/or how to help them improve their
literacy skills.

Instruction should be provided consistently, and at a time and location that is
convenient for students to attend. Small group, rather than large class
instruction is preferable.

Adult learners improving their business or workplace literacy skills should be
trained in the following:

  • Using a word processor
  • Using spell-check
  • Proof-reading for homophone mistakes
  • Writing concisely
  • Format of a business letter
  • E-mail etiquette
  • Pre-viewing material using visual/contextual clues
  • Using a dictionary
  • Alphabetizing
  • Taking notes in a meeting
  • Using & interpreting graphs and charts

Students preparing for college should be trained in the following:

  • Identifying the main idea
  • Summarizing
  • Using a word-processor
  • Using spell-check
  • Proof-reading for homophone mistakes
  • Organizing information using an outline or graphic organizer
  • Conducting research
  • Citing sources (when & how)
  • Taking notes in lecture
  • How to make and support a claim

Becca Loli

Subject: [ReadWrite
303] Community Conversations re: WIA reauthorization
From: Daphne
Date: Mon Jan 11 22:01:06
EST 2010

Thanks for taking the lead!

What do others want Brenda to hear regarding her three questions for us?
Remember, this is our week for Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for
Vocational and Adult Education to hear our voices. What a grand opportunity! I
urge everyone on this list to think about her questions, and answer 1, 2, or 3
of them. Your opinion/thought/belief counts! As a reminder, here are her

  • What
    are the ingredients needed to adequately prepare adult learners to successfully
    read and write at work and/or college settings?
  • What
    do you see as some of the greatest challenges? What are some innovative solutions
    to those challenges?
  • How
    might WIA reauthorization support the learning goals of all adult learners with
    respect to reading and writing? What are your hopes?

If the above
questions feel too daunting, perhaps you want to reply to Becca's post (see
below). Do you have anything to add to what Becca has written?


Subject: [ReadWrite
304] Information for Brenda Dann-Messier regarding "low level adult
From: Daphne
Date: Wed Jan 13
12:05:41 EST 2010

supplied us with great suggestions regarding the ingredients needed to
adequately prepare adult learners in general, to successfully read and write at
work and/or college setting. I am wondering if anyone has any ideas or
suggestions regarding the very low level adult reader. What kinds of challenges
do we, as a field have in regards to reaching out and teaching reading and
writing skills to people with very low (or virtually nonexistent) literacy


Subject: [ReadWrite
306] Addressing Low Level Readers' Needs
From: Stephanie
Date: Wed Jan 13
18:03:30 EST 2010

This is
another extremely pressing need and one of the most tragic situations in AE
today. At our center, we have made a financial commitment to have a full-time
reading specialist--she earned an MA in Reading and is thoroughly trained in
the Lindamood-Bell (LMB) multi-sensory approach (research-based through and
through) and we have found that in general, students testing *accurately* at a
3rd-6th or even 7th GL need a truly
intensive program--intensity and duration. There is no short cut for a
seriously dyslexic person. Dyslexia itself cuts such a wide swath that it is
almost a meaningless term. This is why we do a very focused, detailed, and
extensive series of tests at our center--The WRAT, The Johnson-Woodcock, the
PVVT (Peabody Visual Vocabulary Test), and the LAC, the primary Lindamood Bell
test for phonemic awareness. Adults can make phenomenal gains when they
actually attend regularly and go through the entire LMB program.

That said,
IMO we also need to be aware that some people are *not* intellectually capable
of earning a GED even when they might very much want to. Some of these students
have been in high school and attended various classes--special ed in some
cases--and after they earn a certificate, they want to turn to adult ed and the
GED. These adults often are very dedicated learners but will never achieve the
reading, writing, or math levels required by GED. These folks need vocational
training and a safe environment
to learn the show up and suit up soft skills, but they do not belong in classes
meant for people who are intellectually capable of benefiting from instruction
and moving into higher ed or other post-sec programs.

I am not being dismissive, racist, or any or ist here--I worked with some of
these same folks as a psych tech at Sonoma State Hospital many years back and
found them warm and often times a pleasure. They deserve a place at an
educational table for sure, but it's not in my GED class.


Subject: [ReadWrite
307] Re: Thoughts on the WIA Conversation Discussion
From: Jami
Date: Wed Jan 13
19:43:49 EST 2010

The post
below describing ABE programs in NE describes all of the programs in Wyoming. We are small with many outreach centers staffed by volunteers and part time
employees. Some of us have the advantage of having a few full time people. One
of the issues with our state is lack of a distance policy, which we will be
working on, that allows us to count distance hours. The second issue is
funding. Our programs were cut significantly last year and to purchase software
programs that will help us serve students in very rural areas is prohibitive at
this point. We need funding for software and we need funding for training.
Ideally, we would have access to a grant or funding source that could fund the
same software program for all sites in the state from the state level.

I think when policy is made; it is critical that the very rural states have a
voice. Our programs do not operate like programs in large cities or urban
population areas. I am a program director. My service area covers over 10,000
square miles and serves towns with a population of 100 up to a town with 25,000
people. Weather is prohibitive in the winter and childcare in these very rural
communities is almost non-existent. I hope, as policy discussions move forward,
that those of us in these rural settings will have input. I know we don't come
close to serving the number of students that urban programs serve but we do
provide access to education for students who have no alternatives. Thanks!

Jami Anderson

Subject: [ReadWrite
310] A Proposal for Post secondary Reading Comprehension
From: Rupley,
William H
Date: Thu Jan 14
10:00:30 EST 2010


Please find below a conceptual proposal for the improvement of
college/university students' reading comprehension through online professional
development for faculty.

-- Developing the instructional expertise of every college/university teacher
is one of the only strategies for improving the reading capabilities of readers
who struggle with comprehension that is substantiated by research. Yet, few
researchers have asked questions about the processes that teachers go through
as they develop skills in teaching reading over time.

Through the development of easy-to-incorporate online modules that
post-secondary instructors in many disciplines can incorporate into their
instruction that promote students to comprehend and interact with course based
reading materials. In particular, the materials are intended to assist
lower-division instructors in four-year and two-year institutions, including
community colleges and junior colleges, with improving their students'
engagement with their textbooks and other readings. Particularly for two-year
institution instructors, materials can be developed that will help them guide
students who come with great variation in their reading comprehension and
background knowledge. Many such students begin post-secondary education
unprepared to read the college-level materials, and the modules proposed can
substantially improve their capability to read at an appropriate level.

The online module design is intended to scaffold both professors’/instructors’
teaching and students’ learning by introducing research-based comprehension
practices over time, with each new practice either reinforcing, extending, or
building upon previous knowledge. Cases can either extend an existing strategy
(e.g., teaching students to get the main idea is extended to teach students to
summarize) or introduce a new strategy connecting to previously learned
strategies (e.g., students are taught to reread for both comprehension as well
as using context to determine word meaning in a precise manner dependent upon
the content--biology, engineering, chemistry, geography, etc.).

Case-situated professional development online modules can be developed for use
in content settings that are focused on the outcome of improved students’
reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge in entry level courses. These
professional development online modules would integrate the following features:

  • Situated
    professional development in the existing higher education curriculum to enhance
    relevance and implementation.
  • Active
    distributed professional development with multiple opportunities for knowledge
    acquisition and support focused on relevant content.
  • Collaborative
    interaction and reflection on reading comprehension practices through
    university-based study teams.

The online modules can focus on the following areas of reading comprehension:

  1. What
    is reading comprehension: Knowing the words and learning the information.
  2. How
    does reading comprehension vary by student’s subject knowledge and student’s
    background knowledge?
  3. How
    does vocabulary knowledge influence students’ comprehension?
  4. How
    do the characteristics and features of the text influence reading
    comprehension: Literary versus informational text.
  5. Previewing
    text before reading: What does the review say?
  6. Increasing
    vocabulary knowledge strategies: Coaching, practicing, and applying.
  7. Using
    questions to read for understanding and facts--Who, What, When, Where, Why, How?
  8. Reading rate and
    comprehension: What does it mean for understanding and learning.
  9. Knowing
    the relationship between questions and answers: Right there, think and search,
    author and reader.
  10. Survey,
    question, read, and review: Reading comprehension with a focus.
  11. Gist
    versus facts: Reading comprehension and building knowledge.
  12. General
    tips for reading comprehension: Monitoring understanding, self-testing, and
  13. How
    do I know when my students’ know: Formative assessment of students’ reading

William H.

Subject: [ReadWrite
311] Last day of WIA discussion
From: Daphne Greenberg
Date: Fri Jan 15
06:22:37 EST 2010

Thank you to
all of the contributors to the WIA discussion. Today is the last day that we
are collating messages. Please send in your posts by 5 pm today. What do you
want Brenda Dann-Messier, the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Vocational
and Adult Education, to know about the challenges and success of teaching
reading and writing to adult literacy students? Here are some issues you may
want to address in your statement:

  1. What
    does the field need to effectively teach reading and writing?
  2. What
    are the challenges that you face when trying to teach reading and writing to
    your students?
  3. What
    has helped you teach reading and writing to your students? anything else?


Subject: [ReadWrite
312] Re: Last day of WIA discussion
From: Stephanie
Date: Fri Jan 15
11:41:53 EST 2010

a. What does
the field need to effectively teach reading and writing?

About Writing:

First and foremost, we need teachers who themselves like to write, enjoy
teaching writing, and have the necessary background themselves to do it well.
Teaching writing has become complicated because so many younger generation
teachers as well as our students never learned the structures underpinning
English--dare I use the word "grammar"? Very difficult to connect the
anklebone to the knee bone to the thighbone when one doesn't have the
vocabulary of anatomy, to mix my metaphors here.

Next, we need to be consistent in our message to teachers and students alike
that writing matters and that, like math, it can take a long time to master it
well enough to be a confident and correct writer in the workplace and in
post-sec studies. This means regular practice with intensity and duration. This
message needs to be consistently voiced by all program personnel and programs,
and PD needs to address writing far more than it does--we seem always to be
focused on reading and math at the expense of writing. Too

often, as practitioners we give writing short shrift because "my students
are in the workplace and don't need writing"--well, much research has
proven that those who communicate clearly and effectively are promoted faster
and more often.

We offer an ABE-level and a GED-prep level writing class; both teachers address
the MC and the writing sections, but the ABE level stays more on sentences and
paragraphs while the GED level writes more extended pieces and a brief
"research" paper--mostly summary with some citation/MLA format
addressed--nothing fancy, but it paves the way to post-sec educational

A point to disseminate to all GED teachers: the essay counts only 35% of the

test while the multiple choice section, comprising sentence structure,
organization, usage, and mechanics, counts 65%. How many teachers tend to hit
the writing at the expense of the MC portion?

About reading: Our students tend to score the best on the reading test, perhaps
because we really focus on all four components of the test, so students go into
the test with a good grasp of all of them. We also teach a section on visual
graphics since that is now such a major "reading" skill. We offer an
ABE and a GED Prep level class, and students need to work their way up to the
GED class. Another incredible piece to our program is the gift

of a reading specialist for illiterate adults who are intellectually capable
but have some form of dyslexia. For such folks, the ability to study
intensively with our specialist, who uses the Lindamood-Bell approach, is
simply life changing. These students can and do often go from a 3 or 4 GE to a
12.9+ level in under three or six months depending on which class they attend
and hours of instruction. For a truly dyslexic person, just having

him or her read out loud or aud or spend hours in a traditional classroom will
do very little in the long run. To help students whose phonemic awareness is
nil or lacking requires an intensive, multi-sensory program--there is no
substitute or shortcut in this realm.

precise assessment is critical; when a student tests under 9 GE, s/he is
automatically sent to the specialist for a far more thorough assessment so that
we can ascertain and then target the actual issues. Sometimes the student blew
off the test--okay, good to go at the GED level class. Other times, the student
may need some intensive help but not the full-blown LMB program.

We truly believe that without strong reading instruction that is targeting what
the student actually needs, allowing or encouraging that student to
nevertheless pass the GED at a low level may be doing the student a disservice
because s/he now thinks s/he is capable at a level that s/he in actuality is
not--and that is painful to us college teachers when we have to deal with the
academic fallout with the student.

Stephanie Moran

Subject: [ReadWrite
313] How about flat out funding for personnel?
From: diane frank
Date: Fri Jan 15
13:03:26 EST 2010

We can't
afford to NOT teach communication skills to immigrants and natural citizens.
I've been observing this forum during the Q&A session and I've yet to hear
from anyone in the Pacific NW as to the needs of 'Adult Literacy, Reading/Writing
needs' in our area.

This area of the continent may be unique in that most all immigrants are swayed
to come here as forest and fruit harvester/pickers by large corporations who
promise money, lodging. When they arrive there are few if no amenities for
them. Quite often they are illiterate in their own language and all the efforts
to inform them are lost in creating translations.

They are exploited from the get-go by these corporations and companies who go
so far as to:

SS, state and federal taxes from their paychecks (which of course never get
reported which I have witnessed firsthand)

rotten trailers where 3-4 families try to squeeze into for living quarters

often call in INS at the end of a season when they are to pay the workers
thereby expunging themselves from paying anyone for their hard work.

Many working
immigrants end up in jail (which costs state taxpayers) as a result of being
purposely placed on unleased/improperly leased public and private lands
(dropped off by the vans full day after day by these greedy corporations).
There are millions of acres owned by private/state/federal available for lease.

Our public lands are over-picked, edibles (such as mushrooms) are not
observed/inspected for disease (which must be inspected at the site) cross
contamination (poisonous mushrooms bagged during picking with edibles). We
loose literally millions of valuable resources each year in this part of the
country to this illegal picking at the hands of these corporations.

Many immigrants arrive and discover there really is no work (although
promised there would be), don't get paid, suffer from rain/cold exposure
sending them to clinics and hospitals (paid by taxpayer), get pregnant
(enabling a native born legal resident). Worst of it is, only the workers are
caught, not their dependents who are stuck here to fend for themselves in a
foreign country when they and theirs is imprisoned or deported. Guess where
they go for survival? Our state welfare system.

Our food quality is compromised, resources/revenue is compromised, legal system
is overburdened with preventable
arrests/containment/representation/deportation, state human services is
overburdened and suffers budget cuts. And yet the only budget which seems
unaffected is the legal system and dispensing federal administration systems.

Does it appear that I'm ditching on immigrants? NOT AT ALL. Having voluntarily
worked with these immigrants for years to encourage them to report who they
work for which allows us to report the corrupted exploitation to our state
Labor and Industries who may go into these corporations and fine/monitor their
activity to stop illegal action has been a long, daunting task.

The greatest, safest, soundest, place for immigrants to report in to is their
local literacy center. It is a safe-haven. It affords them the ability to keep
themselves out of jail, report abuse, become contributing citizens, stay in America, learn English, represent themselves, and communicate. It would be in the best
interest of our nation if corporations who make use of immigrant labor pay a
separate tax which primarily supports literacy education. This tax should be
made legal by every state/city. Taxed money which stays local.

As the result of a phonetic dictionary I developed (used by ESL), I have had,
during promotional tours, the luxury of visiting literacy centers in 14 states
this year. The staff (of which there are few) the volunteers (of which there
are plenty but unreliable) are over-worked and stressed. They have passion and
work like little ants feverishly upholding the guts of humanity. Little or no
pay, unappreciated by white-collar workers (yes, that term still applies) and
loved by millions of those they've helped to merely survive needs to be
addressed. Hitting the pocketbooks and earmarking tax money specifically is
essential. U.S. taxpayers are paying the expense one way or another, may as
well be intelligent about this placement of funding. Could move a bit of it
over to literacy centers from the legal system, yeah? I was a volunteer
literacy tutor for 10 years at the community college level (how did these kids
make it past high school?????) in Texas, California and Alaska.

I know how ungrateful the higher paid echelon is towards those of us who have
mercy and persevere, voluntarily helping the 'challenged' despite the blood and
mud in the trenches.

In my interview with hundreds of literacy tutors this year alone along the west
coast, the common denominator is not learning material, learning/teaching
strategies, but is funding to pay people to keep these centers open and
operational. Period.

Diane Frank

Subject: [ReadWrite
316] One last response...
From: Cameron
Date: Fri Jan 15
22:38:39 EST 2010

1) What
successes have you had in meeting the needs of diverse adult learners?

What I have found to be most successful in meeting the needs of diverse
learners is that I was able to teach non-native English speaking students
fluency in the English language within their speech and reading activities.
Also, many students improved in their use of English vocabulary and
incorporated it into their speaking and written assignments and exercises. I
was also able to teach ESL students to read and write in English more
consistently. I was also able to help them understand grammatical and
linguistic nuances or differences within the English language in comparison
with other cultural languages. But above all, I am most proud that I assisted
non-native English speaking students to the extent that I was able to bring
them closer to their academic and/or educational goals within the United States. For example, after teaching ESL students for one semester, I would often
discover that the following semester or two or three semesters later that some
of these same students were now full-time or part-time matriculated college
students working towards their Bachelor's and/or Master's Degree within their
chosen field of study.

(2) What are the challenges? What are some solutions to these problems?

Some of the challenges involve effectively teaching those students who lack the
same or a similar English proficiency as that of their peers or fellow
classmates. The solution to this problem often includes one-on-one instruction
or small group instruction where I can work with such students individually or
collectively in order to address how these students can improve on numerous
tasks where they can apply the skills that they need to develop or improve
further. Other solutions include adapting or modifying certain lessons so that
students such as these can receive more differentiated instruction so they can
work at a slower pace while still meeting the required objectives or goals
within the lesson or targeted language. In addition, pair work or collaborative
learning activities where students who are excelling academically can work
one-on-one or in a group with students who lack English proficiency is also
effective because it allows the

student who is excelling to model the desired response in the classroom whether
that includes a certain way of thinking, acting, or participation in class

(3) How can WIA reauthorization help meet the needs of diverse adult learners?
What are your hopes?

The WIA reauthorization will help immigrants improve their English so that they
can have a better life with more job opportunities. Unfortunately, many
immigrants come to this country speaking little or no English and are confined
to either low income or minimum wage jobs with no benefits or medical insurance
as a result. With this act in place, more immigrant students will be given an
opportunity to learn English, attain a GED and/or pass college or university
qualifying examinations such as the CUNY ACT and be admitted within a two or
four year college once these objectives or requirements have been achieved.
Hopefully, with the reauthorization of the WIA, ESL students and/or immigrants
will become more acclimated to American culture where they can learn about
civic-minded responsibilities and/or socially relevant issues within their
community or the state that they live in. They can learn about invaluable
services offered to them in their communities including occupational
information such as: how to apply for a job, how to complete a resume, and even
how to practice and improve interviewing skills for a desired job or position.
They may even be able to learn how to fill out important paperwork and
documentation such as a W2, taxpayer identification information or social
security, as well as how to apply for Medicaid, for example. In order to meet
the needs of diverse learners such as these, the WIA reauthorization should
place equal emphasis on practical experience or vocational training as well as
education within academic settings or classrooms exclusively.

Subject: [ReadWrite
318] thank you
From: Daphne
Date: Fri Jan 15
22:46:34 EST 2010

First of
all, a very warm thank you to the Assistant Secretary, Dr. Dann-Messier for
wanting to hear our voices!

Secondly, a very warm thank you to all of you who contributed to the WIA
conversations this week.

The next step in the process is for me to post a summary of this week's WIA
conversation posts to the Discussion List and ask for your feedback. I will
then combine the summary with your follow-up feedback and submit them to the
Assistant Secretary, Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier.