Thursday, July 06, 2006

Adult Literacy Disappears from 'What Works' Website. A Librarian at the Kitchen Table. No. 379.

Open letter from David J. Rosen, Adult Literacy Advocate.
AAACE-NLA Colleagues,

In april, 2003, the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for
Educational Sciences announced seven topics for the What Works
Clearinghouse (WWC) web site.
According to a U.S. Department of
Education release, "The topics were chosen to meet the needs of
educators and education decision makers to identify and implement
effective and replicable approaches to improve important student

The topics were:

1. Interventions for Beginning Reading
2. Curriculum-based Interventions for Increasing K-12 Math Achievement
3. Preventing High School Dropout
4. Programs for Increasing Adult Literacy
5. Peer-Assisted Learning in Elementary Schools
6. Interventions to Reduce Delinquent, Disorderly, and Violent Behavior
in and out of School
7. Interventions for Elementary English Language Learners

[ ]

From time to time I have checked the WWC to see what works in adult
literacy, but have always been disappointed to find nothing listed.
Now adult literacy has disappeared altogether. The seven topics
today are:

1. Character Education
2. Dropout Prevention
3. Early Childhood Education
4. English Language Learning
5. Math - Curriculum-Based Interventions for Increasing Elementary
School Math Achievement - Middle School
6. Math - Curriculum-Based Interventions for Increasing Elementary
School Math Achievement - Elementary School
7. Reading - Interventions for Beginning Reading

[ ]

Apparently "programs for increasing adult literacy" has been put out
of its misery, and now is not worthy of inclusion in "a trusted
source of scientific evidence of what works in education."

This is an admission by omission from the Institute for Educational
Sciences that adult literacy education practitioners must rely on
something besides "evidence-based learning." While I would be glad
to have scientific evidence for our field on which to base decisions,
by default this opens the door for adult literacy education to use
other kinds of research and professional wisdom.

It would be helpful for a U.S. Government agency to create one web
site listing (and where possible, linking to) all the useful research
in adult literacy education, a database which can be searched by
topic. It would then be useful, for each of these areas, if a group
of researchers would summarize the state of research for each area,
provide a "confidence rating" for the research area, and recommend
further research for the area.

This web site would have been an ideal project for a national
research center on adult literacy, such as NCSALL, if Congress had
not eliminated its funding. Given that there is no scientific
research to report, I hope the Institute for Educational Sciences
appreciates the irony that the funding for an adult literacy research
center was eliminated. Maybe someday Congress will restore it.

David J. Rosen
Adult Literacy Advocate

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