1. Why do we need new and collaborative responses to raise community literacy levels?
Adult education and family literacy services in the United States are not improving literacy levels of children and adults in our communities. Currently, literacy education belongs to many different groups: federal government agencies, community-based organizations, state adult education programs, correctional institutions, workforce literacy projects, schools, family literacy programs. The components of this “system” rarely collaborate, do not use the same accountability measures, and are not part of one data base. There are multiple funding streams including state and federal grants, private foundations, corporations and individual donors, each with its own reporting requirements. To increase effectiveness among all these literacy systems requires collaboration.
2. What does it take to create an effective literacy coalition?
- All government agencies (local, state and national) must back the effort.
- Political will and local commitment are required.
- Agencies and individuals must be mobilized to organize collaboratively
- Literacy education must be linked to efforts to reduce poverty and increase social equity
- Resources must be infused into all educational systems
- All participating groups must have a common definition of literacy
- Central coordination of programs must respect individual program differences
- The coalition must commit to high program quality and instructional excellence
- Collaboration must include follow up and strategic planning
3. What does the coalition model look like?
Imagine a “pebble in the pond” model: Learners are at the center with service providers surrounding them; and many community at-large partners supporting increased literacy activities in the adjoining circles. A collaborative coalition allows whole communities to engage in the effort to promote literacy for all.
4. What stakeholders need to be at the table to create a successful coalition?
- Adult learners
- Business community
- Chamber of Commerce
- Child care providers
- Civic organizations
- Community based organizations
- Correctional institutions
- Faith-based organizations
- Health care providers
- Institutes of higher education
- Literacy providers
- Local government
- Local media
- Other community-based coalitions
- School districts
- State adult education partners
- Vocational training organizations
- Workforce investment boards
5. Who are the literacy providers in coalition efforts?
Literacy providers come in many shapes and sizes. All have a place at the coalition table. Some providers focus only on literacy while others incorporate literacy in their broader-based social services. Literacy providers include:
- Adult literacy providers
- Community service centers
- Correctional institutions
- Domestic violence shelters
- Early childhood programs
- Employment training sites
- Faith-based organizations
- Family literacy providers
- Family support centers
- Homeless centers/shelters
- Housing complexes
- Substance abuse centers
6. Why should providers join a coalition?
Coalitions offer providers numerous benefits, including:
- AmeriCorps/VISTA coordination
- Contract management
- Curriculum development
- Fund development
- Kindergarten readiness strategies
- Learner retention strategies
- Lesson planning innovations
- Linkages for partnerships
- Marketing and public awareness
- Program development
- Recruitment strategies
- Resources/supplies distribution
- Software/technology support
- Staff development
- Technical assistance
- Transition to work strategies
7. What are the types of literacy embraced by coalitions?
- After school support
- Basic skills
- Computer literacy
- Early childhood and school readiness
- English for speakers of other languages
- Family literacy
- Financial literacy
- Health literacy
- Workforce literacy (pre-employment preparation)
- Workplace literacy (supporting incumbent workers)
8. Do national, state and local governments support coalitions?
Governmental agencies find it more effective to work with local coalitions instead of a multiplicity of individual providers. On average, a community has 152 literacy programs. When coalitions apply for governmental funds they are often able to access larger grants than can be acquired individually.
9. Are school districts partners in coalitions?
School districts collaborate with community organizations to support the success of children. Coalitions that include support to school districts are sometimes referred to as “full-service coalitions.”
What are the advantages of a collaborative approach?
- Fundraising – more success including greater access to large grants
- Staff development – increase effectiveness and efficiency among service providers
- Centralized helpline – cost effective volunteer recruitment, learner placement and information sharing
- Marketing campaign – cost effective and speaks with a stronger single voice for advocacy, awareness and outreach
- Evaluation – ability to measure impact of programs on learner progress, identify need for strategic interventions
11. Why should a coalition develop a regional literacy plan?
With regional literacy plan that we provide, coalitions have a much higher chance of success.
- Increase resources for literacy and target investments for the greatest impact
- Expand access to literacy services throughout the community
- Provide coordination to assure efficient and effective services
- Spread best practice throughout and integrated system of lifelong learning
- Ensure accountability to achieve successful instruction and program management
- Engage community leadership to build lasting solutions
- Keep literacy visible as a top priority in the community
12. How do you know if you are successful?
- Kindergarten readiness
- Students meeting grade level standards on state tests
- High school graduation rates
- Adult learners, including those who speak English as another language, meeting national proficiency standards
- Adult learners experience smooth transitions between basic skills, ESOL, GED and vocational training
- Well-coordinated feeder system from literacy programs to higher education institutions
- Public involvement
- Self sufficiency among families
- Employment levels
- Wages and poverty levels
- Recidivism and crime rate
- Community value for education and literacy
13. What are the potholes that we may fall into… and how do we climb out of them?
Building a literacy coalition is hard work. It is hard to build, hard to maintain and hard to sustain. Coalitions have learned from past mistakes. These are some of the elements we have learned are essential:
Good communication – Every partner needs to be involved in the planning and development process.
Respect – All partners must feel valued and know that they are important to success.
Money – Competition for funds breaks collaborative spirit. Developing a sharing philosophy requires community trust, but it is essential to success. Noncompetitive grant making helps coalitions succeed.
Governmental funding restrictions – Because many grants require applications to flow through local education agencies, community-based programs do not have direct access to resources. Traditional school systems and governmental agencies need to collaborate with the larger community to provide effective literacy services.
Turf issues – Building a spirit of trust and cooperation is challenging and time-consuming. Turf issues can be overcome when partners have mutual goals and a shared vision.
Creativity and flexibility – Change brings forward movement and new ideas.
14. How can Literacy Powerline help?
See Community Literacy Services section.