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Author: National Coalition for Literacy

International Literacy Day 2020

International Literacy Day 2020

International Literacy Day observations take place around the world on September 8 every year to highlight the nature of literacy as a civil and human right and its importance for the dignity of every person. UNESCO has sponsored International Literacy Day every year since 1967.

According to UNESCO,

International Literacy Day (ILD) 2020 will focus on literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond with a focus on the role of educators and changing pedagogies. The theme will highlight literacy learning in a lifelong learning perspective and therefore mainly focus on youth and adults. …International Literacy Day 2020 will provide an opportunity to reflect on and discuss how innovative and effective pedagogies and teaching methodologies can be used in youth and adult literacy programmes to face the pandemic and beyond.

Visit the UNESCO International Literacy Day web page for information on the global webinar planned for the day and downloadable copies of the 2020 poster in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish.

IntlLiteracyDay2020Poster

Census 2020: Your Senator Needs to Hear from You

Census 2020: Your Senator Needs to Hear from You

The Census Bureau has announced that it will terminate data collection at the end of September, rather than at the end of October as previously announced.

This change increases the likelihood that the 37 percent of residents who have not yet responded to the 2020 Census will not be counted. Those who have not yet responded are members of hard-to-count populations: rural residents, persons with low or no income, members of ethnic and racial minorities, persons with limited proficiency in English, and persons with low levels of educational attainment.

To be sure our adult learners and their families and communities are counted, we need Census 2020 data collection to continue through October 31.

The House-passed COVID-19 bill (the HEROES Act) provided for the October 31 deadline, but this extension is missing from the Senate’s COVID-19 bill. We must ensure that the COVID relief package, under discussion this week, includes language that will extend the 2020 Census deadline to ensure an accurate count.

What you can do:

  1. Encourage your adult learners to complete the Census right away themselves and to promote Census completion in their communities, online (my2020census.gov), by phone (1-844-330-2020), or on paper. It’s the best way to ensure support, accountability, and political representation for the community and its members.
  2. Call your Senators this week, while they are debating the Senate COVID-19 relief bill.

The Census Counts campaign has set up a toll-free patch-through line at 1-888-374-4269. When you call, you’ll be asked to provide your zip code. You’ll hear a pre-recording with details on what to say, and then be patched through to your Senator’s office.

Here’s a script for what to say to the staffer who takes your call:

Hi, my name is _______ and I am your constituent from (City and State). I am calling to ask the Senator NOT to cut the 2020 Census short and to extend the reporting deadline so the Census Bureau has the time it needs to count everyone. A rushed census results in an inaccurate representation of the country. Thank you for your time. 

You can also ask the Senator to sign on to Senator Schatz’ bipartisan letter to leadership asking for the deadline extensions in the next coronavirus package. Senators who wish to sign on should contact Trelaine Ito in Senator Schatz’s office, trlaine_ito@schatz.senate.gov.

3. Share this information and encourage others to contact their Senators too. Census Counts is particularly interested in outreach to these four Senators:

  • Senator Richard Shelby in Alabama
  • Senator Dan Sullivan in Alaska
  • Senator Martha McSally in Arizona
  • Senator Susan Collins in Maine

However, everyone is encouraged to participate in this effort – every Senator is important, and every constituent voice counts!

Thank you for all you do to provide and promote opportunities, resources, and representation for our adult learners and their communities.

Don’t Miss This Opportunity to Build Digital Capacity

Don’t Miss This Opportunity to Build Digital Capacity

By Deborah Kennedy, president, National Coalition for Literacy

Adult education and family literacy providers throughout the country are well aware of the effects of gaps in digital capability on both their programs and their program participants. These gaps are evident at multiple levels:

  • Infrastructure: Availability of broadband has increased over time, but differences persist. The Pew Research Center notes that, in general, “roughly three-quarters of American adults have broadband internet service at home,” but “adoption gaps remain based on factors such as age, income, education and community type. …Home broadband adoption varies across demographic groups. Racial minorities, older adults, rural residents, and those with lower levels of education and income are less likely to have broadband service at home.”
  • Individuals: Large disparities remain between those who are proficient in the use of technology and those who are not. A recent release from the National Skills Coalition connects this disparity with larger inequities. “Digital literacy includes both the capacity to use technology and the cognitive skills necessary to navigate it successfully. But a startling one-third of American workers lack these vital digital skills. …Due to longstanding inequities, workers of color are over-represented among those with limited or no digital skills. For example, Black workers comprise 12 percent of overall workers, but represent 15 percent of the subset of workers who have no digital skills and 21 percent of those with limited skills. Latino workers (who may be of any race) are 14 percent of overall workers, but represent a full 35 percent of workers with no digital skills, and 20 percent of those with limited skills.”
  • Programs: Programs vary widely in their approaches to providing digital skills training, to using distance learning to increase their reach, and to providing professional development in technology-mediated approaches to instruction for adult education practitioners. These variations stem from different states’ policies on distance learning and professional development, as well as from differences in the financial and infrastructure capacities of different program contexts (for example, community college based versus CBO based).

These disparities have gained new prominence in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the nation’s workforce. As a recent paper on digital fluency from the National Skills Coalition notes,

Many laid-off workers are scrambling to identify how they can regroup and re-engage in a labor market that has shifted overnight, and one in which the traditional solution of “going back to school” for additional training has been complicated by a rapid shift to online-only learning. Many training providers are ill-equipped to match demand for remote learning, and many are not ready at all to shift to online or technology-enabled programs. Even more critically, the rapid shift to online or technology-enabled learning means that workers with no or few digital skills — already at a disadvantage in the labor market — may not be able to effectively participate in training and earn the credentials they need to reconnect to work. Similarly, those workers still employed are facing significant new demands to build technology-related skills — across all industries and sectors — as digital tools enabling remote work are the single thread tethering them to continued employment.

Notably, with the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, the adult education field gained an opportunity to begin to address these challenges. The CARES Act includes nearly $3 billion for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF), a formula grant program that allows governors to provide emergency support to any education-related entity within the state that the governor deems essential for carrying out emergency education services to students. Activities conducted under the umbrella of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, including technology integration activities, are specifically included in the allowable uses.

The Department of Education has made the funds available to governors as of April 14, so adult education practitioners should act now to ensure that adult learners and adult education programs are included in their governor’s funding priorities, with a particular focus on building technology capacity. Here’s what to do:

  • Understand that the funds will be available through your state’s governor’s office, not directly from the Department of Education.
  • Governors are likely to appoint a committee or task force to establish priorities and processes for allocating funding. Contact your governor’s office to advocate for inclusion of a representative of the adult education community on that task force or committee. Reference the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund specifically.
  • Remind the governor and other decisionmakers that integration of technology is a key aspect of WIOA and that digital literacy is called out as an essential element of workforce preparation. Use OCTAE’s Integrating Technology in WIOA guidance to stress this.
  • Note that both Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai are strongly promoting the use of GEER funding for technology-related purposes.
  • Develop a set of priorities and plans that would work best in your context, with related cost projections. Include everything you can think of that would make technology-enabled instruction more available and accessible to your adult learners. Here are a few possibilities:
    • Internet access points such as wifi hotspots in parking lots that adult learners can use from their cars to maintain social distancing
    • Provision of electronic devices (tablets, laptops) with relevant software already loaded
    • Acquisition of software/platform licenses
    • Professional development for teachers and staff
    • Staff time for online materials and activities development
    • Teacher/staff compensation for one-on-one phone tutoring with adult learners

You want to be ready when the governor’s office invites you to submit a request!


Resources

Applying a racial equity lens to digital literacy: How workers of color are affected by digital skill gaps. National Skills Coalition, March 20, 2020.

Broadband and student performance gaps. Policy Brief 01-20. Quello Center at Michigan State University, March 23, 2020.

Mary Freeman and Vickie Choitz. Why adult foundational skills matter now more than ever. Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, April 27, 2020.

Integrating technology in WIOA. OCTAE, March 24, 2015.

Leticia Lewis and Molly Bashay. Digital fluency for a resilient economy. National Skills Coalition, April 21, 2020.

Judy Mortrude. Is your state planning for an equitable digital future? EdTech Center at World Education, February 13, 2020.

How will the coronavirus affect the Census?

How will the coronavirus affect the Census?

Concerns about COVID-19 (the illness caused by the new coronavirus) are increasing as the number of cases grows across the United States, and many people are wondering whether this public health crisis will have an effect on the Census count.

Fortunately, the 2020 Census is set up in a way that allows everyone to participate without fear of exposure to the virus. When the invitation to participate comes in the mail, it will include instructions for responding online, by phone, and by mail. As the Census Bureau says,

It has never been easier to respond on your own, whether online, over the phone or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker.

You will be able to respond either online or by phone in English and 12 other languages. If you respond right away, no Census taker will visit you.

The Census Bureau’s most recent statement, released on March 11, outlines the plan for in-person followup:

Census takers plan to conduct the Nonresponse Followup operation in a handful of communities beginning as early as April 9, and across the country on May 13. Households can still respond on their own during this phase (online and phone response is available through July 31).

The Census Bureau will closely follow guidance from public health authorities when conducting this operation, as we do when conducting all field operations. 

If we need to delay or discontinue nonresponse follow-up visits in a particular community, we will adapt our operation to ensure we get a complete and accurate count. 

The safest and easiest strategy, then, is to respond online or by phone as soon as you receive the invitation in the mail.

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