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Massachusetts Family Literacy Consortium
Our vision is successful families. Our mission is successful partnershps.

Summary of Key Findings from the Family Literacy Review

Area: Family Literacy

Program Design

  • Classes should be offered days, evenings and weekends-preferably 6 day a week classes and not limited to daytime hours.
  • Classes should be accessible-ideally within one mile of home.
  • Provide opportunities for adults and children to reflect on literacy practices in their daily lives.
  • Enroll children whose parents attend Even Start in full day, language and print-rich programs.

Recruitment, Orientation & Intake

  • Outcomes were greater among programs that tailored the recruitment practices to language, culture and interests of the target populations.
  • Spend more time during orientation exploring options that best meet adult needs rather than orienting them to a limited set of options.
  • Programs were more successful if they clarified the requirements and provided potential students with information necessary to make choices. Intake processes should help students establish realistic expectations before entering a program which increases likelihood that they will persist in program.
  • Systematically use strategies to improve retention-progress monitoring, celebrations and flexible options for participation.
  • Establish systematic ways of collecting data on student departure
  • For successful recruitment, programs should:
    • Use personal contact and media advertising
    • Use current or former students as recruitment spokespeople
    • Use home visits with adults from lower socio-economic groups
    • Use one-to-one conversations to help non-participants make the connection between goals and educational services.
  • Families who demonstrate the most change in Even Start:
    • Are emotionally connected to program
    • Participate in program components co-located at same site
    • Maintain high levels of attendance.
  • Parents who demonstrate the highest change scores on evaluation assessment attend programs that have the following characteristics
    • Abundant and planned access to community resources
    • Seamless coordination with public school programs
    • Strong leadership skills of staff enable parents to advocate on behalf of their children and to access available community services.

Family Action Planning

  • There is a significant relationship between presence/absence and quality of Family Action Planning (FAP) and positive educational outcomes for Even Start adults and children.
  • Adults who articulate clear goals persist longer than those who do not.
  • Orientation should offer students 3-hour, six-session orientation workshop where the discuss goals and research best program to meet goals.

Additional services/referrals to outside resources:

  • Counseling significantly reduces program attrition rate by as much as 58% and increases mean reading test gains when it is integrated into recruitment, staff training, instructional design and evaluation.
  • Provide counseling for issues that interfere with learning and persistence, give information about education and career opportunities, assess aptitude and interest, maintain motivation to attend and as a referral resource.

Area: Adult Education

  • Findings suggest that improving student achievement must focus more on teacher preparation and qualifications.
  • Cultural environment of program is the most influential dimension of educational climate in contributing to quality. Cultural Environment refers to:
    • values (openness, non threatening, take risks, make mistakes, importance of learning, warm and comfortable atmosphere, holistic, informal, challenging, fun, enjoyable, humor)
    • cooperative emphasis (help each other)
    • collaboration (learner centered, share responsibility, share decision making, work together)
    • respect (trust, treat with dignity)
    • supportiveness (caring, encouraging, listening, appreciating feelings, accepting)
  • While 6 hours of instruction a week will produce change, 15 hours of instruction weekly is desirable. Instruction should be provided a minimum of 40 weeks during a one year period.
  • Instruction produces greater outcomes when it is differentiated, students are given the opportunity to think about learning strategies, preferences and abilities.
  • Mixed ability grouping negatively impacts teacher's ability to effectively manage groups, results in decreased opportunities for direct instruction and increased frequency in unsupervised busy work.
  • Access to a classroom community and working in groups increases motivation and persistence and increases exposure to different perspectives. Organize students in small groups and keep students engaged and on task.
  • Active learning including non-lecture and collaborative groupings yields better outcomes than passive learning. Students learn best when they are engaged with learning materials and actively participate in the learning decision-making process. Instructors need to know how to sequence, use and design curriculum and how to adjust curricula in response to observed changes in learner needs, pace or progress.
  • Demands on parents will influence their willingness and ability to participate in interactive literacy activities. These activities should be differentiated based on family circumstances. Provide options. If it is too costly for the program to provide these options, link parents to other programs that offer interactive literacy and monitor family's participation and engagement in these programs.
  • Broaden the conception and design of adult literacy programs to include self-study. Broaden concept of the adult literacy student to one who chooses from among a range of literacy development options and resources including self-study, attending classes and working with a tutor or mentor. Intentional self-directed learning has a positive impact on reasoning practices and literacy proficiency levels.
  • Programs should provide materials to students while they are participating so that they will know how to use the materials when not attending.
  • Authentic materials need to be purposefully integrated into the adult education curriculum.
  • Use project-based learning where content of the curriculum is drawn from the social context of students and literacy is developed while researching a problem.
  • Effective reading instruction addresses multiple aspects of the reading process including alphabetics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
  • Base student assignments on clearly defined student needs.
  • Support for Transitions: Form highly collaborative and successful college partnerships; Work together with post-secondary institutions to design transition programs that build skills for academic study as well as for the adult roles of work, family and citizenship.
  • Participation in ABE can lead to increased reading comprehension achievement, that explicit instruction in reading comprehension strategies is effective, and that teaching comprehension along with instruction in other components also is an effective way to improve reading comprehension.
  • When teachers use systematic progress monitoring to track their students' progress in reading, mathematics, or spelling, they are better able to identify students in need of additional or different forms of instruction, they design stronger instructional programs, and their students achieve better.

Area: Early Childhood Education

  • Children who participate more intensively in Early Childhood Education score higher on literacy outcomes. Even Start programs may not provide enough hours of Early Childhood Education (ECE) to see large improvement in child outcomes (20-25% of hours offered by other large scale ECE programs).
  • Increasing the intensity of service (ie. extended or full-day preschool/kindergarten) has had dramatic and lasting effects on children's learning across a wide range of knowledge and skills.
  • Teachers should explicitly define readiness to assist families in preparing children for school success. Intentional instruction/support should be provided to parents to facilitate child's reading and school readiness skills.
  • High-quality classroom environments include a developmentally appropriate curriculum with an emphasis on emergent literacy, early math skills, and structured/unstructured play, in addition to addressing the social-emotional needs of children.
  • Hiring qualified personnel is critical to maintaining classroom quality. Strategies to attract highly trained teachers and paraprofessionals include requiring a college degree & early childhood teaching certificate, and paying rates equal to other public school teachers).

Area: Interactive Literacy

Engaging Parents in Even Start

  • Even Start staff should not use interactive literacy time to facilitate an activity but to work individually with parents to work on skills based on individual needs, preferences and learning styles. Focus should be on interactions.
  • Parents should be responsible for monitoring their own progress and discussing ways they support children as well as missed opportunities with ES staff.

Strategies for Increasing Parent Involvement

  • Parent involvement needs to be active with opportunities to demonstrate, model and practice strategies. Parents generally want and need direction to participate with maximum effectiveness.
  • Parents that interact with children in a home-based setting to teach specific literacy skills was the most efficient way to assist children's reading acquisition through parental involvement.
  • Expand breadth and access to parent-child literacy activities including online resources, build on parent's existing knowledge and interests.

Partnering With Schools

  • Strengthen links with public school programs. Work with parents to understand what is expected of them by their child's teacher and why it is important for them to maintain open communication with the school. When parents are actively involved with their children's schools and classrooms, the children greatly benefited.
  • Provide parents with skills, support, and encouragement needed to become involved and a partner with their child's teacher in working towards their children's school readiness and academic success.

Area: Home Visits

  • Home visiting can produce benefits for children and parents, but, with a few exceptions, most programs produce benefits that are modest in magnitude.
  • It is likely that results would improve if quality of home visiting services were bolstered. This would mean focusing on intensity of services that families actually receive, the skills of the home visitors, and the content of the home visiting curriculum.
  • Home visiting services appear to be most beneficial for families where either the initial need is greatest and/or where parents perceive that their children need the services.
  • Home visits should support families to:
    • Increase availability and use of play materials with children
    • Use positive comments when describing what children do
    • Increase and maintain conversations and active interactions with children
    • Use appropriate guiding techniques to support learning: model, demonstrate, lead, observe.

Last Updated: April 4, 2007
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