Friday, February 19, 2016

Where’s Leadership For Literacy Today?

Although there have been many studies, media reports, and grants dedicated to eradicating illiteracy from society, we have fallen short as a nation.  Teachers at schools have been targeted for blame.  Should we increase the number of charter schools, reduce class size, and hold teachers accountable for progress?  Must we make school days longer, change teaching methods, revise our text books, or give everyone a tutor?

The Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers (ALER) believes it offers an alternative for accomplishing high student literacy achievement.  Its approach entails broadening the base of literacy leadership.  A white paper from April 2011, issued by ALER, entitled “Leadership for Literacy in the 21st Century,” attacks this issue and “suggests how the contributions and roles of those on the ground, including teachers, school administrations, reading teachers, literacy coaches and curriculum supervisors, might be modified to take full advantage of their literacy knowledge.”

The ALER set about to examine some fundamental questions, including these:
·         What do we know about effective school leadership?
·         What does effective leadership for literacy achievement look like?
·         Who might be able to provide such leadership?

So what’s the conclusion here?
·         What’s being done either doesn’t work or doesn’t appreciably improve literacy skills compared to earlier approaches and methods.
·         Literacy leadership cannot be shouldered completely by designated district or building leaders – it takes a village to raise a reader.

The report stated:

“Stakeholders outside the school, family members, caregivers, universities, civic groups, religious organizations, and the business community, can provide literacy leadership by becoming more visible and participating in this endeavor by collaborating on initiatives and sharing expertise.

“Toward this end we recommend that each constituency examine how to best serve the literacy needs of our school children and determine what role it can play by providing literacy leadership.”

The report made 18 specific observations and recommendations, including:

·         “Classroom teachers play a pivotal role in literacy leadership since they directly interact with and instruct students on a daily basis.  However, their expertise is underutilized and undervalued; it can be extended beyond their individual classrooms when teachers collaborate with peers and parents/families to ensure an appreciation of literacy routines outside of school.

·         “Administrators such as principals and curriculum supervisors have direct responsibility for what is taught in their schools, designing effective instructional programs that are aligned with curriculum and standards, and providing information to the public. As observers and evaluators of teachers, these administrators must be able to determine whether teachers are providing effective instruction and equitable learning opportunities for all students.

·         “Parents/caregivers must be empowered to participate in decision-making that will affect the kinds of literacy experiences their children will have in school.

·         “Universities can serve two major leadership roles:  (1) outreach, in which they maintain literacy-focused partnerships with local skills by providing professional development for teachers, workshops for parents, and work toward grant acquisition for schools, and (2) research, in which they serve as a nucleus of exemplary scholarship, especially in teacher preparation programs.”

It’s hard to believe there are tens of millions it illiterates in the United States, but there are. Though it’s sad to see at any age, it’s especially hard to accept that young people today are leaving or graduating school and are unable to read a bus schedule, fill out standardized forms, comprehend a  blog for the reader, or speak English well enough to get a job.

But denying the problem exists or dismissing it as a problem of minorities or immigrants, we miss an opportunity to speak candidly about an issue that really could define America in a few years.  The illiterate not only fail to contribute to society or even hold their own, they become takers, victims, and in some cases, victimizers when they turn to crime.

Everyone should feel obligated to solving the literacy crisis plaguing America, for truly everyone will bear some of the burdensome results that come from a nation that fails to raise self-sufficient, intelligent youth.  We need to embrace white papers like this one – and to heed the concerns and conclusions of those who have actively fought the problem.  Our nation’s future depends on it.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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