For Literacy Classes, City Sends Some to Libraries

(Photo by Jens Schott Knudsen, Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Jens Schott Knudsen, Creative Commons license)

The Office of Adult and Continuing Education of the city’s education department has been sending immigrants seeking literacy courses to public libraries for instruction, reports Jackie Schechter of Chalkbeat.

Principals at the city’s adult literacy programs are following new guidance which apparently has set the bar higher for entry into the programs. Prospective student are given an intake test, and some have been told that their scores are too low for the city programs.

“There was always testing at intake, but the purpose of the testing was placement, not to determine whether you would be admitted or referred elsewhere,” adult education teacher Marcia Biederman said.

And Biederman and her colleagues are concerned that classes at the library are not a substitute for department courses.

For starters, the classes at the library provide just four instructional hours per week, compared to up to 15 hours a week for department-run classes. Unlike the department, the library does not have classes just for immigrants who are illiterate in their native languages, although it has recently trained its teachers to work with these students.

The city’s adult education program served approximately 29,000 students over the past year. And this coming fall, the education department says it will be adding 20 English as a second language classes, in order to reach students with a range of literacy skills.

“These adult ESL classes are important and widely popular, and we look forward to serving even more adults by expanding classes citywide during the 2014-15 school year,” said Marcus Liem, a department spokesman.

But teachers in the program worry about how the neediest and most vulnerable of the students will be helped. To read more of their comments, including their speculation that a concern with test score gains may be behind the new guidance, read the original article in Chalkbeat.

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