February 27, 2012

LCCT Update: 2012 Annual Providers Meeting

Executive Director, Meg Poag and Operations & Communications Manager Maegan Ellis review the 2011 Impact Report with partners February 15, 2012 at the Annual Providers meeting.

In case you missed it- the 2012 Annual Providers Meeting was held Wednesday, February 15th from 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM at LCCT offices. It was quite a sight to see representation from over 30 partner agencies together in one room, working to identify our coalition’s priorities for literacy services in 2012!

The meeting included highlights from the 2011 Impact Report, updates from LCCT programs, partnership renewals as well as a review of the goals and strategies for the upcoming “Literacy Illuminates” campaign.

Feedback was also gathered from brief surveys and smaller break-out discussion groups. We spent time considering several key questions in regards to agencies’ individual literacy programs and the direction for LCCT support in 2012. 

Partners completed a dotting exercise, marking current LCCT programs and services that were most important to their agency.
The overall “voice” from the discussion groups was extremely dynamic, however several key themes are highlighted below:
Increase Volunteer Support!
50% of Adult Literacy Providers responded that Volunteer Recruitment/Retention/Management was “High” or “Very High” priority for their program to improve in this area in the next 12 months. Other literacy providers also agreed that increased volunteer support would address a variety of programmatic needs in regards to capacity building and improving services.
Increase Funding!
42% of Adult Literacy Providers identified (increased) funding as the #1 thing LCCT could do to help increase service capacity for their programs in the next 12 months.

Increase Information Sharing!
This theme included a call for greater dissemination of program success stories, including both the individual stories of clients as well as programmatic best practices and key contacts. Providers felt that this would contribute to a further integrated literacy community and further familiarize and “map” the literacy community in Central Texas.

Increase Technical Support!
Themes of increased centralization and integration also emerged in the call for increased technical support. 75% of Adult Literacy Providers responded that Measuring Impact was “High” or “Very High” priority for their program to improve in this area in the next 12 months. This included but was not limited to providing training and guidance on data collection and management and exploring possibilities for a centralized coalition-wide database.

If you were at the meeting, what was your experience? Did you hear a different “voice” emerge in discussions? If you weren’t at the meeting, what ideas/priorities/needs do you see for literacy services in 2012?

LCCT continues to build on the experiences and insights of partners each year- the feedback from annual meetings is crucial for identifying both strengths and weaknesses of the coalition. We look forward to continuing these conversations among Advisory Committees throughout the year.

Want to continue the conversations this week?

The Advisory Committee for the Literacy Illuminates campaign is meeting this Friday, March 2 @ 9 AM. Partners are encouraged to join this open committee as we work to design a massive literacy campaign in the Austin area tailored not only to address the issue of literacy, but bolster the existing literacy programs in the community. For more information on the campaign or committee meetings, contact Maegan Ellis.

Not a partner, but still want to get involved today?

Visit our website for information on Volunteering -Or-  join our cause by Donating!

February 24, 2012

Illiteracy is EXPENSIVE

Did you ever consider the fact that low literacy rates might have a HUGE economic impact? Not just for the families who experience low literacy, but ALL of us. Check this out-

Low literate adults are more likely to: 1. Be involved in crime: 85% of juveniles in juvenile court are functionally non-literate 2. Be in poor health: Literacy level is the number one predictor of a person’s health status 3. Have children who drop out of school: Mother’s literacy level is the number one predictor of her kids’ achievement in school 4. Rely on public assistance: 50% of adults without GED or equivalent receive Temporary Assistance for the Needy.

It takes about $500 to get someone their GED. In the Austin area, adults who get their GED earn an average of $9,000 more annually. Not only will they earn more for their families, they will pay more taxes, rely less on public benefit programs, and stay in jobs and out of jail. I think most economists would say that that is a pretty good return on investment!

Now consider this- less than 4% of adults in our community who need a GED class has access to one. NOT SMART.

Do your community a big favor, and donate to a local adult literacy program now! You can find a list of area programs here:


And rest assured that between your donation, the Literacy Coalition's support services, and the courageous work of the professionals in these programs, we'll be doing our part to help our community have a stronger, healthier economy.

February 21, 2012

Online Videos for Adult Educators

Spending hours on youtube doesn't have to be a waste of time... it can be educational! Here are just a few of my favorite videos for ESL, ABE, and GED instructors:

What happens in a tutoring session with a literacy student? The pros at Literacy DuPage have helpfully put videos of ABE and ESL tutoring sessions on their youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/LiteracyDuPage?feature=watch. Watch an example of word study, check out ESL experience stories, and more!

The Media Library of Teaching Skills for Adult Learning and Literacy compiles videos from all over the internet so that they'll be easy for adult education instructors to find. The project has created one of the best online resources for ABE and ESL teachers. Check MLOTS out at http://mlots.org/.

How do I teach grammar/writing/vocabulary? On Dr. Andrew Johnson's youtube channel, you'll find a variety of interesting and useful topics for teachers: learning strategies, tutoring basics, literacy for English Language Learners, multi-level literacy... the list goes on and on. Dr. Johnson is a professor in the MSU department of Education. He's also an engaging and opinionated speaker who is good at breaking down tough concepts. Check out his channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/andyaxe1976.

There are so many great resources and videos online that can't possibly list them all here today. Subscribe to our blog and stay tuned for more!

February 13, 2012

How low can they go?

Rising health care costs and shrinking budgets have forced many health service providers, particularly hospitals, to examine ways of reducing costs by preventing readmissions. A readmission is defined as a patient admission to a hospital within 30 days of being discharged from an earlier hospital stay. There has been considerable debate surrounding the issue of whether or not readmissions are preventable. While not all readmissions are preventable, even with optimal care, there is increasing evidence showing that readmission rates are related to and reflective of hospital quality and performance.

In 2010 the Joint Commission, a national accreditation body for hospitals, released new standards emphasizing the importance of effective patient-centered communication and cultural competence on patient outcomes and readmissions. A recent study published in the January 4th issue of JAMA found that heart attack patients in the US were more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days after the heart attack than patients in 16 other countries (including Canada, Australia, and many European nations). The higher readmission levels in the US suggest that there are components of the US care system that could be modified to reduce readmissions to similar levels as those in the other countries. Some of these components include length of stay, coordination of care, and patient follow up procedures.

In August 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program which reduces the amount hospitals are reimbursed when they have an excessive number of preventable readmissions.  While the program does not go into effect until October 1st, many hospitals across the country are being proactive about increasing the patient-centeredness of their programs to see how low they can go reducing readmissions. One example is St. Vincent’s HealthCare in Northeast Florida has been proactive about reducing readmissions by evaluating and modifying existing procedures to prioritize clear communication and coordination of patient care.

In Texas, the Literacy Coalition’s Health Literacy Forward works with health care providers to reduce preventable readmissions through health literacy interventions. One big project on the horizon is a collaborative study with Seton Healthcare Family to identify best communication practices to help reduce preventable readmissions in their hospitals. While we aren’t the first group that has wanted to look at which components of clear communication and doctor-patient interaction have the most significant effect on improving an individual’s ability to understand and act on health information, it seems like we will be doing some fairly groundbreaking research! We had a great planning meeting on Monday and I am really excited to continue developing the project over the next couple of months. Stay tuned! 

February 9, 2012

Ignorant, Stupid, and Poor!

Did I get your attention? Good!

I’m going to go a bit out of character here and into a bit of a rant. My colleague, Maegan, is right. The Success by 6 findings are troubling at best. Though, let’s be honest here, those findings are why we exist as a literacy coalition and why it’s our mission every single day to fight for those neighborhoods, those families, and those children. We work our tails off trying to connect individuals in need of literacy services with programs, to give those same programs the resources and help they need to do the best job they can for those individuals, and to raise awareness for the overall cause.

So where’s the rant, you say? Shortly after the findings of Success by 6 were released, a morning radio show in Austin attacked the very communities that need us most with hateful words like “ignorant,” “stupid,” and “poor.” These radio hosts (who shall remain nameless, using all my willpower to not link them here) even went so far as to say that the very people we work day-in and day-out to support and help are not worthy of pro-creation. I’m sorry, what?????!!!! These men have the power to reach thousands of people with their words, and this is what they choose to say? And we’re supposed to look up to them and give them our support by tuning in as we make our morning commutes?

I am appalled that this radio station feels these men are worthy of airtime when, instead of using their voices for positive change, they’re relying on their own ignorance and stupidity to infuse their listeners with venomous misconceptions.

Imagine if one of them had taken the 30 seconds needed to simply google “literacy services Austin” and then had taken another 10 seconds to mention just one of the seven agencies or programs that popped up, imagine how much good 40 seconds of their time could have done!

Just one person could have been listening who might have then picked up the Fight for Literacy Torch by donating, volunteering, or just plain old talking about the Success by 6 findings to a friend. For shame. Maybe we should take away their ability to procreate!

To end on a positive and uplifting story that highlights the human ability to surpass all limits, I leave you with this:

February 6, 2012

Home is the heart of the matter. It's where literacy begins.

Thanks to the massive new United Way initiative Success by Six in collaboration with the University of California, Los Angeles, the first data set about early childhood development as it relates to school readiness in Central Texas has been released.

The findings are troubling. The regional stats are bad enough: only 52% of children entering school in Central Texas are school-ready. But in some Austin neighborhoods, such as St. John's and Dove Springs, the rate is an astonishing 12-15%. That means that only 1 in every 10 kindergarteners in these neighborhoods arrives at school ready to learn.

So what do we do? Where do we even begin to fill in the gaps to get these kids more ready to succeed in school? I propose a logic model to begin the conversation:
If we know that
a mother's literacy level is the #1 predictor of her children's success in school, then increasing parents' literacy rates will directly improve children's school readiness rates.
The Literacy Coalition is preparing to kick off a major campaign - Literacy Illuminates - to raise awareness of this issue and to connect parents and individuals to literacy services in our area. (Keep reading our blog to find out more about the campaign!) Success by Six is working to identify and strategize how to reach the kids in the target neighborhoods. But in the meantime, what can you do to help Central Texas kids succeed academically? Volunteer! Our partner agencies always need additional adult literacy instructors, tutors, and mentors. The Literacy Coalition even offers free training for volunteer instructors. Donate to the Literacy Coalition! For every $1 that's invested in us, we return $2.50 in resources to our partner agencies. That means we effectively double every donation that you make through our ability to leverage funds. Our community is mobilizing to address the impacts of low literacy in 2012 - especially as it affects our children. Won't you join us?

February 1, 2012

Health literacy...it's just so hot right now!

Health literacy! Health literacy! Let it ring!

You MUST have heard of health literacy by now, right?!? Have we come to the point where we can stop starting conversations with, "health literacy can be defined as..." or "health literacy means..."

No, I guess not. Sighhhh. We are getting close though! Maybe it's just because I'm engulfed in the world of health literacy every day, but it seems like the field is finally starting to blow up! When I started working with the Literacy Coalition in 2009, a Google search of health literacy brought up a few measly resources. Nowadays health literacy is "the cool" thing to be talking about.

"Psshhh, yeah right!" you say. Well, it's true. And I've got some examples to prove it!

First off, although federal policy may not be deemed "cool," per se, health literacy is definitely blowing up the federal policy mini-feed. Check out this great new article that outlines 3 major federal initiatives that are pushing health literacy forward: 1) Affordable Care Act (aka healthcare reform, aka Obamacare), 2) Department of Health and Human Services' National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy and finally, 3) Plain Writing Act of 2010.

Another indicator of health literacy's coolness factor is this new national social media campaign. The campaign slogan is "R U an Xtreme Teen?" Seriously? With R U and X?!?! You can't tell me that's not cool.  

Ok, seriously now, health literacy REALLY IS blowing up. Both new developments mentioned above, along with Joint Commission standards changing in October 2012 to include standards requiring the use of "effective communication", and all the buzz around improving discharge (that'll be another blog post...or could be an entire blog in itself!), you'll be hearing A LOT more about this health literacy business in 2012.

So hop on the train! Start talking about it, teaching it, blogging, tweeting, status-ing... Even the big shots are endorsing health literacy these days. I heard former Surgeon General Richard Carmona speak at a health literacy summit in Madison, WI where he said, “Health literacy is the currency for success in everything we do. In search of the holy grail for healthcare, we can no longer afford to keep health literacy on the sidelines.”