Cuyahoga County’s Literacy Crisis

Data shows the pervasive, county-wide challenge of young children and adults without the skills needed to succeed

Cuyahoga County’s literacy crisis will persist for generations unless progress is accelerated in preparing young children for kindergarten and helping more adult residents secure at least a high school education.

An assessment of the state of literacy in Cuyahoga County done by The Literacy Cooperative found:

  • 42% of all children enrolling in kindergarten in the 2018-19 school year weren’t adequately prepared to succeed
  • More than half of Cuyahoga’s children unprepared for kindergarten are enrolling in suburban school districts

Kindergarten Readiness (2018-2019)

Children unprepared for kindergarten are less likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade ‑ a predictor of later success in school.

And adults without a high school diploma lack the basic literacy and other skills required to access in-demand jobs that offer paths to prosperity.

Low literacy levels pervade all of Cuyahoga County. For example:

  • 10% of all adults, or 101,221 residents, don’t have a high school diploma as of 2017
  • Nearly 40% of those without a high school diploma are ages 18-44
  • 58% of adults (18-44) without a high school diploma live in the city of Cleveland
  • More than half of the young adults (18-24) without a diploma live in the suburbs

Adults without a High School Diploma

 

Read the full dashboard here: TLC (Footnoted) Literacy in Cuyahoga Assessment

The Literacy Cooperative’s Year in Review 2019

This year was a great year of growth for The Literacy Cooperative! We relocated smoothly to offices within the Hanna Building, promoted Joan Spoerl from a part-time coordinator to full-time Director of Imagination Library, and hired Emma Keating as our full-time Digital Communications Associate.

Imagination Library

This year marks some exciting times for Imagination Library! The State of Ohio approved $5 million to create the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library Program (OGIL) to support the statewide expansion of the Imagination Library. The funds will be used to pay for one-half of the costs of books and mailing of the books. First Lady Fran DeWine has been leading this effort.

As of today, we are serving over 9,000 children in 28 different ZIP codes, most recently adding ZIPs 44121, 44124, and 44143.

2Gen Community

TLC and the 2Gen Committee published the 2Gen Call to Action and gathered direct service providers, educators and administrators for a 2Gen Summit, where the plan was presented. A total of 78 people across 47 organizations participated. TLC worked with committee partners to foster 2Gen partnerships that resulted in the funding of two additional 2Gen pilots in Cuyahoga County. There are currently four 2Gen pilots connected to the committee and TLC will be working with them to track progress and successes.

XPRIZE Communities Competition

Between April and August, TLC led a team of local organizations and entered the $1 million Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communities Competition, a national competition that challenges organizations, communities and individuals to recruit adults with low literacy skills to download and use effective, convenient and private learning apps. Team LitFitNEO, consisting of partners in Cuyahoga and Summit counties, was among 46 competitors across the U.S.

The team spread the message to all adults to download and use the apps to advance literacy and to give our community the chance to win the competition and bring much-needed resources to advance adult literacy services.

On April 1, 2019, XPRIZE recognized the team for their innovative, feasible and scalable plan and awarded us one of 24 Milestone Awards, granted for best proposals.

Professional Excellence

TLC uses its professional development platform to share promising practices with the community. So far this year, we have provided 18 workshops, one national speaker engagement, our 2Gen Literacy Summit, our Teacher Academy and three learning communities to more than 700 attendees representing more than 100 organizations.

Career Pathways

TLC continued its partnership with University Settlement for the operation of NEO Skill Corps. In 2019, an evaluation of NEO Skill Corps was published for services provided September 2015 through August 2018.  The conclusion indicated the program was successful in reaching its performance goals.  The program supported 3,867 participants at 12 sites across the city of Cleveland. As a result of the program, 79% of participants achieved their intended goal of finding a job, enrolling in training or tutoring, or completing work readiness programs.

Co-chairing the Slavic Village P-16 Employment Committee with Towards Employment, we led a manufacturing career pathway pilot in response to employers in and around Slavic Village needing entry and mid-level employees.  Our first two cohorts resulted in 11 of 15 successfully obtaining the national certification and eight out of 11 placed at an average wage of $14.00 per hour.

Contextualized Curriculum

One of the key successes highlighted from the Slavic Village manufacturing certification training program pilot was the use of the contextualized curriculum and the tutoring offered to participants to prepare them for the WorkKeys and the Certified Production Technician (CPT) assessments.  The instructor indicated that participants passed their assessments due to this combination of assistance.

TLC hosted professional development sessions to provide instruction on the use of the contextualized curriculum. TLC’s inventory of contextualized curriculum now includes 40 hours of math and reading exercises related to IT/digital literacy and healthcare, and more than 150 hours of math, reading, science and social studies lessons related to construction and manufacturing.  There are 150 instructors from Cuyahoga, other Ohio counties and other states with access to the curriculum.

TLC is actively working on refreshing the contextualized curriculum and adding curriculum for the hospitality sector.

Ohio Workforce Coalition and SkillSpan

The National Skills Coalition has selected the Ohio Workforce Coalition to join SkillSPAN, a nationwide network of non-partisan coalitions focused on advancing state policies that expand economic opportunities for workers and their families while boosting local businesses’ capacity. The Ohio Workforce Coalition joins the original 10 founding states and will receive a $25,000 grant to advance work throughout 2020. Read the press release.

TLC looks forward to its role as a fiscal agent on behalf of the Ohio Workforce Coalition. With this partnership and involvement, TLC will be able to further establish itself as a leading resource and advocate for literacy education inclusion in Greater Cleveland and beyond.

The Ohio Workforce Coalition brings three major goals to SkillSPAN, including building the skills of adult workers, working to meet the skill needs of employers, and strengthening the entire workforce system. Through this partnership, the Coalition will be better suited to accomplish its goals and build educational and career pathways for all Ohioans.

CLE-BEE (click here for the highlight reel)

TLC hosted its fourth annual Corporate Spelling Bee on Sept. 12, 2019, with a total of 27 teams of three which competed in four “swarms” – finance, community, legal and corporate. TLC received press coverage from Freshwater CLE and WKYC. This year’s final four were Benesch Law, Medical Mutual, ideastream and Tri-C, with Benesch Law taking home the championship.

Reach Out and Read

September marked the end of a 3-year Bruening Foundation grant that funded a full-time Literacy Cooperative staff member to support Reach Out and Read. Lynn Foran is now the executive director of Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland and will continue serving the community from a new location at The Cleveland Public Library. Read our story here.

During her tenure here, Foran grew Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland from 23 health system sites to 33 and facilitated the distribution of 86,000 new books and doctor-parent conversations. Children served by Reach Out and Read score three to six months ahead of others on their vocabulary tests because they are regularly read aloud to. Lynn also contributed to the launch and growth of Imagination Library in Cuyahoga County.

Speaking Engagements

COABE (Coalition on Adult Basic Education) – TLC presented at the annual conference in New Orleans. The panel included the CEO of Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School, the Research Director for Jobs for the Future and the Senior Policy Analyst from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). The topic focused on urban communities and how to help adults develop basic skills, family-sustaining employment to build stronger communities. Laureen Atkins discussed the development and use of the contextualized curriculum available through TLC.

Bob Paponetti made multiple media appearances on WKYC to promote the CLE-BEE, discuss Reach Out and Read, and make the case for advanced literacy. He made an appearance on WTAM to promote the CLE-BEE and was featured on their “CEOs You Should Know” list. Bob also co-presented at the Civic Leadership Institute’s Education Day with CMSD Superintendent Eric Gordon. Joan Spoerl was on Sound of Ideas, speaking about how to raise your children to be readers. She talked with a bestselling author from The New York Times about the importance of engaging children in reading from a young age. Laureen Atkins appeared on WKYC to promote the XPRIZE competition.

You can view or listen to our speaking engagements here.

Advocacy/Awareness

TLC staff are members of several Say Yes to Education committees including, Kindergarten Readiness, Family Stability, and Post-Secondary Advancement. TLC staff continues to participate on the Ohio Workforce Coalition, the Open Door Collective, and the NEO Workforce Coalition to develop a coordinated agenda for advocacy and awareness. TLC also serves on Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Board’s Strategic Functions Committee.

Through the Open Door Collective TLC assisted in the publishing of several Can-Do Guides that provide ways for organizations and leaders to participate in strengthening basic skills in the workforce. Our work with the Ohio Workforce Coalition led to the SkillSPAN partnership that is highlighted on page three.

TLC hosted a Read Across America Day luncheon in March 2019 featuring Dr. Perri Klass, National Medical Director of Reach Out and Read (ROR). More than 170 attendees learned about her work at ROR and how she has trained thousands of medical providers in the ROR strategies of early literacy promotion.

We published our literacy dashboard, developed by staff and our Research and Evaluation Committee. The dashboard details the state of literacy in Cuyahoga County. We used this data to update our policy agenda for stronger advocacy in early literacy, two-generational practices/ parent engagement, and adult education/career pathways.

We continued to increase our presence on social media, adding a Facebook page for the Imagination Library Greater Cleveland with a special parent group for Imagination Library families.

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For more information on our programs, follow us on social media – @literacycoop on all platforms.

Considering Going Back to School? Ask Yourself These Questions:

This is a guest post contributed by blogger Lisa Nichols. You can reach her at reese.am.jones@gmail.com.

The thought of going back to college as an adult, whether it’s to complete an unfinished degree or pursue a new one altogether, can be very daunting. It’s a huge commitment and one that may make some feel unready. To help with your decision, here are five questions you should be asking yourself:

What’s holding me back?

Determine your motivations for going back to school. Whether it’s a personal promise to yourself or because you want to switch careers, knowing your reason will not only help you face your worries but it will also keep you motivated to get your college degree.

Also, know that there are also other people in the same boat as you. You may be scared that you’d be the oldest person in your class, or that you’d stand out amongst your fellow students, but the National Center for Education Statistics reported that almost 40% of those attending college this school year are students 25 years and over. Experts also estimate that this percentage will continue to increase over the next decade. So, if you do decide to go back to college, you’ll be joining at least 7 million other adults.

Replacing your worries and fears with all the benefits and advantages of getting your degree can help with your commitment to starting and finishing school.

How do I fit in college classes to my existing schedule?

It can be tough to fit college classes into your already busy schedule, especially if you’re working full-time or raising kids. Programs that offer night classes are a great option for those who only have the nights off to study. However, the schedules of modern-day adults often make it near impossible to pursue an on-campus degree program. Thankfully, technology has provided more options for adult learners, allowing them to earn their college degrees from the comfort of their own homes. Some online school applications can be a breeze, too. Learners can enjoy flexible start dates to help them ease into the process of going back to school. Student support systems have also been developed in recent years, which provide students of online institutions the social support they need to excel in the virtual classroom. All of this makes fitting education into your schedule easier and smoother. Most community colleges also offer part-time education programs, helping working students find a way to pursue further education without compromising their current commitments.

How do I pay for school?

Being an adult does not mean that you won’t be qualified for financial aid. There are a handful of available grants and scholarships available for adults returning to college. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step to unlocking any federal financial aid. And even if you don’t qualify for grants, your FAFSA is your access to federal student loans. You can also search online for possible grants and scholarships.

If you’re a working professional, your current employer can be a possible source for financial assistance. Ask and check if your company can offer some kind of tuition reimbursement.

How do I prepare myself for college?

Once you’ve sorted out the logistics of how you can go back to school, it’s a matter of preparing yourself physically and mentally for college. Before attending classes, whether offline or online, you may want to brush up on your academic skills by going online and reading up on topics related to the course/program you’ve decided to pursue. Navigating your way through college as an adult will become easier if you align your personal, social and work life with the changes that college could bring. A great way to do this is by enlisting the support of your family and friends. Inform them of your plans of going back to college and ask them to help out with your current obligations to make it easier for you to ease your way back into studying.

How do I balance everything when I start studying again?

As an adult learner, you would need to find balance in all your roles, from school to family to work. The key to doing this is effective time management by prioritizing your responsibilities and planning ahead. Blog contributor Piper McIntosh discussed how it’s also important to take time for yourself, since it’s easy to lose yourself with all the added responsibilities of going back to college. Getting your degree should not be a reason to not have any quality time for yourself and your loved ones.

 

National Skills Coalition selects Ohio Workforce Coalition to Join State Policy Advocacy Network

The National Skills Coalition has selected the Ohio Workforce Coalition to join SkillSPAN, a nationwide network of non-partisan coalitions focused on advancing state policies that expand economic opportunities for workers and their families while boosting local businesses’ capacity. The Ohio Workforce Coalition joins the original 10 founding states and will receive a $25,000 grant to advance work throughout 2020.

The Ohio Workforce Coalition brings three major goals to SkillSPAN, including building the skills of adult workers, working to meet the skill needs of employers, and strengthening the entire workforce system. Through this partnership, the Coalition will be better suited to accomplish its goals and build educational and career pathways for all Ohioans.

As Director, Rebecca Kusner will lead this initiative and guide the Coalition’s members to advocate, educate, and innovate as we assure the availability of a job-ready workforce, increase effectiveness of programs serving Ohio’s employers, and improve Ohio’s workforce development programs. “Since 2007, the Ohio Workforce Coalition has been the leading voice for adult workforce issues in Ohio. I’m thrilled that we are able to join this network and take our work to the next level,” said Kusner. “With The National Skills Coalition’s support, we will build our platform, grow stakeholder engagement, and consider the long-term future of our Coalition.”

The Literacy Cooperative has been selected to serve as the interim fiscal agent for the Coalition. Laureen Atkins, vice president of Strategic Initiatives, is on the Leadership Committee of the Ohio Workforce Coalition and assists with the policy priorities, strategy, and activities. Other Leadership Committee members can be found on our website at www.ohioworkforcecoalition.org.

The Literacy Cooperative’s 2Gen Initiative: Tri-C partner spotlight

At The Literacy Cooperative’s 2Gen Summit in May 2019, we highlighted best practices in the two-generation approach to learning.

2Gen approaches build family wellbeing by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and adults in their lives together. Learn more about our 2Gen Initiative.

During the Summit, The Literacy Cooperative presented a 2Gen Call to Action that focuses on four key imperatives: involving parents and family members as equals in the planning process, expanding interagency knowledge among service partners, implementing referral strategies and shared databases across all organizations, and using these methods to incubate a 2Gen programming pilot to track results, scalability and sustainability.

One of the programs that exemplifies the goals of a 2Gen Approach is Cuyahoga Community College’s Saturday Family Academy (SFA), a free, non-credit course designed to promote education, empowerment and success to the entire family.

“The vision was to create an innovative model to educate and inspire multiple generations of a family, and take the whole family to the next level,” said Kenneth Hale, founder and former director of Saturday Family Academy. “We want to change the trajectory for some of these folks.”

Every Saturday morning families attend age-specific classes, which are different each year. After the individual sessions, all students gather to share what they learned and eat a meal together. 

“It’s a learning community at Tri-C that doesn’t cost any money for the families, and the whole family can benefit,” Hale said. “It’s really been awesome.”

One of those families is the Thomas Family. Parents Duane and Theresa, with children Tamara, Sherelle, and Joseph, attended SFA during the Fall 2016 and the Spring 2017 semesters. Originally, they went to support dad Duane to get more comfortable with the college environment before going back to school – but soon found it beneficial for all. 

Theresa and Duane took wellness and financial literacy classes together; Tamara prepared for college with ACT courses – something that her CMSD school didn’t offer; Sherelle and Joseph played chess and solved math problems to build critical reasoning skills. 

Duane and Theresa said during their financial literacy class, they learned how to keep track of their money much more and expanded their knowledge on banking. Fun games weren’t just for the children, either – the financial instructor had his session set up like a game of Jeopardy.

Tamara not only prepped for the ACT but also gained skills both in and outside of the classroom that prepared her for her future, such as a connection to an internship and professional development made through the Saturday Family Academy.

She’s now a sophomore at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Her dad is also a sophomore, soon to earn his Associates degree from Cleveland State University. He wants to be a counselor, helping other students with their education.

“Being able to walk around that campus, I was able to see other people like me,” Duane said. “I was like, wow – it really doesn’t matter your age. Anyone can finish school.”

Sherelle is attending Tri-C as an 11th grader this year as part of her high school curriculum. Because of this experience with her family, she said she feels totally comfortable on campus.

The Thomas family said being able to share in their education as a family brought them closer together.

“You’re not just bossing around and prioritizing education for your children, but you’re showing them that you’re dedicated to education as well,” Theresa said. “It really put an emphasis on that.”

Myra Stone is one of the teachers at the academy. She taught at Rhodes High School for years. Now retired, she comes back every year to help kids.

“When you’re teaching high school, you see a lot of kids – intelligent kids – who just have some problems they’re working through,” she said. 

But SFA is different than school.

“I do hip-hop with the kids, drama, and poetry,” Myra said. “Going into this I was aiming for laughter. A lot of these kids come to school with baggage, and that makes it hard to learn. But these small groups are a unique opportunity to engage more with the kids.”

With further partnerships with institutions and programs such as SFA, Greater Cleveland can continue to move toward operating under a 2Gen model to benefit families more effectively.

The fourth year of Saturday Family Academy begun September 21st at Tri-C’s Metro Campus and continues the next five consecutive Saturdays.

Register with this form, and email to Mikki.McDonough@tri-c.edu or bring your completed form to SFA with you.