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Back to school time is a second chance for adult learners

Families across the United States are preparing to send their children back to school with new book bags and school supplies. Back to school is also a time for some of the 30 million American adults who cannot read beyond a third grade level to consider taking steps to overcome their literacy challenges.

Many of these adults find ways to hide this fact from their coworkers and friends—even their own families. Common avoidance techniques include finding an excuse to steer clear of reading aloud, hiding their writing from others, or committing everything to memory to avoid jotting things down.

As children and teens go back to school, this is the perfect time for adults in need of educational services to take this important step to improve their own literacy skills. Being illiterate is not a joke and can be difficult to recognize and admit. Our organization helps adults address their literacy challenges. Trained tutors work one-on-one with adults who need help with basic reading, English-as-a-second-language (ESL), and math skills. We also provide literacy programs in local correctional facilities- Moriah Shock, Adirondack in Ray Brook, Bare Hill in Malone, and we recently partnered with Franklin County Jail as well.

Literacy Volunteers of Essex/Franklin Counties is an affiliate of Literacy New York, one of the state’s largest nonprofit organizations dedicated to advancing the cause of adult literacy and basic education. Our mission is to enable people over the age of 16 to achieve personal goals through student-centered literacy tutoring. This past year we supported more than 140 adult learners, and trained more than forty volunteer tutors. 67% of our students showed academic improvement by at least one grade level.

With the new GED© exam we also anticipate a rush of adult learners who would like to receive their High School Equivalency Diploma before the end of the year. There’s not much time left, and there are only two testing dates available for adults in our region. The new GED © will be more rigorous, computer-based, and access will be limited. Thankfully, the New York State Education Department will offer an alternative high school equivalent exam called the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC), which should be ready to roll out in early 2014. It too will be more rigorous, but more accessible, and still available in a paper and pencil format.

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