NINE STAR AND ITS PARTNERS
In the Anchorage Regional Adult Education Program, Nine Star collaborates with the Anchorage Literacy Project and the Human Resources Company, a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of educational and social services in the Mat-Su Valley, to supply comprehensive adult education services to the region. This is Nine Star’s largest adult education partnership, serving approximately 3,000 learners per year. Enrollment in ARAEP’s work services programs is also substantial and, last year, represented almost 40 percent of all such enrollment for the state. ALP is a nonprofit with strengths in early reading instruction and working with clients who have low literacy levels. Work is divided according to each organization’s strengths. ALP typically works with those who read below fourth-grade level, and Nine Star works with those with higher reading levels. Both ALP and Nine Star are centered in Anchorage, while HRC provides case management, employment services, and instruction in the Mat-Su area.
LEARNING WITH EVERY SENSE
ALP instructors developed a special curriculum for learners with low levels of literacy. Based on research in multi-sensory instruction (MSI), the approach targets adult learners who read below fourth-grade level. For example, learners use their arms to trace the shape of a letter while they say the sound and look at the letter. They practice using the letter in words and sentences relevant to their lives. Classes are lively as learners build their literacy skills. To view the article that appeared in the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy’s In Focus on ALP’s MSI method of instruction, go to http://www.ncsall.net/?id=277
The partners meet on a regular basis to align class schedules, curricula, professional development, and instructor assignments. In addition to classes at their own buildings, ARAEP offers services through Job Centers, recreation centers, a low-income housing site (see below), community schools, hotels and hotel unions, a local hospital, other businesses, and workforce development centers. Specific arrangements are spelled out in a memorandum of understanding that ARAEP has with each site.
ARAEP partners learned that offering services at multiple locations not only increases accessibility for clients, it also offers opportunities for staff to work closely together. Almost uniformly, staff members report a high degree of cooperation across agencies. This is not accidental. ARAEP directors meet monthly as a “core group.” This core group reviews resources, looks for ways to reduce duplication and increase services, shares information about upcoming grant opportunities, and plans training for staff. ARAEP also supports committees that tackle specific ongoing issues, such as professional development, quality reviews for the Job Centers, and marketing.
Individual partners also foster collaboration. For example, HRC hired a staff member whose specific responsibilities include promoting collaboration among all of the agencies at the Wasilla Job Center. ARAEP partners share staff training as well, enabling staff to learn more about other agencies, build a common language, and cultivate shared values. HRC has developed a letter of consent for clients to aid in the sharing of information among the partners. Partners actively work to align services so that the adult education system is integrated and easier for clients to manage.
THE WASILLA JOB CENTER
Among their sites in the Mat-Su area, HRC staff operate a busy Job Center in Wasilla. Housed in a small converted shopping mall, the agencies are close together, and the staff members know each other. Inside, stuffed game animals (on loan from a museum) overlook banks of computers, walls of posters and announcements, and small classrooms. After intake, a staff person takes new clients to meet whomever they need to see – someone from the division of public assistance or Alaska Works, for example. Classes and workshops are targeted to the needs of the local clients. EL instructor Galina, herself an immigrant from Russia, coaches a student from Ghana. Other clients work independently on computers.