Located in middle Georgia, Houston County is a rural county encompassing three cities, Perry, Centreville, and Warner Robins. The county is home to Robins Air Force Base, the largest employer in the state. This area has experienced dramatic growth over the past few years, as evident in new commercial zones lining the two main roads of Warner Robins and a brand-new technical college facility. As part of this growth, Houston County's immigrant population has also surged.
Literacy is a major issue throughout Georgia. Census data from 1990 show that 29 percent of adult Georgians lacked a high school or General Educational Development (GED) diploma. To address this need, the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education began the Georgia Certified Literate Community Program with five pilot communities in 1990. Administered full-time by Billie Izard of the Office of Adult Literacy in the Department of Technical and Adult Education, the CLCP initiative encourages communities to form partnerships to leverage resources more effectively and to serve greater numbers of adult learners.1
The overall goals of the CLCP are to improve adult literacy rates in communities and to advocate for literacy activities at the local level (http://www.dtae.org/adultlit/clcp.html). The state provides guidelines and a process for communities to follow, support to local communities, and accountability through its certification process. CLCP participants seek certification as literate communities over a ten-year period. Defined loosely to meet regional needs, a "community" may be a city, county, or group of counties that come together to apply for CLCP certification. The community is certified twice—first, as a participant after an application review and approval process, and second, upon reaching its ten-year goal, as a Certified Literate Community.
CLCP implementation varies across communities in terms of infrastructure, community boundaries, and funding sources. This flexibility allows each community to draw upon its existing strengths and to create a model suited to its needs. The following common criteria, however, must be met in the application in order to participate:
Georgia's CLCP has now expanded to 53 programs. The first community achieved certified literate status in April 2000, and seven others have since met their goals and been certified. Currently, 45 other communities are working towards certification. Certified Literate communities are designated by road signs along Georgia's highways, and the economic development authority uses the CLCP designation to highlight to businesses that these are communities dedicated to literacy and to improving the productivity of their workforce.
The state provides considerable support to the CLCPs. Billie Izard of the state Office of Adult Literacy explains the value of the CLCP process:
By the time you are certified as a participant, you have gone through a set of very specific and rigorous criteria... [that reveal] what the need is, where it is.... The requirement for community-wide endorsement makes them pursue a very active public relations campaign that informs the community about something they weren't really aware of and results in a "call to action." If you say you are a CLCP, people know you have conducted a community-wide needs assessment, that you have a blueprint for action, and that your community has made a commitment to DO something.
Izard brings together the CLCP directors in quarterly meetings, one of which is a two-day staff development conference. The state also provides a newsletter, a listserv, and training workshops, as well as many resource materials. She notes that it is "very gratifying to see them solve each other's problems through the listserv and at meetings. They will travel to each other's counties to help." The CLCP programs, she says, "like being part of something bigger than just themselves. They believe that when you become a participant, you join 53 other communities and you become a larger voice/effort."
Izard says the CLCPs tell her that "being part of something bigger, within their own community and in the state, is very helpful when applying for grants." The Houston CLCP Director has been elected to serve as chair of the directors' group. This involvement has led to support from local and state politicians in promoting funding for adult literacy and has helped increase public awareness of the importance of literacy to the economy.
1For the CLCP, adult learners are defined as anyone over sixteen years old without a high school or GED diploma. (back to text)