A silent epidemic is spreading in Philadelphia, according to a National Center for Education Statistics report released earlier this year.
One in five Philadelphians has literacy issues. Approximately 200,000 people in Philadelphia read at or below a fifth-grade level.
Temple’s Center for Research in Human Development and Education offers adult literacy and general education development classes and the Move Up: Intensive Adult Basic Education for Welfare Clients program.
Move Up is an initiative created by Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration. It began in response to the need for intensive literacy services for adult welfare clients who are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. The program has been in place since 2005 and is coordinated by Mayor Michael Nutter’s Commission on Literacy.
More than 1,500 students a year are served at various locations. Move Up is a 10-hour week instructional program. Currently, four classes are held each week.
Move Up has recently consulted with Dr. Sheilda Sherow at Penn State and created an intense job readiness-based curriculum called Vocational Foundation Skills. The curriculum incorporates many workplace skills and combines them with literacy instruction.
“Those clients previously did not have a venue addressing their specific workplace education needs and had greater difficulty increasing their skill levels enough to gain quality employment,” said Alyson Showell, coordinator for Move Up Philadelphia. “With the creation of VFS, these clients now have a better chance of succeeding.”
Marion Wells, program director for the Center for Research in Human Development and Education, said the program has helped adults in the city for more than 25 years.
“Our students are fortunate that they have this opportunity,” Wells said. “We have a computer lab where students receive integrated learning systems called PASS and GED interactive. We support an ESL component with project Shine University Services Department. It deals with reinforcing literacy for those people who are intergenerational. They offer services for people age 50 and over at sites throughout the city.”
The instructors in the program are certified, professionals, Wells said. Many of the instructors are retired school teachers.
“I want my students to realize the world is open to them if they put forth the effort,” said Joyce Banks, an instructor in the program and a 33-year veteran of teaching in public schools. “They can obtain their goals with patience and confidence in themselves.”
Sue Ann Rybak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.