Literacy Project had highest grad rate in state in 2019

  • Literacy Project graduates gather outside Greenfield Community College after their 2018 to 2019 graduation. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • JUDITH ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/3/2020 10:06:48 PM

GREENFIELD — The Literacy Project had the highest number of high-school equivalency graduates of any Adult Basic Education program in Massachusetts last year, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The Literacy Project Executive Director Judith Roberts said not only is she thrilled that the Literacy Project received top honors for 2018 to 2019, but she is proud of her staff and all of the students. She said the numbers were compiled from all five locations in Franklin and Hampshire counties: Greenfield, Orange, Northampton, Amherst and Ware.

Headquartered on Bank Row in Greenfield, The Literacy Project is one of 85 programs in the state that provide adults the opportunity to obtain their HiSET (High School Equivalency Test). Adult Basic Education programs provide a second, third and sometimes fourth chance for adults who did not graduate high school, Roberts said.

Last year, 215 adults attended class at the five Literacy Project locations combined, and 43 students attained their high school equivalency diploma. Others are still working on it.

“We won’t have the numbers for this year until it ends,” she said. “But we couldn’t be happier.”

Roberts said The Literacy Project’s teachers are “very conscientious” about a curriculum that carefully defines and covers reading, writing, math, science and social studies. She said obtaining a HiSET is not the “easy way out” as some might imagine.

“I always say it’s better to stay in school and get your diploma, but that’s not always possible,” she said.

Roberts said many immigrants and refugees never get the chance at education in their countries, sometimes because of war or civil unrest, sometimes because women are denied an education in some countries; and U.S. citizens sometimes don’t finish because of domestic violence, unstable housing or other reasons that get in the way.

Each student works on a laptop to gain the digital literacy skills needed for jobs and higher education, she said, and learns about resume writing, job interviewing and where to find jobs. The HiSET is administered at Greenfield Community College and Holyoke Community College, as well as other community colleges across the state.

Graduates go on to community colleges, job training programs and better jobs.

“We are so proud of the courageous, hardworking adults who come to our program to make a better life for themselves and their families,” she said. “And we are so proud of our committed and diligent teaching staff who, everyday, make a difference in our students’ lives. They do a lot of development and in-service training, as do our volunteer tutors.”

Roberts said there is one teacher and one volunteer tutor in every classroom. Each teacher covers every subject, and tutors then work one-on-one with students who are struggling.

“It’s very challenging for students at all levels, whether they’re studying grades 1 through 7 or 8 through 12,” Roberts said. “Classes are capped at 15, but there might be as little as five in a class. There are typically 10 to 12 in each class.

“Our teachers are incredibly committed,” Roberts continued. “And our students, well, it takes a lot to come back and go through our doors. It’s a challenge, but they do it.”

Roberts said that once students start at The Literacy Project, they work hard and are highly motivated.

The Literacy Project offers rolling enrollment, so anyone can join at any time during the year. Roberts said it takes some people three months to finish and others three years, depending on what’s going on in their lives and their other obligations.

“We meet them where they are,” she said.

Roberts said The Literacy Project is not the largest program in the state, and it is the first time it has reached No. 1 for high-school equivalency graduates.

“It’s just amazing to be recognized for this,” she said.

For more information or a link to the state report, visit: doe.mass.edu.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.


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