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Published: Tuesday, 4/5/2005

Putnam County to help foster adult learning

OTTAWA, Ohio - Educators have a theory about adults who struggle with reading: traditional classroom methods probably didn't work for them.

Researchers hope to find techniques that do work as part of a two-year pilot program that will involve the Putnam County Educational Service Center and 69 other sites nationwide.

"We don't want to do the same-old, same-old stuff they were unsuccessful with in their elementary years," Superintendent Jan Osborn said. "We're trying to find out what works best with adult learners."

Jack Betscher, grants coordinator for the service center, said researchers at Ohio State University and Harvard University will analyze information generated at local adult literacy sites.

Putnam County operates six such sites, annually servhng about 150 adults who struggle with reading and other skills needed to obtain their high school equivalency certificates. The center works with individuals and families on literacy, helps inmates at the Putnam County jail with reading problems, and works with non-English speakers, including migrant workers and others who have relocated here to work at food processing plants and dairies in the area.

"We want to find out the best way that those individuals can learn how to read the quickest," Mr. Betscher said. "We're concentrating on many

of the basics that you would think about that an elementary school would use with early learners for reading, but also other techniques we would use with adults based on their experiences that you wouldn't be able to use with children."

Three adult literacy teachers will attend a second training next month in Columbus.

From that, they will take what they learned to the literacy education sites in Putnam County and report back on how the techniques were applied and with what results, Mr. Betscher said.

Denise Pottmeyer, state director of adult basic literacy education, said Putnam County is one eight sites in Ohio and the only one in northwest Ohio to take part in the research effort which has been labeled STAR - Student Achievement in Reading. Nationwide, the other sites are in Maine, California, South Dakota, Illinois, and Connecticut.

She said adult education teachers typically have a limited amount of time to spend with their students so it's important that they discover how to focus on and address each student's needs.

"It's not so much that we're tracking whether students make gains, but we're looking at changing teacher practice," Ms. Pottmeyer said.

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