After 11 years on the remote Riverside Campus, the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (TCALL) is now housed on Texas A&M University’s main campus. TCALL and its employees moved into the third floor of the newly-renovated Milner Hall earlier this year, increasing the center’s visibility and opportunities for engagement.
“We wanted to integrate the staff into the university community and bring them on campus so the work we do can be elevated,” explained Dr. Mary Alfred, principal investigator and executive director of TCALL. “The service that we provide is very critical to the mission of the College and the University. The primary foci of the University are teaching, research and service. We are fulfilling the service piece of that grand agenda.”
TCALL was created by the Board of Regents in 1989 to help reduce the incidence of adult illiteracy in Texas. Since then, its purpose has evolved into responding to the needs of those who provide literacy services. TCALL’s current project, the Texas Research-based Adult Instruction Network (TRAIN), provides a wide range of services, resources and networking for educators, leaders, professional developers and researchers. The goal is to ensure adult educators have access to professional development, knowledge, resources, technology, networking opportunities and program support when seeking to enhance the instruction of students who are working to improve their English language skills, obtain a high school equivalency, broaden career opportunities or enroll in an institution of higher learning.
Now in its second year, TRAIN has created and provided more than 800 professional development events for adult education and literacy programs across the state. The program, funded by the Texas Workforce Commission, is also analyzing local and statewide performance data to help inform recommendations to TWC for professional development initiatives.
“Close to four million adults in Texas lack a high school credential and many of those adults lack English language proficiency,” explained Harriet Smith, managing director of TCALL. “They can only go so far in life and work and the ability to support their families without those language and literacy skills and a high school credential.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 19 percent of adults in Texas cannot read a newspaper and more than three million adults are unable to fill out a job application. Texas also ranks at 47th among the 50 states in terms of adult literacy. Barriers to success for undereducated adults include economic disadvantages, large time gaps between educational experiences and other challenges unique to English language learners.
“A large percent of our population are English language learners. The work that we do and the services we provide across the state are significant to elevating our families and helping them to get the literacy and education skills they need – not only for themselves but for their children, the families and the communities in which they live,” said Dr. Alfred.
By being on campus, Dr. Aflred hopes more faculty will want to be involved with TCALL and find their place in the work the center is doing to elevate the research of family and adult literacy for Texas communities.
“Our mission is to help more adults in the state of Texas be able to read, write and have the life skills to be effective workers, support their families and be good citizens,” said Smith. “Whatever we can do to support the state in that direction is what we want to be a part of.”