Approaches to Benchmarks Frameworks for Adult Literacy Programming


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approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming a report prepared for the alberta literacy benchmarks project by mary norton


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contents acknowledgements introduction context for the review benchmarks literacy social practices perspectives and literacy benchmarks frameworks reading international measures of adult literacy essential skills hrdsc benchmarks frameworks in bc saskatchewan manitoba and ontario development intentions and uses guiding values and principles points of reference in the frameworks literacy benchmarks frameworks in other provinces territories and countries strengths and challenges of benchmarks frameworks bc sk mb on strengths challenges i 1 1 1 2 2 3 4 5 5 6 6 7 9 11 12 12 13 considerations for developing a literacy benchmark frameworks framework for alberta 15 appendix 1 british columbia community literacy benchmarks appendix 2 saskatchewan circle of learning benchmarks appendix 3 manitoba record of achievement manuals appendix 4 ontario benchmarks frameworks appendix 5 australia core skills framework appendix 6 documents and sources by province and territories 17 20 24 28 34 38 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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acknowledgements thank you to the following people who participated in phone consultations with interest and generosity their experiences and perspectives helped to fill in gaps and to contextualize what was learned from reports and documents harold alden senior program consultant strategic policy and program division ontario ministry of training colleges and universities lucy alderson instructor and project manager calp coordinator department of community development and outreach capilano university bc jane barber consultant ontario association of adult and continuing education school board administrators robyn cook ritchie project coordinator laubach literacy ontario jette cosburn co-executive director community literacy of ontario ruth derrick executive director literacy victoria bc pat duggleby manager adult basic education curriculum renewal saskatchewan advanced education employment and labour elaine ebenal interim executive director and benchmarks coordinator saskatchewan literacy network carol forbes literacy coordinator continuing education literacy program school district #72 campbell river literacy association bc leona gadsby director community adult literacy 2010 legacies society bc bula ghosh basic education coordinator great plains college sk regina giesbrecht practitioner mb dorothy hyde executive director radius community centre sk kirsti knight coordinator/instructor west end library learning program winnipeg public library carol mccullough literacy coordinator parkland regional college sk janice nakamura executive director marissa thola senior policy advisor workplace and essential skills learning programs branch bc ministry of advanced education and labour market development diana twiss director of literacy development literacy bc lynne wallace executive director college sector committee on lynda lyon-walls student support centre faclitator northwest regional college sk barbara wynnes senior consultant adult literacy and learning manitoba advanced education and literacy thank you also to helen woodrow for her research and editorial assistance and to the alberta benchmarks project team for sharing their perspectives and insights approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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introduction this report reviews literacy benchmarks frameworks1 that have been mapped out in canada and elsewhere the report provides background for an alberta project to develop a provincial system of adult literacy and essential skill benchmarks for reading levels 2 the project reflects a goal of the alberta government to increase the number of albertans who have a minimum of level 3 on international adult literacy measures and a related priority action namely to work with adult literacy providers to develop and implement an articulated adult literacy system referenced to international adult literacy and essential skills measures 3 this system would include standard learning outcomes and benchmarks standard tools to assess learning and skill acquisition and an articulated literacy curriculum information for the report was gathered through an internet search for relevant documents and through phone consultations with government and literacy organization staff and/or practitioners in four provinces the consultations addressed development implementation and use of the benchmarks frameworks strengths and challenges of implementing the frameworks and suggestions for developing a literacy benchmarks framework in alberta the report focuses on benchmarks frameworks developed in bc saskatchewan manitoba and ontario and includes information about a framework in australia the appendices include descriptions of the frameworks reviewed a related report reviews approaches to curriculum assessment and adult diplomas in canadian provinces and territories and in australia new zealand england ireland and scotland context for the review benchmarks benchmarks are commonly defined as points of reference that serve as a basis for evaluation or comparison.4 in business industry and formal education benchmarking refers to a process of measuring institutional performance against best practices for that sector in canada the term benchmarks is used in the english language learning ell field to name standards for describing measuring and recognizing second language proficiency of adult immigrants and potential immigrants for living and working in canada 5 1 for purposes of the report framework refers to a set of benchmarks levels core skills etc system refers to an array of documents and procedures e.g curriculum assessment reporting that relate to a particular framework 2 establishing alberta benchmarks project 2009 3 alberta advanced education and technology 2009 living literacy a literacy framework for alberta s next generation economy p 7 retrieved april 30 2010 from http 4 merriam webster online dictionary http 5 what are the canadian language benchmarks retrieved april 30 2010 from the centre for canadian language benchmarks website http 1 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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benchmarks as a particular term is not so widely used in the adult literacy field although a number of provinces and countries have developed provincial or national frameworks that lay out points of achievement or transition the terms benchmarks levels stages competencies and core skills are all used to name these frameworks in canada benchmarks related frameworks for literacy programming have been developed in bc saskatchewan manitoba and ontario in some other provinces and territories learning outcomes for various levels of literacy are outlined in curriculum guides contemporary benchmarks frameworks reflect a continuum from a focus on literacy skills to a focus on essential skills or capacities needed for employment in particular but also for education training and enhanced personal and community life the continuum reflects changes in government policies regarding literacy lifelong learning and economic development the continuum also reflects particular understandings of literacy and reading literacy in the international adult literacy survey ials 6 literacy was defined as the ability to understand and employ printed information in daily activities at home at work and in the community to achieve one s goals and to develop one s knowledge and potential this definition is reflected and extended in the following description included in the alberta government s literacy framework document while reading and writing provide the necessary foundation for learning literacy is fundamentally about an individual s capacity to put his/her skills to work in shaping the course of his or her own life literacy involves reading the word and the world in a variety of contexts individuals need literacy skills to obtain and use information effectively to act as informed players and to manage interactions in a variety of contexts whether the context is making decisions about health care parenting managing household finances engaging in the political process or working 7 these definitions recognize that reading not only includes reading skills and strategies but that reading is carried out for various purposes and in various social contexts the definitions point to an understanding of literacy in terms of social practices social practices perspectives and literacy benchmarks frameworks in the context of a literacy program a social practices perspective means that that adults learn and practice reading skills and strategies in relation to the kinds of texts they need to read and 6 adult literacy retrieved april 30 2010 from oecd directorate for education website http,3343,en_2649_39263294_2670850_1_1_1_1,00.html 7 alberta advanced education and technology 2009 p 2 2 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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write and in relation to the context and purposes for reading and writing values and feelings related to the reading task are also accounted for 8 figure 1 shows the various interacting aspects involved in reading as an example an individual might use similar strategies 9 e.g scanning with different texts e.g recipe swimming pool schedule in different contexts home kitchen community centre for different purposes e.g check for ingredients check if the pool is open or they may use different strategies with the same text e.g scan to check ingredients in a recipe re-read carefully to check a measurement it is challenging to account for all of the interacting aspects of reading in a benchmarks framework in canada benchmarks frameworks figure 1 reading as a social practice for reading typically have focused on reading skills and strategies and more recently on reading tasks these frameworks reflect particular reading theories reading reading has been conceptualized as a sequence of skills or as a cognitive process reading as a sequence of skills is generally seen as rooted in behaviorist theory with its accompanying practices of rote often passive learning and reinforcement skills are often taught in isolation of texts or texts may be contrived to focus on particular skills reading as a sequence of skills typically separates learning to read from reading to learn reading as a cognitive process reflects constructivist theory in this view learning is an active purposeful process learners draw on their knowledge and experience to construct new knowledge literacy learners are encouraged to learn and practice cognitive and metacognitive reading strategies in the context of authentic or at least realistic texts related to their goals and purposes and to apply what they learn in one context e.g a literacy program in other one e.g at work within the cognitive process view some theorists also describe cognitive processes such as analyzing integrating and monitoring these processes underlie cognitive and metacognitive 8 an adult literacy and curriculum framework for scotland 2005 edinburgh learning connections communities scotland retrieved april 30 2010 from http 9 in this report cognitive strategies refers to the procedures used to accomplish a reading task for example using background knowledge and text information to predict a word or skimming an article to see if it is relevant to a question using strategies requires skills as well e.g knowledge of letters and related sounds metacognition refers to the knowledge base we have to complete a task and awareness of what strategies to use to complete a task metacognitive strategies include planning monitoring and fix-up strategies 3 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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strategies in a cognitive process view learning to read and reading to learn are interwoven as learners use processes and strategies with increasingly complex texts in different contexts and for various purposes recently some frameworks have focused on reading tasks similar to the focus of international literacy surveys and the hrdsc essential skills model a task-based approach focuses on the level of complexity of the task this is explained in the next section international measures of adult literacy the international adult literacy survey 1994-98 and the international adult literacy and skills survey 2003 10 have been used to inform government policy development both surveys were concerned with assessing how well adults use print information and with looking at relationships between literacy proficiency and wider economic and social outcomes the international surveys used common tasks of varying difficulty to assess adults literacy numeracy and problem solving skills a 500 point scale was used to rate the complexity of reading tasks and this scale was divided into 5 levels of reading proficiency assessing task complexity considered the nature of strategies used for the task e.g locating matching integrating and the nature of the information in the task concrete or abstract the following table describes strategies and text complexity at the five reading levels.11 ialss also considered the nature of the reading task reading prose and reading documents level 5 4 3 2 1 complexity of proficiency tasks score range 376-500 326-375 276-325 226-275 0-225 very strong skills able to find information in dense text and make high-level inferences or use specialized background information strong skills able to integrate and synthesize information from complex or lengthy passages adequate skills for coping in a complex advanced society equivalent to the skill level required for high school completion and college entry people at this level can read but do not read well they can deal with simple clearly laid out material may be able to cope with everyday demands but will have difficulty with new situations people at this level have difficulty reading and have few basic skills for decoding and working with text table 1 ialss reading levels 10 another international survey the programme for the international assessment of adult competencies piacc is planned for 2011 11 alberta advanced education and technology 2009 p 2 a frontier college summary of the international adult literacy and skills survey ialss 2003 retrieved april 30 2010 from http 4 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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a challenge to aligning or referencing ialss and benchmarks frameworks is that ialss was concerned with literacy rates in the general population benchmarks frameworks are used with a more specific population ­ adults in literacy programs ­ and are used for a range of purposes e.g placement program planning a further challenge is that ialss levels are based on the complexity of reading tasks while some benchmarks frameworks are based on reading strategies essential skills hrdsc human resources and skills development canada hrsdc defines essential skills as the generic skills people use to carry out a wide variety of everyday life and work tasks nine essential skills have been identified by hrsdc reading text document use writing numeracy oral communication thinking skills working with others computer use and continuous learning profiles have been developed to describe the complexity and frequency of use of these essential skills in different occupational groups complexity rating is compatible with the ialss levels the essential skills model has informed some literacy and workplace literacy programming in canada and is reflected in benchmarks frameworks in manitoba and ontario benchmarks frameworks in bc saskatchewan manitoba and ontario in each of these four provinces there is a distinction between literacy/abe programs that might be equated with grades 1 to 9 pre-credit and reading/communications programs at the grades 10 to 12 credit levels all of these provinces have one or more benchmarks related frameworks for literacy/abe programming the frameworks generally include reading writing and numeracy some also include oral communication and other areas such as self-management or interpersonal skills the frameworks in bc and saskatchewan are not aligned with ialss the manitoba framework and the new ontario adult literacy curriculum competency framework are referenced to essential skills in each of the provinces the frameworks may be pertinent to one or more types of literacy program providers e.g community-based college school board for example in bc the community literacy benchmarks are used by community adult literacy programs and the abe program framework fundamental level is used for literacy programs in post-secondary institutions in saskatchewan manitoba and ontario the frameworks are used across providers table 2 identifies the literacy/abe benchmarks frameworks for each of the four provinces the levels in the framework and the providers credit level frameworks are also identified for information although they are not a main focus of this review 5 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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province bc bc bc bc sk sk benchmarks framework12 community literacy benchmarks 2008 abe program framework fundamental level abe program framework k-12 adult circle of learning benchmarks 2006 adult basic education level 3 curriculum guide overview planner adult 12 record of achievement manual stages 1 ­ 3 revised 2009 levels 1-4 pre-literacy 1-6 intermediate advanced provincial level 1-2 providers community adult learning programs public post-secondary institutions public post-secondary institutions school districts community programs college literacy programs community programs college literacy programs mb mb on on on lbs learning outcomes 1998 level descriptions manual competency framework ontario adult literacy curriculum grade 10 can bridge from gr 10 completion to gr.12 courses 1-3 community programs registered learning centres adult 10 registered learning centres mature student school districts high school diploma 1-5 community programs school boards colleges 1-5 community programs school boards colleges levels 1-2 community programs school boards colleges level 3 colleges table 2 literacy/abe and credit frameworks in bc saskatchewan manitoba and ontario development development and testing of the frameworks in bc and saskatchewan occurred over 18 months to two years the ontario adult literacy curriculum which includes the competency framework was developed over 18 months and has recently been field tested implementation is planned for 2011 development of the frameworks included numbers of people as consultants on advisory committees and in pilot testing training and implementation the manitoba framework was developed in the 1990s and was recently revised by a team that included practitioners more details about development in each province are included in the appendices intentions and uses intentions for developing the provincial literacy frameworks were identified from documents and in the consultations the range of intentions include to 12 citations for frameworks and related documents are included in appendix 6 6 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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· · · · · · · · · provide ways to identify or measure learner achievement ease transition among literacy programs among program levels and into further education training employment and/or enhanced personal life provide a common language support the development of courses and learning plans support curriculum development facilitate learner placement enhance accountability report to funders provide information for policy development intentions that were identified across frameworks include to provide ways to identify or measure learner achievement to ease transition among programs or towards reaching goals and to report on learner levels the main motivating intention for developing literacy frameworks varied from province to province in bc the ministry of advanced education and labour wanted a monitoring and assessment system for community adult learning programs calp information about learner levels was needed to inform policy and support arguments for literacy provision all calp funded programs are required to report numbers of learners at each level the circle of learning benchmarks in saskatchewan was developed in response to needs identified by practitioners learners saskatchewan advanced education and employment and the saskatchewan literacy network the benchmarks were seen as a means to recognize learner achievement and to ease learner transition among programs at present literacy programs are not required to report numbers of learners at each level although this will be changing for programs funded by saskatchewan advanced education employment and labour the manitoba record of achievement manuals stages 1-3 were developed in response to learners desires for a way to document and acknowledge their progress learners who complete a manual for a stage may apply for a certificate in literacy and learning for that stage there is no requirement for learners to complete the manuals although some do at the same time the manuals provide a framework for goal setting and lesson planning the three stages identified in the manuals are also used when reporting numbers of learners to the funder a key intention of the new ontario adult literacy curriculum and competency framework is to contribute to easing learners transition to employment further education training and/or enhanced personal independence as well as among educational programs the oalc competency framework will also provide a guide for program planning related assessment resources will support monitoring and reporting guiding values and principles the benchmarks frameworks for literacy/abe in bc saskatchewan and ontario were based on particular values and principles about adult literacy learners teaching and learning these are 7 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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outlined in reports and guidelines that accompany the frameworks documents the manitoba framework also reflects many of theses values and principles according to the consultations table 3 includes a synthesis of guiding values and principles that were identified for one or more of the frameworks definitions of literacy learners and learning values and principles · defining literacy as a dynamic process that enables participation in various life roles · · · · literacy programs relevance and use of benchmarks · · · · · · · · · · · transferability balance · · · · taking an integrated asset based approach that builds on learners knowledge skills and social contexts and accounts for learners often challenging life situations ensures that learners abilities and languages are recognized and affirmed and that their learning needs are addressed empowering all students to achieve their goals regardless of their individual circumstances valuing biculturalism reflecting cultural diversity and valuing the histories and traditions of all adults respectful of aboriginal culture respecting all types of knowledge and learning holistic critically reflective and action oriented accessible moving toward transactional and transformative perspectives putting adult education principles into practice developing benchmarks that are relevant to learners practitioners and society and that apply to a range of life areas applicable to all pathways and streams recognizing that learner progress is one measure of program success aligning with the capacity of programs to carry out framework related tasks e.g assessment and reporting this includes recognizing that many programs rely on volunteer tutors and/or part-time practitioners committing to renewal of benchmarks aligning to scale of national scope which has greater recognition currency ontario results based accountable linking with broader education and training systems providing for coherent transitions opening up new pathways for further learning sets high expectations for learning while accommodating formal assessment for accountability balances what matters to learners with what matters to governments table 3 guiding values and principles in literacy benchmarks frameworks 8 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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points of reference in the frameworks refer to table 4 on p 10 literacy frameworks for bc saskatchewan and ontario are formatted in tables or matrices that include a nest of identifiers from overarching e.g communications reading to specific e.g identify details in text in manitoba the record of achievement manuals are booklets of assignments these include tasks and skills which provide points of reference terms used within the frameworks vary e.g domains content areas competencies benchmarks learning outcomes performance indicators for example the ontario lbs learner outcomes developed in 1998 was based on the grades 1 to 9 school curriculum the domain of reading included performance indicators focussed on reading strategies for example use knowledge of basic grammar predictable words and structure in speech to understand phrases and sentences the bc community literacy benchmarks bc are organized by cognitive processes and by competencies that include reading strategies the processes go across all levels and competencies are noted for each level the developers made a conscious decision not to make the benchmarks task oriented although teaching and learning within the framework would focus on learners goals they wanted to be able to track the development of cognitive processes the ontario adult literacy curriculum competency framework focuses on tasks that are needed in further education training work and life in general the competency framework does not include specific reading skills or strategies needed to perform a task rather this approach assumes that instructors have knowledge and skills to identify and teach prerequisite skills the manitoba manuals focus on assignments that include tasks and reading skills/strategies the term task may be used differently in the manitoba and ontario frameworks curriculum and assessment whether approached from a skills/strategies or a tasks perspective teaching learning and assessment within the frameworks reflect a social practices perspective although not necessarily named as such documents related to the frameworks advocate that instructors teach skills/strategies in the context of texts and activities that learners need and want to accomplish for example the manitoba record of achievement manual stage 1 2009 notes that you and your tutor or instructor are free to choose the material to use as well as the ways to complete the assignments the reading and writing material should be something you would see in your daily life at home work or in the community together you and your tutor or instructor may decide on the best ways to learn and practice the skills and knowledge you need to acquire p 6 the oalc competency framework is intended to be a non-prescriptive holistic approach to learning instructors will be able to use the oalc guidelines to develop learning activities based on learners short-term goals and related learning outcomes the bc and saskatchewan frameworks are based on similar intentions 9 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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bc community literacy benchmarks domain reading cognitive processes with example of competency sk circle of learning benchmarks content area communication benchmarks e.g read short paragraphs with understanding learning outcomes e.g learners will read short paragraphs and simple documents for enjoyment and practical purposes mb record of achievement manuals [sections reading text document use on lbs learning outcomes domain communication on competency framework oalc competency communicate information/ideas assignments e.g find detail in text re-tell what you read task group e.g engage in interactions analyze e.g recognize personal and social sight words in text and in isolation interpret e.g use context cues meaning and language to figure out unknown words monitor e.g recognize when unable to understand text success markers e.g use a variety of strategies to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words performance indicators e.g use knowledge of basic grammar predictable words and structure in speech to understand phrases and sentences transition markers e.g identifies root words task statement level 2 engage in interactions such as sharing ideas and information exchanging opinions explaining and discussing concepts that [see below qualities of task involve one or more people can vary in length address a familiar or unfamiliar audience may contain unfamiliar content qualities of performance the learner shows an awareness of factors that affect an interaction such as social and cultural differences or differences of opinions and ideas what you can read e.g simple instructions public service messages table 4 examples of points of reference for level one reading in the literacy frameworks 10 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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literacy benchmarks frameworks in other provinces territories and countries the review for this report included internet searches for benchmark frameworks in other canadian provinces and territories literacy/abe pre-credit and credit programming in those jurisdictions is organized in various ways in some provinces all literacy/abe providers use a provincial curriculum and these generally include an outline of learning outcomes or other measures for the program level these are comparable to the benchmark frameworks reviewed in this report but are integrated into the curriculum for more information refer to the accompanying report on curriculum assessment and adult diplomas the review also included a search for benchmark frameworks in australia new zealand england ireland and scotland an australian framework is included here as an example of a broader scope of points of reference frameworks in the other countries are related closely to curriculum and are reviewed in the accompanying report the core skills framework in australia was developed by the department of education employment and workplace relations to describe and monitor performance and plan core skills training the framework identifies five core skills including reading this framework accounts for the factors that affect reading performance table 5 shows these factors for levels 1 and 5 level support 1 factors influencing performance context text · highly familiar contexts · concrete and immediate · very restricted range of contexts · broad range of contexts · adaptability within and across contexts · specialization on one or more contexts · short and simple · highly explicit purpose · limited highly familiar vocabulary · highly complex texts · highly embedded information · includes highly specialized language task complexity · concrete tasks of 1 or 2 processes e.g locating recognizing · full support · works alongside mentor/expert · prompting and modeling provided · little or no support · initiates support from own established resources 5 · sophisticated task analysis including interpretation analysis reflection synthesis evaluation and recommendation table 5 factors influence performance 13 other features of the core skills framework include reading indicators that account for purpose strategies and text complexity for example 13 department of education employment and workplace relations australian core skills framework 2008 p 8 11 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming


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level 1 identifies personally relevant information and ideas within familiar contexts level 5 draws on a repertoire of strategies to maintain and understanding throughout complex tasks additional features of the core skills framework are described in appendix 5 strengths and challenges of the benchmarks frameworks bc sk mb on during the consultations people were asked to identify and talk about strengths and challenges of their province s frameworks for literacy programs many of the strengths and challenges that were named referred to benchmarks systems including curriculum guidelines and assessment and their implementation rather than to the specific framework and its contents in some cases what one person named as a strength might be named by another as a challenge as only 4 to 5 people were consulted in each province the comments are not generalizable and not all of the strengths and challenges were identified in each province however the comments do point to areas to consider in developing an alberta framework and system strengths challenges · values-based approaches · practitioner-led development · learner-centred principle · accommodates cultural diversity · non-prescriptive flexible adaptable · portfolio approach to assessment · applies to all pathways · transition oriented · more transparent for stakeholders outside programs · portability and transferability · appropriate learner placement · learners and tutor see progress · time for development · lack of time and funds for implementation · limited instructional/tutoring time · implementation by tutors /relevance · task­oriented frameworks assumes teachers have knowledge to teach reading skills/strategies · reporting/accountability · assessment · lack of alignment with ialss · only one measure of success · academic terminology table 6 strengths and challenges of the benchmarks frameworks and related systems strengths the values-based approaches that underlie the bc and saskatchewan frameworks were named as key strengths of those systems the approaches were seen as affirming what practitioners in community-based literacy programs already do in bc the practitioner-led development of the framework was seen as a strength that contributed to the values-based approach 14 14 there was one person who saw the benchmarks as being developed by experts rather and felt that practitioners involved in field testing didn t really have a say 12 approaches to benchmarks frameworks for adult literacy programming



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