ABOVE PHOTO: Adult Literacy XPRIZE program participants and volunteer Word of Mouth (WOM) Ambassadors anxious to get to work. (Photo: XPRIZE/Bradd Eales)
By Amy V. Simmons
The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Adult Education (OAE) recently kicked off its participation in a 15-month long field test of a literacy improvement initiative aimed at adults reading at or below a third-grade reading level with XPRIZE, the global leader in designing and operating world-changing incentive competitions.
Philadelphia will join a powerful consortium of mayors, community-based organizations and public education institutions in cities which include a total of 12,000 adult-learner participants and at least 750 volunteers, including Word of Mouth Ambassadors (WOM), whose main task is to recruit eligible adults and coordinate the downloading of the program’s Android phone learning apps.
“Philadelphia’s adults who want to improve their literacy skills now have the latest advanced learning apps at their fingertips,” said Diane C. Inverso, executive director of the Office of Adult Education. “Together with Philadelphia’s innovative my PLACE adult education system, which has 56 partners citywide, these innovative apps will provide learning opportunities for adults virtually anywhere and anytime.”
The partnership will help support the next field testing phase of the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. Additional partners in Philadelphia include Comcast Internet Essentials, who will provide six months of complimentary internet service to eligible participants.
“We are smart to invest in education, and partner with innovation, for our adult learners, their families, their neighborhoods and our City,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “I also want to acknowledge the community of providers, administrators, and volunteers that are the backbone of the adult education system in Philadelphia.”
Local stakeholders, program partners, and volunteers are excited about Philadelphia’s participation.
“We [United Way] are a partner through an organization called “Points of Light,” and are working directly with XPRIZE to mobilize volunteers to be recruiters, to manage the sites where they distribute the apps, to do assessments that will help make sure that this is the right fit for that adult learner, to greet people when they come to one of the sites, and to help sign them in and out,” said Christopher E. Major, manager of corporate engagement.
“We’re keeping an eye on this project so that maybe it is something that we want to scale and use in the future,” added Suzanne J. O’Connor, United Way Director of Education.
Northeast Philadelphia resident Andrelia Cope, 40, is a volunteer proctor for the program who will be supervising recruiters, intake and outtake workers, and participants. She will also help to oversee the multi-step process that participants must complete before they take the final literacy test, beginning with an assessment interview. The interview takes about one hour.
“They [potential participants] are asked basic questions to see what[reading] level they are on,” Cope said. “When they are done, they [the assessors] might say something like ‘okay, this person is literate, but at a grade level of eight, or a grade level of six. We take these resources to go forward and help that person to participate and do what he [or she] has to do to get from that level to a diploma. The app becomes [an important] reading tool.”
The official program kick-off began a week after XPRIZE announced that eight semi-finalist teams — chosen from the 109 participating teams — will advance in the competition.
“With the announcement of these semi-finalist teams, we are one step closer to transforming the lives of 36 million adults with low literacy skills in the U.S. by putting today’s cutting-edge learning tools directly in the hands of those who need them most,” said Shlomy Kattan, the senior director of the Adult Literacy XPRIZE. “This first-of-its-kind partnership signals a deep commitment by these cities to invest in the lives of their residents by addressing adult low-literacy and the burdens it places on job growth, medical costs and a child’s future educational success.”
Following 12 months of consistent app use during the program’s field testing period, a post-test will be administered to determine the highest gains in literacy achieved by the participants.
Participants’ app usage, responses to monthly surveys and self-assessments will also factor in the judges’ final evaluation. At the end of the program, participants will receive a $25.00 gift card.
The next training session for WOM (Word of Mouth) Ambassadors and program volunteers for other areas of the XPRIZE campaign will take place on September 13th. For more information, contact the Office of Adult Literacy at 215-686-5250 or visit: philaliteracy.org.
XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. XPRIZE utilizes a unique combination of gamification, crowdsourcing, incentive prize theory, and exponential technologies as a formula to make 10x (vs. 10%) impact on the grand challenge domains facing our world. XPRIZE’s philosophy is that — under the right circumstances — igniting rapid experimentation from a variety of diverse lenses is the most efficient and effective method of driving exponential impact and solutions to grand challenges. For more information, visit www.xprize.org.
About the Office of Adult Education, City of Philadelphia
The Office of Adult Education (OAE), formerly the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy, has worked to equip all adults in Philadelphia with the education they need for work, family and civic engagement since 1983. OAE is charged to work on behalf of more than 80 literacy and workforce development programs to help the estimated 550,000 adults in the City who need to develop their workforce literacy skills to compete in our knowledge-based economy, complete secondary education, improve their English or prepare to participate in postsecondary programs. (www.philaliteracy.org).