The role we can play after this tragic week

Dear colleagues,

In the wake of the tragic violence we have witnessed this week, I want to remind you that The Change Agent’s recent issue on “Talking about Race” is a unique resource that can help adults learn about the experiences of others, find hope in examples of positive action and change, and move toward healing the painful divisions that are often exploited by politicians and media. 

If you are in New England, you can access The Change Agent online for free. Contact to find out how. The Change Agent's lesson packets are freely available to everyone. Visit the website to find out how to access the magazine and supplementary materials: 

Race has shaped U.S. his­tory, continues to shape current events, and shapes our lives and our students’ lives. It matters to our self-perception, to our children, at our jobs, in our communities, and in history. Indeed, it matters in almost every aspect of life in the U.S. It is so important that we made an extra effort with this issue to offer supports to teachers. Teachers share advice and insights; students write about how such lessons affected them. Throughout the magazine, students’ heartfelt stories and pen­etrating analyses remind us that race manifests itself internally, interpersonally, and institutionally, and the costs of ignoring it are greater than the possible costs of taking it on. As educators, we have an important role to play!

Andy Nash, NELRC director and Cynthia Peters, Change Agent editor




The Open Door Collective (ODC), a group of practitioners, researchers and educators addressing connections between poverty and education, are working on developing a number of papers, and disseminating information with the goal of broadening awareness and supporting concrete change in policies that maintain inequity.  One of ODC's subgroup s is working to develop  a position paper addressing ESL concerns/issues,  highlighting the importance of language and literacy as a component of economic, civic, and linguistic integration – looking at research and making data accessible to immigrant and refugee advocacy groups. 

To that end, we would be grateful for your feedback/input in response to these questions:

(EDITED with thanks to Andy Nash for pointing out a clarity problem)

a.       What do you see as the importance of language and literacy (L1 and L2)?

b.       Would might you be willing to help advocate for better access to quality ESL and L1 literacy programs for the groups they serve?

c.       What information do you need to make the case?

d.       Who would be an audience on the policy side for such a Brief?  (immigrant rights groups; policy makers (what level)

Thank you,


Janet Isserlis




To add a little more information to Janet's post, the Open Door Collective is a group of adult basic skills researchers and practitioners, and increasingly people in other domains such as health, immigration issues, workforce development, intergenerational literacy issues, corrections justice issues, and others, all of whom are concerned about reduction of poverty and income inequality in the United States. It is an organized volunteer group, not an organization. It holds quarterly national membership phone meetings; it has also formed task forces in the domains described above, and in others, to develop short papers to "make the case" for including adult basic skills in other policy advocacy work, for example in the areas of health, labor issues, immigration issues, etc. The idea is to help advocates in areas that are stakeholders in adult basic skills, but would not necessarily describe themselves as adult basic skills practitioners, to make adult basic skills part of their national, state and local advocacy agendas, and if it is already is included in the advocacy agenda, to raise its priority.

David J. Rosen

Thank you, Andy, for drawing members' attention to this important resource. While we have made strides as a nation, we clearly still have a long way to go to regarding racism. Engaging in candid conversations about race is a step we can all take.

Another resource I want to recommend is Ali Michael's book Raising Race Questions: Whiteness & Inquiry in Education published in 2015 by Teachers College Press. In this book, Michael invites educators to consider a range of complex issues central to our role. As Michael, a White educator, notes, "The work of this book is not to shame people for what they don't know or for privileges they didn't ask for. It's about seeing how race is a part of all of us and understanding how we have all been broken by racism. It's about learning to understand those fractures so that we, our students and our classrooms can be more whole and more fully ourselves" (p. 3).

I just started reading this powerful book. It would be wonderful to read and discuss it with others.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP


Hello Avelino and all, It's good to hear you are talking about these critical issues with the adults in your classroom --which are clearly so very relevant in your city right now. I, too, have routinely drawn upon the newspaper with learners at all levels. With beginners, we look at the headlines together and discuss one issue of importance each day which might be on a global, national or local level. Adults often have a lot of knowledge of current events from listening to and reading about the news in their primary language. Learning some vocabulary and grammar to talk about current events in English is valuable to them.

We welcome others to discuss how they are engaging adult learners in these essential conversations.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

As related specifically to police relations, I am wondering if anyone has any experiences to relate regarding extending an invitation to their local police department to dialogue about their role and relationships in the community?  I have some hesitation with this given the difficulties many of our foreign and native born learners have had with police and other authorities, but I could see great value in helping to break down some of the stereotypes held on all sides.  Thoughts?


Hello Kristie, Thank you for raising this question. I, too, am very curious how programs and teachers have handled issues around policing. To me, it makes a lot of sense to bring the immigrant community and police officers together to talk about the concerns they have for their shared community.

It would be great to hear from others on this important question.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP