Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Requirements
Under the Assessment service heading of the LBS Service Provider Guidelines , (www.tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/eopg/publications/2013-2014_lbs_sd_guidelines.pdf) effective April 1, 2013, ten assessment-related requirements are listed. These can be grouped, for discussion, under the headings Eligibility, Initial Interview and Assessment, Professional Development, OALCF Specific Assessment Tools, Learner Files, and, finally, Common Understanding.
The very first requirement is:
- “confirm an individual’s eligibility for LBS service”
Before we can take on clients as learners we must assess if they are even eligible for our LBS program. The LBS Service Provider Guidelines also devotes a section (3.1) to Learner Eligibility and Suitability. There it states that “LBS service providers must ensure each learner is:
- an Ontario resident
- an adult whose literacy and basic skills are assessed at intake as being less than Level 3 of the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS) or the OALCF
- at least 19 years old. On an exception only basis, LBS service providers may serve young adults between the ages 16 to 19 who demonstrate the maturity to benefit from adult education. However, returning to the regular school system should be the priority for these learners. LBS service providers may allow age exceptions, not exceeding ten percent of learners enrolled in a fiscal year. In all individual cases, there must be a documented rationale in the learner’s file.
- proficient enough in speaking and listening to benefit fully from the language of LBS instruction (English or French). Canadian Language Benchmarks (www.language.ca) Level 6 for speaking and listening is the recommended minimum level of proficiency required to benefit from LBS instruction. This eligibility requirement does not apply to a deaf learner.”
Three of MTCU’s requirements for LBS Assessment service relate to the initial interview and assessment process. LBS service providers must:
- “determine an individual’s primary service need and consider the most suitable referral if not appropriate for LBS service
- administer assessment to develop a learner plan, including assessment of learners’
- strengths and gaps
- learning style
- milestone tasks
- culminating task
- learning activities
- use assessment tools that are appropriate, meaningful and understandable to the learner, and are suitable for informing the learning activities outlined in the learner plan”
We will cover the initial interview and assessment process in some detail in this module’s next section, Intake and Initial Assessment.
To meet the fifth requirement, LBS programs need to:
- “ensure that LBS service provider staff carrying out assessments have the appropriate skills and training to select, administer, interpret and track assessment results”
While ensuring that staff is sufficiently trained might seem like something you would obviously do, it is not always such an easy task. As with many sectors, the literacy field is facing high staff turnover. The volunteer market is also tight, with many not-for-profits reporting severe challenges in recruiting and retaining volunteers. LBS programs will need to develop good succession practices, which include sufficient professional development options for assessors. What choices assessors have for professional development will vary over time; however, we offer some options below:
- CESBA`s LBS Practitioner Training website at www.lbspractitionertraining.com offers professional support for practitioners who work with adult learners in the Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) Program of Ontario
- Common Assessor meetings amongst programs in a Literacy Service Providers (LSP) group or regional network
- Ontario College Courses in Teacher of Adults: Literacy Educator Certificate Program is offered at several colleges and online through www.OntarioLearn.com
For more accountable and consistent assessment and reporting of learner improvement, the OALCF includes three measurement tools: milestones, culminating tasks and Learner Gains Scores. There are three specific requirements dealing with these tools:
- “ensure that Milestone and Culminating Task assessment activities are kept secured and are used according to the administration instructions
- assess learners’ achievements as they progress through and complete their training including Milestone tasks, the Culminating Task and the learning activities
- administer a MTCU approved learner gains test”
At the time of developing this Literacy Basics module, MTCU had not approved a learner gains test, so we will move on to the other two tools.
Milestones are assessment activities that are aligned to the Curriculum Framework and linked to goal paths. Learners complete appropriate milestones to demonstrate their abilities to carry out tasks related to their goals.
Milestones are an indicator for the effectiveness measure ‘Completion of Goal Path’ in the LBS Program Performance Management Framework (PMF) (see LBS Service Provider Guidelines). Recording Milestone results on the Employment Ontario Information System Case Management System (EOIS-CaMS), provides MTCU with information about learner progress. Therefore, for a good Service Quality rating, it is important that milestones are completed by learners and recorded in EOIS-CaMS.
One of the values of milestones is their consistency across the LBS field. To achieve this consistency, milestones include administration instructions and evaluation criteria. LBS program staff should administer and score milestones as instructed, so interpretation of results will be uniform.
Regarding the storage of milestones, the Milestones User Guide (Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, March 2012) at http://oalcf-repository.ca/is clear: “To ensure that the milestones retain their integrity as an assessment tool and remain secure and confidential, milestones documents should be stored securely.” Note: only authorized individuals may access the OALCF Milestone and Culminating Task Repository to download the User Guides, Indexes and the actual milestones and culminating tasks. If you do not have access yourself, please get a copy of the guides and indexes from your program’s authorized representative.
Completed milestones documents should be kept in learner files in locked cabinets and should not be reviewed by learners. Staff will also need to consider where to store any blank or unused milestones documents so they are not accessible for any purposes (including initial assessment, instruction or learning activities) other than those for which they were developed.”
As with milestones, culminating tasks are assessment activities that are aligned to the Curriculum Framework and linked to goal paths. When they are completed by learners and reported in EOIS-CaMS, they also count as indicators of the ‘Completion of Goal Path’ effectiveness measure. The same as with milestones, culminating tasks should be administered according to instructions and stored securely according to the User Guide for Culminating Tasks (Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, March 2012). Again, only authorized individuals may access the OALCF Milestone and Culminating Task Repository to download the User Guides, Indexes and the actual milestones and culminating tasks.
The ninth requirement of the MTCU Assessment service expects LBS providers to:
- “maintain up-to-date learner files that contain all required assessment information”
The LBS Service Provider Guidelines – 4.2.2. Learner Files provides more detail on what assessment information must be kept in files:
- “First, service providers must provide rationale for decisions made. This would include copies of initial assessment materials from which the assessor determined the learner’s eligibility to be registered in an LBS program (assessed at less than IALLS or OALCF Level 3). It would also involve initial and ongoing assessments of learning gaps and learning acquisition to develop learning plans and training options.
- A completed Participant Registration form is also required. The Participant Registration contains all the information you gather from the learner during the Initial Interview and Assessment, including the assessment results.
- Evidence of the learner’s progress must be included in learner files. Copies of materials/tools used for ongoing assessment, including milestones, should also be included in the learner files.“
All completed assessments should be dated and include some record of the outcome of the assessment, e.g., Competency/Task Group levels, successful completion, achieved, next steps. It may also be helpful to include the name of the tool used for the assessment. A label with the pertinent information that is affixed to assessments may be helpful.
Many programs use a learner file checklist to ensure that all the forms and information required by MTCU and their own agency are in the files. Examples of file checklists, from the Outreach Literacy Program and Northern Connections Adult Learning, may be found in the Sample Forms section at the end of this module.
The last but by no means least important point of the MTCU Assessment service requirements directs us to:
- “ensure that assessment results can be understood by other LBS service providers and by key referral agencies, as agreed to through the literacy services planning and coordination process.”
Why is a common understanding of our assessment results important? Many LBS learners have unpredictable lives and changing housing situations. Many learners need further community supports to be successful in our programs and as they move along their goal path. Moreover, LBS training is just one step towards most learners’ goals. We need to ensure that our programs can communicate with our partners (literacy, community, other education/training and employment) in a language the partners can understand in order to provide a smooth transition for learners. We discuss how to coordinate our services further in the Literacy Basics’ Information and Referral module.
- Consider the list of MTCU requirements for the Assessment Service. For which areas do you feel you may need some professional development to help your program meet those requirements?
- Besides working through these modules, what other steps could you take to address your professional development needs?
- If you have not viewed the Milestone and/or Culminating Task User Guides and Indexes, take some time to review them.
- Your program’s MTCU Employment and Training Consultant (ETC) will review learner files at least once per year. Imagine yourself looking over the learner files at your agency for the first time. Would you be able to see the rationale for the decisions made in the development of the Learner Plan?
- Do your files show learner progress through recorded assessment results?
- What does or could your organization do to make your assessment results more understandable to those outside your program?