Next Week in Cleveland: XPRIZE & CLE-BEE

Adult literacy providers and supporters in the Cleveland area have two exciting opportunities next week to network and learn:

$1 Million Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communities Competition Info Session

Want to revolutionze adult literacy by testing out the newest, research-based adult literacy mobile apps? Willing to compete for a chance at $1 million by motivating the most adult learners to utilize mobile learning? Register for free lunch and more information at 1pm on September 12th at Cleveland Public Library, Main Branch.

XPRIZE representative Haneen Khalef will also be hosting information sessions in Columbus on September 10th and in Akron on September 14th.

Not in Ohio? Find out more about the Communities Competition here.

One Night Only: 3rd Annual CLE-BEE

Many years ago, Christine Lee trained me as a volunteer adult literacy tutor, opening my eyes to the depth of the issue and inspiring my future career path.

More recently, Christine continues to inspire awareness and involvement with the crazy, fun idea to host a corporate spelling bee fundraiser to benefit adult literacy.

The whole team at The Literacy Cooperative of Greater Cleveland has worked to make this fun idea a reality. On September 13th, CLE-BEE will celebrate its 3rd year with high energy, local celebrities… and of course some good food and drink.

Individual tickets are $30.

Hope to see you there!

New Course: Keys to the 3 HSE Tests

In August 2017, Ohio Department of Education approved all three national exams as official assessments to earn a High School Equivalency Credential:

  • GED® Test
  • TASC Test &
  • HiSET® Exam

Save yourself from wasting time searching, and spend it getting hands-on with the best resources to get you started navigating all three HSE exams.


The Literacy Cooperative has generously sponsored a live training to help Cleveland-area educators learn about working in a multi-assessment environment, and become more familiar with the TASC and HiSET exams.

The workshop filled up quickly, and we have had interest from all over the state. To help spread this vital information, I developed an online version of the live workshop.

The video-based lessons are full of curated links to save you time and help you understand key differences in the exams.

In addition, you can still gain the value of networking by commenting on the lessons to share insights and resources.


I look forward to diving deeper with you into the three exams, and reflecting on what this means for us as adult educators. Hope to see you in Keys to the 3 HSE Tests!

Friday in Cleveland: Make & Take Mustard Seed Books

Ready to have some fun with literacy learning? Three hours will fly by on Friday, April 21st at The Literacy Cooperative workshop on making your own Mustard Seed Book. Space is limited to 30 participants, so register today.

Mustard Seed Books are leveled readers that can assist your learners–at any age–to become fluent with 1st grade reading. We’ll look at the original series by Dr. Rick Chan Frey to explore the breadth of skills covered at this level. 

Then I’ll show you how to create your own fun little books that will truly engage your readers. Warning: This is where it gets addictive!

As a demo, I’ll walk you through the process I took to create my own multi-media reader: Monty the Cat.

Every participant will get a printed book to take home, and we’ll have a drawing for a few to get the whole series.
Last week, I facilitated a short version of the Make & Take: Mustard Seed Books workshop at COABE. Participants found that 75 minutes was way too short! They came up with excellent topics about doctor’s appointments, gardening, cats, family vacations and more. 

I’m very excited to offer a full 3-hour version of this engaging workshop. I hope you in the Cleveland area will join me! For learners of all ages, this fun and simple process can help transform beginning readers into lifelong learners.

This FREE training is offered through The Literacy Cooperative of Greater Cleveland on Friday, April 21st at 9:00 to noon. Register here

Interested in bringing a Mustard Seed Books workshop to your organization? Contact Meagen at or 216.973.4977.

A Neighbor Responds: On the Need to Integrate Cleveland Neighborhoods

As famed Bronx, New York environmental activist Majora Carter said, “I believe that you shouldn’t have to move to live in a better neighborhood.” Indeed, the best — and perhaps only — way for the rust belt to be reinvented as a sustainable, thriving, and inclusive region is by accomplishing the task in community after community… one at a time.

After my initial post, Rustwire readers wanted to hear from my neighbors, so I asked Mansfield Frazier, Executive Director of Neighborhood Solutions. You can’t have a conversation about the Hough neighborhood without the his voice. Though I usually hear him advocating for Hough to the Greater Cleveland community, I love this piece because he aims to encourage, celebrate, and challenge fellow Hough residents.

The most valuable takeaway from the decades-old civil rights movement is that, while workplace integration is achievable via legislative mandates and judicial rulings, no amount of governmental pressure can force individuals of different races to live side-by-side if they have no desire to do so. This reality, in spite of the fact minorities have been moving to suburban and exurban enclaves for over four decades, causes America to be more racially stratified today than it was 50 years ago when integration began.

Nonetheless, a grand opportunity currently presents itself to core communities if we can but navigate the sometimes troubled waters. The urban agriculture component of the national sustainability movement is rapidly taking root in rust belt cities, causing young neo-pioneers of all races to look toward inner-city homesteading in growing numbers. The challenge for current residents of these communities is to make all of our new neighbors feel welcome and to encourage diversity by inviting more of them to make their home beside us. In response, all our new residents need to do is engage their neighbors one-on-one and attend community social and political events, such as ward club meetings. They should not be bashful about making their voices heard and running for some position in these community groups. People love it when new people just come right in, roll up their sleeves, and help with the heavy lifting.

The overwhelmingly African-American Cleveland community of Hough, where I’ve resided for over a decade and recently build a three-quarter acre vineyard, is ideally located midpoint (a brisk 15 minute walk in either direction) between downtown and University Circle, a sprawling area comprised of Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals, and a plethora of the region’s finest cultural attractions such as the Art and Natural History Museums and Severance Hall, home to the famed Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. It’s a near-perfect neighborhood (in terms of comfort level) for whites and others to move into, considering the fact that over the last 15 years hundreds of upscale, new homes have been built, thus reconstituting the community with an influx of open-minded, welcoming, middle class residents of color.

While blessed by proximity, older residents of Hough have nonetheless occasionally cast a wary eye at its wealthy (and landlocked) neighbors, fearful of gentrification as these entities need to expand. But in the last half-decade these august institutions have done a 180-degree turnabout and now are building bridges to the minority communities they’re completely surrounded by—instead of erecting walls.

Our response to newcomers, as residents of these core communities, should be to extend an outstretched hand and an open invite to all who wish to reside in inner-city neighborhoods and to make them feel safe, secure and welcome. If America is to fulfill its promise of greatness we have to start in local communities with the realization that the door to housing integration—which indeed has been difficult to keep open—works best when it swings both ways.

It bears repeating: African-Americans have to be as welcoming to whites (or any others) who wish to move into our neighborhoods as we would have them be welcoming to us into their communities. Fair always is fair, plus it builds stronger, more viable, and far more interesting neighborhoods.

-Mansfield Frazier, writer and executive director at Neighborhood Solutions

How Did We Get Here? A History of Hough

I am not great at trivia, but am fascinated by local history that you can see, feel, and smell every day. Learning the history of Hough helped me appreciate how the community has pulled itself up by its own bootstraps. It also taught me: never be a slumlord.

8000 BCE. Humans and mammoths co-exist in Northeast Ohio until we hunt them into extinction. Hough probably not settled due to bugs.

1200 AD. Native peoples begin settling into villages in river valleys.

1500 AD. Mound builders start to disappear.

1600s. Iroquois take over Ohio in a bloody war with various tribes.

1700s. Iroquois move east to fight the French and English. Wyandot move into region (most artifacts near Sandusky). They were known for their “rough hair” (read: mohawks—my husband is a descendant.)

1799. Doan family builds tavern at E. 107th & Euclid Avenue in East Cleveland township.

1854. Area settled as a farm by Oliver and Eliza Hough.

1860s. Oliver and Eliza die, and their land is divided into parcels.

1872. Hough incorporated into Cleveland, which doubled in size in 10 years. Millionaire’s Row built on Euclid Avenue.

1890s. Two electric streetcars run down Hough & Euclid Avenues. League Park built at E. 66th and Lexington as home of the Cleveland Spiders (now the Cleveland Indians).

League Park Railway Car at E 68th St and Lexington Ave

Many of Cleveland’s landmark organizations were founded in this decade. Eliza Bryant built the first “Retirement home for Colored Persons,” later moved into Hough. Area filled with single family homes and exclusive schools like Beaumont School for Girls, University School, Notre Dame Academy, and East High School. Houses of worship built include St. Agnes Parish and Congregational Church.

University School (Cleveland Memory Project)

1900s. Hough Bakeries founded at 8703 Hough Avenue and Rainey Institute on E. 55th. Our two-story, foursquare house was built, along with several blocks of similar structures that same year.

1920s. Apartment buildings constructed as wealthy residents migrate to the Heights to avoid air pollution from their own factories. Millionaires destroy their homes as they move out.

Alhambra Apartments at 8616 Wade Park Ave, circa 2014

1930s. Hough fills with middle class immigrants and laborers. Homes take in boarders or split into multi-family dwellings.

1950s. Urban renewal and highway development force African-Americans from Central into Hough, increasing from 14% to 75% of its population. Realtors threaten reduced home values; Polish, Irish, and Spanish-speaking immigrants move out.

1960s. Mounting racial tension caused by deteriorating and overcrowded housing owned by whites and occupied by blacks. (Tip: Don’t be a slumlord) Population peaks at 66,000 residents.

July 18-23, 1966. Hough Riots cause massive property damage and four deaths, and required the assistance of the Ohio National Guard. A grand jury ruled that the Communist Party organized the uprising, but poverty and housing issues are more believable causes.

1970s. Middle class families flee the neighborhood while activists work hard to rebuild with little outside support. Religious communities collaborate to provide food and other social service programs. Nonprofits like Hough Multipurpose Center, Fatima Family Center, Famicos Foundation, and Hough Salvation Army are formed.

1976. Jesse Jackson speaks at dedication of new East High School building.

Rev Jesse Jackson at East High School Dedication

1985. Lexington Village opens, signaling a new era of residential development. Crack and AIDS weaken the community.

1990s & 2000s. Population continues to decline while large number of new, single family homes and townhouses are built. Church Square Shopping Plaza built and visited by President Clinton.

2010-2016. Euclid Avenue significantly rebuilt with Health Line bus connecting Downtown to University Circle, while neighborhood bus lines are cut. Deteriorating schools replaced with new buildings. Funds dedicated to maintain and restore portions of historic League Park. Large scale developers experience community resistance to plans aimed to displace current residents.

Development along Euclid Ave

If you’re looking for another history of Hough, check out The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

A huge thanks to Christopher Busta-Peck, Founding Editor of Cleveland Area History for fact-checking my dates against the primary records.

And here we are! What are your lessons from Hough’s history? How about your own neighborhood?

What is it like to be a white woman in the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland?


This series started in response a simple question by Angie Schmitt, editor of RustWire. The evening I met her and said I lived in Hough, she asked, “What is that like?”

“A lot of things,” I responded.

Ground breaking, right? Even though I’ve been asked that question many times before, I never developed a pithy, insightful response. And Angie’s question was different. Most of the time, people tell me by their face and tone of voice exactly what they think it’s like. And I know I won’t dispel an entire life of prejudice with one casual conversation.

But Angie was genuinely, openly curious. And she has a blog (read the original post here). So I took some time to write out my response, for Angie and her readers. Thanks, Angie, for giving me the space to develop my own long form response at my own slow pace.

What do YOU think it’s like?

Here’s an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at a typical week for me (in 2012) as a white woman living in Hough, a 97% African-American neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio:

  • Check email and Facebook every day.  It’s way better than TV.
  • Push my kids on the swings in our backyard.
  • Feed our six chickens.
  • Teach the neighborhood kids that eggs come from chickens.
  • Do the laundry and then fall asleep and forget about it in the dryer and my husband has to fold the clothes so our sons have pants to wear.
  • Convince a screaming three year old that it’s not a big deal his socks have bumps; he still needs to put on his shoes so he can go to pre-school.
  • Go grocery shopping at Aldi because we ran out of milk and bananas.
  • Curse the banks for the abandoned house next door.

By the way, I do this all while being one of few white families in the African-American Hough neighborhood.  The one that went up in flames in 1966 during the Hough riots because some idiot white restaurant owner put “No water for N*&&#%s” in the window and the National Guard had to come in?  Yeah, that one.

How did I get here?

My husband and I met in part because we both independently decided we liked the neighborhood. Many years ago, when I was at Oberlin College, I had friends who drove up to the Afro-centric Catholic Church called St Agnes + Our Lady of Fatima. I was living in the Afrikan Heritage House, and also converting to Catholicism at the same time. I had no idea I would live in Cleveland after graduation, but after getting a job here and visiting other churches, I decided to become a member. Fatima was welcoming, spiritually invigorating, and challenged me to live Gospel values. It felt like home to me.

My now-husband worked in a lab at the Cleveland Clinic and wanted to walk to work. Neither of us let race or abandoned houses distract us from the great things this location has to offer. We had friends, church, and work all in the neighborhood, so when we got married, we decided to live here.

We fixed up a foreclosed house (in 2006, before the recession) and now live there with our two boys, six chickens, and an attack cat.


I wish more people did the same. The neighborhood offers so much!

Think you can handle the neighborhood?  I’ll be doing a series of posts about living in Hough: a short history, why Hough is like a small town, things black people say, things white people say, and defending a stigmatized neighborhood.

Photo Credits:

Renovated house, late evening sun by flickr user cafemama

A machine-fun team from Landsturm Infanterie Batallion ‘Gotha’ (XI 24) by flickr user drakegoodman

Hot Tub by flickr user rvoodoo
Bleacher crowd, League Park by Louis Van Oeyen, on Cleveland Memory Project

Freedom Riders on bus, unknown, from Mississippi Department of Archuves and History

Adult Educators’ Recommendations for Best Free Resources

It was a delight to work with adult educators to share and evaluate a smattering of the free content available out there for adult education and GED Test Prep. Participants at The Literacy Cooperative’s training organized into groups to become the Adult Education Resource Evaluation Team (AERET). After introducing 25 free websites available for Ohio adult educators (18 of those sites are free to a national audience), I sent the teams on a webquest.  They have shared their recommendations with you:

Low Level English Proficiency Learners

Our first group were professionals who serve a variety of literacy levels. Their overall finding was that there is not much out there that is intuitive and well paced for low level English readers or speakers. Almost everything requires instructional intervention.

Parameters for evaluation:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Site navigation
  3. General app look and feel
  4. Tech requirements

  1. Accessibility : Need to sign in which requires a username and Need to have an email address in order to enter the site. Need to answer a series of questions in order to enter the site.
  2. Site Navigation: The site is difficult to navigate; it doesn’t allow you to return to the previous page.
  3. Applications : The speaking part of the testing is too fast for low level learners. There are multiple ads on the page which makes it confusing for low level English.
  4. Tech Reqs: Need to have speakers on the computer to do the testing. (non profit)

  1. Accessibility : No sign in for this site ; no email address needed.
  2. Site Navigation: No ads on the site but you need to have a higher level English level to understand the choices.
  3. Applications : Navigate in multiple languages to understand what to choose but there is a lot of narrative (content). There are many applications but they are scattered and difficult to navigate by technology.
  4. Tech Reqs: No special technology requirements.

  1. Accessibility : Need to sign in (register) and requires an email. You need to enter a birth date which is a personal security issue.
  2. Site Navigation: Requires that you go to your email and click a link to sign up. Once you go to the email you then have to enter additional information which is confusing.
  3. Applications : Requires you to select an avatar which is confusing and then does not allow you to move to the next level.
  4. Tech Reqs: Speakers would be nice for interaction of sound but not necessary; necessary for video component. Adobe flash needed for video component.

  1. Accessibility: No sign in required ; no security issues or email address needed.
  2. Site Navigation: The site has too many ads that could be confusing to the low level English learner.
  3. Applications: The quality of the videos is very low; not ESOL teachers on the video which allows for the use of confusing English for low level learners.
  4. Tech Reqs: Speakers and Adobe flash for video component.

NEO Literacy Corps

The next group was a team of AmeriCorps Members serving for a year in adult literacy and workforce development contexts.

We evaluated four different sites for GED preparation. It was our goal to find sites to use in our classrooms, with students ages 17-22 as well as adult learners (22+).  All sites evaluated require internet access and access to a computer with a functioning keyboard, mouse or track pad, and monitor. We analyzed the sites based on Usability and Instructional Quality. In the conclusion, we covered Cost Analysis.

Tri-C’s Math MOOC


  • the students need to know how to navigate the Blackboard Course system.
  • Accessing the system requires login
  • Facilitators would need to have taken the course themselves, as there is no instructor companion material.

Instructional Quality:

  • Student & adult learners can use website
  • Math, English, GED readiness
  • Learners use without instructor guiding

McGraw Hill Online Learning Center

[Farrell Ink’s note: Aligned to the 2002 GED Test Prep Series from Contemporary/McGraw Hill.] Websites:


  • Has a teachers guide
  • Does not require auxiliary equipment
  • Simple, logical layout and structure
  • Language arts focus on writing, but not reading comprehension.

Instructional Quality:

  • Both instructors and students can use site for language arts, math, various refreshers for GED readiness
  • Instructors can assist students with curriculum
  • Does not have to be instructor lead


  • Unappealing set up: small print, antiquated look.
  • We don’t know if signing up grants you access to automatic grading for question responses.

Instructional Quality:

  • Student based
  • This site does not give process updates, this is not instructor based


  • This site was one of the only places we could find for Reading Comprehension, which is one of the major components of the GED and one that many sites (including Khan Academy) did not specifically target.
  • Sleek, appealing layout and appearance.

Instructional Quality:

  • Reading comprehension, language arts, reading development
  • Student based but they can track their progress


With respect to analyzing cost, start-up fees are associated with any computer lab or computer based program including location (renting or maintaining available space, as well as associated utilities).  Classroom instruction fees could be incurred as well.  Maintaining the computers will require IT personnel, which may be volunteers but it is more likely that programs will pay for these services.  All of the online programs we analyzed were free to access.

Workforce Development

The final group’s target population were low-income, low-literacy un-employed or under employed adults with limited labor market attachment; individuals who need to advance towards self-sufficiency.

Costs:  Headphones for computers (if needed), paper, pens, printer


  • Low-cost/free resources for low-income and low-computer literacy users
  • Materials written at around a 6th grade level; visually appealing as well to keep users engaged
  • Sites able to blend smoothly into the job search process AND support career retention and advancement

Recommended Resources and Process:

    • We will start off with an assessment of each individual’s existing computer literacy level
    • Students will be instructed on how to improve their skills, as most resume and job search is done online
    • This website has different modules that individuals can take on their own; they are scored and instruction can be tailored to the lacking skills
  2.’s Soft Skills to Pay the Bills
    • This site uses role play and interactive classroom-based activities
    • These can keep students engaged while teaching valuable job skills that are needed to gain and retain employment
    • The materials on the site are written at an appropriate literacy level and the printable worksheets are visually appealing
    • This site offers an excellent section on jobs
      • Includes online career coach, resume tips/examples, interviewing basics, how to dress for success, and how to find a job with a criminal background, amongst others
      • The site is well-written at an appropriate literacy level, and again is visually appealing
    • At this point, we envision students registering on the website, uploading the resume, and beginning to search for jobs online
    • They can also perform WorkKeys testing, if they want to brush up on their skills
  5. The Beehive (again)
    • After obtaining employment, students can be referred back to the for additional supportive services
  6. Tri-C’s Math MOOC
    • Students who are interested in career pathways and advancing their education and career will be referred to Tri-C for MOOC and other classes

Thanks again to all the awesome AERET groups for their recommendations! Happy teaching, and Happy New Year!

My new RustWire post

The worst thing about living in Hough is that you can’t talk about living in Hough.

Go on, read the rest at RustWire.

NEO Literacy Corps Now Hiring Program Director

NEO Literacy Corps is sad to announce it is bidding a fond farewell to its current Program Director. We’re hiring! Interested applicants can submit their résumés to University Settlement. See the attached PDF for full details on the position:

NEO Literacy Corps Program Director Job Position

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