Improving adult ESL

Below is s synopsis of a report concerning fixing some of the problems that plague adult ESL. Please note the section concerning Community Based Organizatons. PR

Repairing the Nation's Education System for Adult English Learners,

Lexington Institute, July, 2013, 15 pp.
Authors: Sean Kennedy & John Walters

This report argues that the current system for helping adult immigrants learn English is "broken." As the population of limited English proficient adults has soared to 23 million, enrollment in federally-funded programs has declined.

Even for the small fraction of immigrants served by these programs, proficiency gains have been low and drop-out rates have been high.

The report points out wide variations among the states in 2009-2010 performance levels. New York, for example, improved proficiency levels for 53 percent of its enrolled ESL students, while New Jersey reported an "abysmal" 27 percent.

The authors lay partial blame for this situation on "traditional government providers," who use a "one-size-fits-all approach,"  schedule course times at inconvenient hours, and fail to adapt instruction to the needs of specific groups of learners, including people who lack literacy in their native languages.

In addition, the metrics used to track student progress, i.e. single level proficiency gains, have limited value in evaluating program worth.


Community Based Organizations:

By way of contrast, the report describes and lauds programs operated by community-based organizations, adult charter schools, and employers. Casa de Maryland, for example, operates a drop-in English program for day laborers unable to find work on a particular day; the PUENTE Learning Center in Los Angeles uses a Computer-Assisted Language Learning Project, or CALIS, developed by Duke University to enable students to learn at their own pace; and the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., the nation's first charter school for adults, combines workforce training with ESL instruction. The report concludes with three overarching recommendations: first, hold programs accountable for outcomes through data; second, design programs around learner needs and goals; and third, establish funding models built around success, including adult public charter schools.


I'm not at all surprised, Paul. Thanks for sharing the information. I have just helped submit a highly-innovative proposal among three organizations serving adults in the Southwest, two of which are nonformal programs. If funded, ABE and ESL students will enter health career paths much earlier than ever possible before while improving their academic skills along the way. All curricula will be contextualized and written at very low-reading levels, with students becoming qualified to get jobs as PCPs or HHAs while continuing their job and academic training. One foreseeable benefit among ESL learners will be that they will be able to serve speakers of their own languages in private homes and other health facilities as they become more proficient in English. Fingers crossed. If funded, I'll share more! Leecy

Leecy, this is wonderful news!!!!!!!! Please tell us more about it. It can serve as a model program for others to follow, which is what we need. A Formal - Nonformal collaboration!!!!!! Will you be able to incorporate technology in the classes and at home? 


We are planning to use live-video (Cisco and Zoom) for coaches to interact with each other on student issues or to give students access to coaches at other sites. All content will be posted online so that students and coaches can cover materials anytime, anywhere.

No one in these programs has recently used mobile devices for instruction. The funding, if awarded, is super limited, so we couldn't get into that. The first step in the process will be for students to complete a lab, with fun experiments around the human body. Each lab is followed by related academic practice. We've had good results with students going through our STEM Prep projects at higher academic levels, so we thought we would start earlier. As students complete the labs and other modules, they will also be trained as PCPs and HHAs, so that they can immediately get jobs while completing training. I am glad to share the ideas once we get funded! I think the ideas show great promise! Leecy


What is the criteria for student participation? Is it open to anyone? Or will there be a screening process? I believe in making all courses and opportunities available to all learners - but with limited resources, there sometimes isn't possible. How will you orient students and what is your expectations for participation? 

I can't wait to learn more about this!