Education for Adult English Language Learners in the United States

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    Education for Adult

    English Language Learnersin the United States

    Trends, Research, and Promising Practices

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    Education for Adult

    English Language Learners

    in the United States

    Trends, Research,

    and Promising Practices

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    This work is in the public domain and may be reprinted and distributed without permission.

    Printed in the United States of AmericaCopyediting: Vickie Lewelling and Julia BozzoloDesign and layout: Frank Sheehan, based on original design by Pottman Design

    The preparation of this paper was supported with funding from the U.S. Department of Edu-cation (ED), Office of Vocational and Adult Education, under Contract No. ED-07-CO-0084.The opinions expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of ED.

    Suggested citation: Center for Applied Linguistics. (2010). Education for adult English languagelearners In the United States: Trends, research, and promising practices.Washington, DC: Author.

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    Table of Contents

    Acknowledgments .............................................................................................................. V

    Executive Summary ........................................................................................................VII

    I. Overview ................................................................................................................... 1

    II. Te Foreign-Born Population in the United States .................................................. 3

    III. Participation of Foreign-Born Adults

    in Adult Education Programs .................................................................................13

    IV. Program Design and Instructional Practice ........................................................... 19

    V. Professional Development and eacher Quality..................................................... 33

    VI. Assessment and Accountability .............................................................................. 41

    VII. Future Directions for Lifelong Learning ............................................................... 51

    VIII. Conclusion ...............................................................................................................57

    References .........................................................................................................................59

    Appendix: NRS Functioning Level able ........................................................................ 69

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    AC K NO W LED GM EN S V

    Acknowledgments

    Tis paper has benefited from the perspectives of a number of knowledgeable

    practitioners and researchers. It is through their comments and suggestions

    that we were able to bring together the many relevant aspects of the delivery

    of instruction for adults learning English in the United States.

    Te staff of the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA)

    Network project at CAL developed the paper. Kirsten Schaetzel and Sarah

    Young served as primary authors, pulling together the major research and

    promising practices in the field. Miriam Burt and Joy Kreeft Peyton helped

    to define and shape the paper, and Sharon McKay and Lynda errill pro-vided valuable content expertise. Lynda erril l designed the document for

    publication on the Web.

    JoAnn Crandall, University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Heide

    Spruck Wrigley, Literacywork International, provided substantive and

    valuable comments on a draft of the paper.

    Staff of the United States Department of Education, Office of Vocational and

    Adult Education, including Christopher Coro, Lynn Spencer, and anya Shuy,

    offered their insights and comments on a variety of aspects of the paper.

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    E XE C U I V E SU M M ARY V I I

    Executive Summary

    Adult English language learners comprise a substantial proportion of the

    adult education population in the United States. In program year 2006 2007,

    46% of participants enrolled in state-administered adult education programs

    were in English as a second language (ESL) classes. Tis percentage does not

    include English language learners enrolled in other types of programs, such

    as adult basic education (ABE) and adult secondary education (ASE).

    o meet the increasing demand for English language instruction, existing

    adult education programs are expanding and new ones are being established.

    In addition to federally funded programs, services are offered by volunteer-and faith-based organizations, museums, libraries and other community

    centers, private language schools, and academic institutions.

    Tis paper describes education for adult English language learners in the

    United States, focusing on the following topics:

    Characteristics of the foreign-born population

    Foreign-born adults enrolled in adult ESL programs, their access to

    and participation in programs, and factors that affect their participa-

    tion and successTe types of instructional programs that serve adult English language

    learners

    Professional development for teachers of this population

    Te U.S. adult education assessment and accountability system

    Future directions in English literacy education and lifelong learning

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    V II I EDUCAION FOR ADUL ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS IN HE UNIED SAES

    THE FOREIGN-BORN POPULATION IN THE UNITED STATES

    Te United States has seen a steady increase in the number of foreign-bornresidents since the 1970s. In 2006, the number was 37,547,78912.5% of the

    total U.S. population, up from 10.4% in 2000. Between 2002 and 2006, the

    level of immigration averaged 1.8 million per year. Hispanics and Asians are

    the two largest groups represented. raditionally, the majority of immigrants

    have settled in a few states, the top five in 2006 being California, Florida,

    Illinois, New York, and exas. At the same time, many states have experi-

    enced recent growth in foreign-born populations, with 14 states experiencing

    a 30% or greater increase from 2000 to 2005.

    Te educational levels and English language proficiency of this population

    vary widely. Te majority (68%) have earned at least a high school diplomain their home countries or in the United States, and 52% report speaking

    English very well.

    Foreign-born adults play a significant role in the U.S. civilian labor force,

    with the number growing 76% from 1990 to 2002, compared to a growth rate

    of 11% for native-born workers. Some studies indicate that immigrants have

    a positive effect on the overall economy of the United States. However, im-

    migrants often earn lower wages than native-born workers. Factors affecting

    the income levels of the foreign-born population include level of education,

    length of time in the United States, immigration status, and English lan-guage proficiency.

    LEARNER PARTICIPATION IN PROGRAMS AND OUTCOMES

    Many factors have an impact on learner participation in adult education

    programs. Learner factors include work schedules, family responsibilities,

    opportunities to learn and use English outside of an instructional setting,

    marital and family status, and personal motivation. Program factors include

    availability of classes, class schedules and locations, instructional setting,

    type of entry into the program (open or managed enrollment), length of

    courses and frequency of classes, and training and expertise of the teachers.

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    E XE C U I V E SU M M ARY IX

    When considering factors that affect gains in English language proficiency

    and other educational outcomes, it is important to keep in mind the amount

    of time that may be required for adults to reach the goals that are set. Stud-ies in second language acquisition of school-age children suggest that it can

    take 23 years to develop social language and 5 7 years to develop academic

    language proficiency. One study estimates that adult immigrants may need to

    study 103 hours for 6 years to reach the level of English proficiency necessary

    for civic integration or postsecondary education.

    PROGRAM DESIGN AND INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICE

    Adult ESL programs serve a diverse population through a variet