WIA Community Conversations Transcripts - Adult English Language Acquisition

WIA Community Conversations Transcripts

Adult English Language Acquisition

WIA Community Conversations | Other WIA Community Conversations Transcripts

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5252] Adult English Language Acquisition Questions
From: AEState
Date: Mon Jan 11 09:13:45 EST 2010

Dear Adult English Language Acquisition List

My name is Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant
Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education. Thank you for planning time this
week to participate in a virtual session of the WIA Community Conversations (http://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/10WIA).
I know it adds to your day to read and respond to discussion list posts, and I
deeply appreciate you giving so much of your time.

This week, I ask that you discuss the
successes and needs you see for adult education with respect to this discussion
list's topic. I'm hoping that you'll be candid and honest, and that there will
be an open and frank discussion on the list in this regard.

I'm here to listen, and to learn. This
discussion is different from the typical discussion list guest discussions. I'm
not going to react to your suggestions or answer questions. Please know,
however, that what you suggest is worthwhile for the Department to consider as
it forms its policy position on WIA reauthorization. Based on what I learn from
the WIA Community Conversations, my hope is to be able to say what the real
issues are that impact the field, our students, and our practitioners.

Additionally, I will present all conversation
comments to the State Directors of Adult Education at their annual meeting in
February. I will obtain their feedback as well

If you are interested in what others are
saying across the country, in addition to what you hear from this list
discussion, please visit the Department of Education's blog http://www.edgovblogs.org/duncan/2009/11/workforce-investment-act-reauthorization/

The transcripts from face-to-face sessions
hosted by OVAE are linked to the blog. We will link transcripts of these
discussion list sessions to the blog as well.

To start the discussion, please reply to this email with
your thoughts on any of the following questions:

  • What
    are your successes in helping adults acquire English language skills?
  • How
    can WIA help English Language Learners be successful in achieving a high
    school credential or entering post-secondary education and training or
  • What
    are the challenges you face? What are some possible solutions to those
  • How
    might WIA reauthorization improve services to adults learning English?

I look forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier

Assistant Secretary, Office of Vocational and Adult Education ,United States
Department of Education

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5253] Re: Adult English Language Acquisition Questions
From: Alison Cochrane
Date: Tue Jan 12 07:53:15 EST 2010

My name is Alison Cochrane and I am an Adult
ESL teacher at a community college in New York City. The challenges that I face
with my students include an environment that is not conducive to their English
language acquisition skills. Most of my students are only able to practice
English four hours a day in the classroom. Once they leave the class, they are
immersed in their communities in which English is not needed. My students find
it difficult to practice their conversation skills and real-time listening
skills outside the classroom on a one-to-one basis without a community based
support. In addition, many of my students lack the historical knowledge that
seems to be implied in many of the textbooks used in college or even in the
nuances of some sentences. They may know basic ideas, but sometimes as
teachers, we forget to recognize that they may come from countries where access
to information was limited or world history wasn't taught with the same points
emphasized as in the West. Much background knowledge is needed to help these
students understand what they are reading and listening to before they can
respond verbally and in written form.

Personally, I think the disadvantage is the way adult
education teachers are viewed in comparison to primary or high school teachers.
In my own experiences, I have tried to get books for my program through the
federal government, discounts at bookstores, etc. but was denied because my
program is not a K-12 program. It may not be such a program, but the work that
is done is just as necessary to society. Adult education teachers, particularly
those serving a language population, are trying to help a growing number of
incoming people into the United States make a life for themselves and their
children. These are the same people who will become tax payers, consumers, and
therefore, hopefully productive members of society at this moment. This is not
a group on which we can be frugal. Teachers of adult ELL students or adult
students in general need to be offered the same benefits as any other teacher
because that is what we all are - educators, and our students are just that -
students needing to learn.

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5254] Re: Adult English Language Acquisition Questions
From: Andy Nash
Date: Tue Jan 12 08:43:42 EST 2010

Hello Brenda and thank you for inviting this
input on ELA-related issues and WIA.

I’m a professional developer whose roots are
in the teaching of ELA. Although I imagine/hope you’ve already heard this
countless times, I’d like to start by noting that ELA will be served by
supporting adults to address the broad array of purposes that we know they
have. It would be helpful for WIA to state this explicitly.

To the question of how to improve services, I
see a need to expand support for students at the low and high ends of the
learning continuum. At the low end, this would include support for native
language literacy classes, where the numbers make this feasible, since we know
that understanding literacy concepts in one’s own language facilitates faster
learning in an additional language. At the high end, it means funding for
levels higher than the NRS “Advanced” level, in order to support classes that
“bridge” to various destinations. Related to this, we need support for
initiatives that help those who are credentialed in their home countries (as
teachers, health professionals, etc.) find a path to a parallel credential in
the U.S.

Thanks again,

Andy Nash, World Education

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5254] English Language Acquisition list WIA discussion - what
do you think?
From: Miriam Burt
Date: Tue Jan 12 10:54:52 EST 2010

Hello, all.

Thanks so much to Alison for her comments on
the challenges for the English language learners - their limited exposure to
English during the one-hour- a-day class and their need for cultural and
historical background information. Alison also spoke of challenges for teachers
- their need to be viewed and treated as K12 teachers with respect to benefits
and professionalism.

Thanks also to Andy for her comments on the
need for WIA to state explicitly the reasons adult English language learners
are accessing programs. Andy also spoke of the need for WIA to expand services
on both the upper and lower end of the learning continuum.

Again, the English language acquisition list
questions are:

  • What
    are your successes in helping adults acquire English language skills?
  • How
    can WIA help English Language Learners be successful in achieving a high
    school credential or entering post-secondary education and training or
  • What
    are the challenges you face? What are some possible solutions to those
  • How
    might WIA reauthorization improve services to adults learning English?

What do some of the rest of you think? Do you
agree with Andy and Alison? Do you have anything to add to their comments?
Please feel free to respond directly to what they have said if you prefer that
to tackling the questions above. Don't worry if you say something that someone
else may have already mentioned. All voices should be heard. What do you think?

Miriam Burt, Moderator, discussion list for adult English
language acquisition

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5256] Re: English Language Acquisition list WIA discussion -
what do you think?
From: Bonnie Odiorne
Date: Tue Jan 12 12:49:12 EST 2010

I wanted to speak to the issue of language
acquisition, since there is usually a "silent" period with a
beginning ELL, and then a "plateau" level at a more 'intermediate'
stage, where no progress seems to be made or measurable, then a quantum leap
ahead may occur. WIA could help ELLs transition into secondary education and/or
the workplace or employment training by honoring the 'hard wired' (as I
understand it's brain function in learning a language, not necessarily effort,
or exposure, though I'm sure they are factors) and not placing level gain
restrictions on reporting, but finding some other way (performative?
functional?) to measure progress. Another barrier is obtaining more realistic
simulated workplace situations in the classroom, and, on the post-secondary
level, not mandating that college-level ESL instruction be credit-free and thus
not 'counting' toward the degree. I understand academic standards and the
issues of remediation, definitions of 'college-ready' and all the rest, but
students learn at differing paces in differing situations and content areas.
More research in this area might help programs, instructors, and academic
standards administration move forward rather than placing barriers in the way
of student persistence.

you, Madame Secretary, for the opportunity of your listening and communicating
concerns in a meaningful way.

Odiorne, PhD Director, Writing Center Adjunct Professor of English, French,
First Year Transitions, Day Division and ADP

Post University, Waterbury, CT

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5258] Re: English Language Acquisition list WIA discussion -
what do you think?
From: Sandra Fugate
Date: Tue Jan 12 17:33:25 EST 2010


Thank you for putting my own thoughts into
words and doing it so well. I agree with you wholeheartedly. <br.

Sandra Fugate, ESOL Program Coordinator, Center for
Literacy Studies,

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5259] Re: English Language Acquisition list WIA discussion -
what do you think?
From: Steve Kaufmann
Date: Tue Jan 12 19:33:20 EST 2010

I am not familiar with WIA but can respond to
the other questions.

1) (LingQ is an online web 2.0 language
learning community). Some of our members are immigrants to English speaking
countries. The LingQ system tracks the members' activity level and vocabulary
growth. But, in addition, many members report great strides in their English,
as a result of being part of our community.

While I would like to believe that it is the
inherent superior nature of our learning system that explains the success of
these learners, something tells me that this is not entirely the case. What
seems to happen is that learners discover that they can learn on their own,
without being corrected, or rejected or tested. They start to feel more
comfortable with their language skills, such as they are. It is from this base
of greater self-confidence that their language skills start to take off.

One of our students, an immigrant engineer
from Venezuela, after only 4 months with us, went on to a Community College in London, Ontario, to get his Canadian Engineer's license. He told us that he achieved higher
grades in Communications than most native speakers in the program. His success
would not have happened without him first gaining self-confidence. He still has
a strong accent but communicates without fear. His case is not unique. I am a
firm believer in the power of self-learning, not only as an effective method of
learning, but as a confidence-building experience for many learners.

2) The challenge is to make learners believe
in themselves, in their ability to improve, and to accept the need to take
responsibility for their own learning. The challenge is to get them to consider
the teacher, and the classroom, as just one resource among many, for THEM to
use for their own advantage.

3) With regard to Allison's question, in my
view, until the learners are confident enough to engage native speakers on even
terms, they should realize that they have to undertake an intensive program of
input based learning, on their own, outside the classroom.

Steve Kaufmann

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5260] Re: English Language Acquisition list WIA discussion -
what do you think?

From: Carolyn

Date: Wed Jan
13 12:28:59 EST 2010

I hope you will consider this on-topic for
all the discussion groups, although I am only sending it to the six lists I

Most of the discussion seems to come from
large programs where Adult Ed programs are (I’m guessing) organized more like
regular schools, with specific classes at specific times for specific time
frames. Such systems, where both students and instructors are drawn from larger
populations, have greater financial, instructional, and personnel resources
than smaller programs in rural areas.

Our program provides fourteen classrooms in
ten counties in western Nebraska. We have about 20 part-time instructors, some
of whom are volunteers (no full-time instructors). Due to budget cuts, we have
been forced to replace some of our paid instructors with volunteers. We are
fortunate that most of them, both paid and volunteers, are retired school

On any given day, we might have up to a dozen
students in any of our classrooms, with a few studying math, a few working on
science or social studies, a few concentrating on reading, and one or two
practicing language mechanics or writing essays. The instructor, like the old
fashioned one-room school house instructor, helps the student who needs help.
Sometimes all the students are combined for a single lesson, working on the
same subject.

For various reasons, including transportation
issues and lack of child care, more than a third of those who attend
orientation do not continue past the first six hours. More than half leave
before completing 12 hours. Less than 10% of those who attend orientation stay
with us for 60 hours or more. On the other hand, we “graduate” a hundred
students each year.

This information is not intended to answer
any of the questions raised for this discussion group, but rather to inform
participants that some of us face different challenges. Rules and regulations
that work well in larger programs may handicap smaller programs in rural areas,
where the numbers are not so large, but the need is still great.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to
participate in this discussion. Very rarely are the people involved in this
program allowed to express our concerns and our successes. Thank you, NIFL, for

Carolyn Dickinson, Western Nebraska Community College, Scottsbluff, Nebraska

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5255] Re: Adult English Language Acquisition Questions
From: Gilda Rubio-Festa
Date: Tue Jan 12 12:21:30 EST 2010


Thanks for the opportunity to get feedback
from the field. I am an administrator and program developer in our Adult ESL
program in Charlotte NC.

Success / How can we help Adult
ESL learners transition into post secondary?

An ESL student from Panama completed our credit bearing Integrated System technology certificate in summer 09.
This certificate helped him get a skilled job and begin his college journey.
This spring, this student started the AA in Applied Engineering. This program,
initially funded through a local employer, has been in operation for over 4
years. We started with a few technical certificates and now offer over 5
certificates. It creates a pipeline for ESL students to transition into credit
bearing technical certificate programs that are in high demand areas.

The program, Technical Careers ESL, includes
a series of face-to-face and online ESL courses developed for technical
careers, career counseling course, dedicated Academic Advisor, orientation,
screening protocol designed for ESL and program meetings that can include
content instructors, ESL instructors and academic advisors. It has been
designed to be completed as a part time student. We tired offering it on a full
time schedule, but found that the majority of our students have families and
work full time. There is also scholarship funding for this program and students
are also assisted in applying for FA.

A key element in this program is the student
support services we offer through our Academic Advisor. This person, the one
point of contact, helps students navigate and overcome academic challenges,
cultural barriers to understanding college policies, and general everyday
challenges of being a FT worker and PT adult student.

Another key element is the interdisciplinary approach to
development and delivery. ESL works with content instructors, student support
services, registration and career services to provide a full service program to
our students.

How might WIA reauthorization improve
services to adults learning English?

Set aside funding that can only be used to develop distance
learning programs. Our students need the exposure and experience of learning
online since everyday life requires technology skills and so much job training
is now offered online. NC has embraced learning English at a distance.

Require all instructors to have a state approved Adult ESL
instructor certification.

Gilda Rubio-Festa, Associate Dean, Basic
Skills and International Community,

Community Development, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, NC

Subject:[EnglishLanguage 5261] 1)What are your successes in helping adults acquire English
language skills?
From: Dominick Gagliardi
Date: Wed Jan 13 15:06:25 EST 2010

1)What are your successes in
helping adults acquire English language skills?

At Escondido Adult School much of the success
we have experienced in our ESL program is that we have been able to provide a
full range of courses at specific levels covering the gamut from pre-literacy
through advanced while avoiding multi-level classes. This has supported the
retention of students and has allowed them to move through the specific levels
based on their performance to maintain their motivation. Several years ago we
implemented a mandatory orientation for new students to inform them about the
ESL program and others available to them and also to do initial assessment for
proper placement of the students. Finally, at one of our campuses, WIA funds
are used to provide quality child care throughout the day at no charge to

2)Who can WIA help English
Language Learners be successful in achieving a high school credential or GED or
entering post-secondary education and training or employment?

Increased funding specifically for high
school diploma or GED completion is required since the greater percentage of
WIA funding is dedicated to language acquisition. Targeted funding for counseling
services, transition and VESL (Vocational ESL) is also necessary.

3) What are the challenges you
face? What some possible solutions to those challenges?

Adequate funding is an obvious challenge
especially as we work toward transition of a large population of English
language learners into the high school diploma completion, post-secondary
options or career training. Another challenge is the "stop-in,
stop-out" attendance pattern of many of these learners which slows the
learning progress of students. Another challenge is the inability to assess
fees for classes or books. Having that ability would obviously assist with
funding and perhaps improve retention of students as well when there is a
financial state involved.

4) How might WIA reauthorization
improve services to adults learning English?

WIA reauthorization could improve services in a variety
of ways. First, targeted funding could be used to develop level exit tests to
assist in the accurate progression of students throughout an ESL program. Targeted
funding for more supportive services can be used to remove barriers for
students who require instruction such as child care, transportation and
counseling to assist students with the transition to other educational and
career options. Increased funding will also allow these students to receive the
remediation services they require instead of utilizing any financial aid they
might access to fulfill this need and thus not be able to use that aid for
further education. While WIA does not support direct financial aid to students,
it is necessary for the appropriate agencies to communicate and work together
so that financial assistance students receive is not wasted on remediation or
training they are not prepared for in order to be successful.

Subject: [EnglishLanguage
5264] WIA and Adult English Language Learners - a few statistics and a
From: Miriam Burt
Date: Thu Jan 14 13:26:35 EST 2010

Hello, everyone.

It's day 4 of the 5-day discussion on WIA
reauthorization; thanks to all who have posted so far on successes, challenges,
and needs in the field of instruction for adults learning English.

Dominick listed the need for exit-level tests
to assist in the progression of ESL learners through an ESL program.

In light of that comment, I thought a few
statistics might be of interest to us in the field and might put the importance
of this legislation in perspective -by highlighting the size and a little bit
of demographic information on the population we are talking about.

The information below (in yellow) is from
Education for Adult English Language Learners in the United States: Trends,
Research, and Promising Practices. (Center for Applied Linguistics (2008). Washington, DC: Author. http://www.cal.org/caelanetwork/resources/adultELLs/index.html

In program year 2006-2007, 1,101,082 adults
of all ages, nationalities, native languages, and English proficiency levels
were enrolled in federally funded, state-administered ESL programs in the
United States (46% of adults enrolled in these programs.) The five states with
the highest number of English language learners enrolled in these programs were
California (414, 568), Florida (117,773), New York (77,327), Illinois
(70,001), and Texas (59, 174) (U.S. Department of Education, 2008b) Of those

  • 48%
    were enrolled in literacy or beginning level ESL classes
  • 3%
    were 16-18 years of age,
  • 19%
    were 19-24,
  • 56%
    were 25-44,
  • 17%
    were 45-59, and
  • 5%
    were 60 years of age and older (U.S. Department of Education, 2008b)


U.S. Department of Education,
Office of Vocational and Adult Education (2008b). National Reporting System.
Retrieved June 24, 2008, from http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/CFAPPS/OVAE/NRS/tables/?CFID=6141148&CFTOKEN

So, in 2006-7, 46% of the learners enrolled
in U.S. Department of Education funded adult education program were
participating in ESL classes. Certainly there were and are also English
language learners participating in ABE, GED, Adult secondary education (ASE),
and Vocational classes. I think it's safe to say that at least 50% of the
learners being served in federally funded adult education programs are English language

My question then is....

Considering the size of our population and
its presence throughout federally funded programs, how might WIA
reauthorization help improve services offered to these adults learning English?



Miriam Burt , Moderator, discussion list for adult
English language acquisition

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5265] Re: WIA and Adult English Language Learners - a few
statistics and a question...

From: Karen
Date: Thu Jan 14 14:03:40 EST 2010

I’d like to keep family literacy on the
national agenda for WIA. We have had huge national cut backs in family literacy
funding. A great need for developing language and literacy skills at the most
basic levels for parents and 0 to 3 year old children still remains. Waiting
lists for early childhood programs for 0 to 2 year olds remain extremely long
even in urban areas like Washington, DC. We all know that 0 to 3 are the most
critical years for children's educational development. Parents must develop
literacy and parenting skills immediately to support their children during
these most critical years. WIA's focus should include the needs of families
with young children, which include basic ESL and native language literacy
skills as well as parenting skills for parents. This need also includes
allocating programs that employ early childhood teachers with sufficient
funding to support that work. There are very successful family literacy
programs still functioning despite Even Start cutbacks. WIA should continue to
provide funding for family literacy programs with proven results and support
services for both parents and young children. Some have proposed distance
learning as an option, but I see center-based practice as an important option
especially for beginning and lower level literacy students with little to no
computer literacy and one or more children in the home that vie for a parent's

Karen Hertzler, Director of Development and

Even Start Multicultural Family Literacy Program, Washington, DC

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5266] WIA and Adult English Language Learners - comments from
SF area practitioner
From: Kristen Pursely
Date: Thu Jan 14 17:11:58 EST 2010

Hello, I am Kristen Pursley, lead teacher for
the West Contra Costa Adult Education English as a Second Language program in California. West Contra Costa Adult Education serves the area around Richmond in the San
Francisco Bay Area.

What are your successes in
helping adults acquire language skills?

We have had a lot of success with establishing
classes at elementary schools throughout the community which serve students
that live in the neighborhood, especially women with children who attend the
school. This has allowed us to reach large numbers of people who would not have
otherwise been able to learn English, because, Richmond being a low-income
community, many families have very limited access to transportation. School
principals and parent outreach coordinators report that parents become much
more involved with the school once they start coming to English classes on the
site, and through our EL Civics program we have been able to develop a
curriculum that helps parents better understand the U.S. school system,
including parent-teacher conferences, standards-based report cards, and college
requirements. Many parents who complete our EL Civics school objective report
that they had been attending parent-teacher conferences for years, but did not
understand their purpose until they studied the EL Civics "school"

What are some challenges you
face? What are some possible solutions to those challenges?

One of our greatest challenges is reaching
and keeping the lowest-level learners, those with little or no ability to read
in their first language. They can become discouraged, because they are usually
in classes with other "low beginners" who have some reading skills,
and the teacher can't go slowly enough to really help the basic literacy
student without boring the students who have literacy skills in the home
language. Also, these students may have had little experience with an academic
setting, or, worse yet, bad experiences in the home country, where they may
have been made to feel unintelligent and unable to learn. It can be difficult
to help these students adjust to a school setting and feel comfortable there.

These students might be helped with literacy
instruction in the native language with a link to an ESL class the students
could transition into as they picked up literacy skills. Also, designing
programs with the needs of these students in mind is crucial.

How might WIA reauthorization
improve services to adults learning English?

Unfortunately, there are features of the
present WIA program that have a tendency to distort ESL programs and make them
less helpful than they could be to the learners. Most of the problems stem from
the heavy reliance on the CASAS reading test for evaluation of students. Reading is important, but it is only one component of language learning. Programs
sometimes place students in classes solely based on their CASAS reading scores.
This is a problem because some students with an academic background are able to
read in English better than they can understand what they hear in English. If
they are placed on CASAS scores alone, they may be placed in a class where they
cannot understand what is going on.

Presently, teachers are pressured to improve
CASAS scores, often by teaching content similar to the content of the CASAS
test rather than by improving reading instruction techniques. Thus staff
developments often neglect equally important components of learning English,
such as pronunciation and grammar. Teachers can be pressured to stick closely
to reading-based textbooks based on the "CASAS competencies", which
can force them to spend too little time on issues like pronunciation. This, of
course, is because the reading scores on the CASAS test are rewarded with
money, while other measures of success are not.

The "Table 4" requirement that
every single adult school student be tested with a CASAS pre-test also creates
difficulties for ESL programs, especially if they are trying to serve the basic
literacy students mentioned above, or coordinate a program like the one we have
at the elementary schools where classes are not supported by an office on site
and are far from a test center. This requirement penalizes programs that don't
make a standardized test part of a student's first day of class, but such an
experience can easily scare off the basic literacy student who is uncomfortable
in an academic setting in the first place. Yet, as far as WIA record keeping is
concerned as things are now, a test without a student is not a problem, but a
student without a test is. Yet from the point of view of delivering services,
it is the other way around.

I was at a WIA meeting several years ago
where the CASAS person giving the presentation explained that ESL programs as a
rule fall behind all other programs in their compliance with the requirement
that every student have at least a pre-test. When a problem is that generalized,
it might be the requirement rather than the program that needs to be reworked.

Finally, the entry/exit data we collect for
WIA seems to be evaluated in a way that makes assumptions that are not true for
ESL learners. For example, as I understand it, a student is not supposed to
put, "get a job" as a goal unless that is something that can be
accomplished during the program year, and students with CASAS scores below a
certain number are considered to have skills that are "too low" to
get a job within the program year, so this goal is "kicked out" of
the system even if they marked it. The reality is that the majority of ESL
students have jobs, no matter how low their skills are. However, the jobs are
low paid. It would be better to measure students success at fulfilling their
potential as their English improves, which would necessitate tracking progress
over time.

A re-examination of some of these features of
the WIA program, with perhaps allowance for other types of assessments of
students, might help make this program even more useful for ESL students and

Kristen Pursley

ESL Lead Teacher, West Contra Costa Adult Education

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5267] WIA and Adult English Language Learners - another
posting from a practitioner
From: James Synder
Date: Thu Jan 14 17:44:49 EST 2010

WIA reauthorization can improve services by
helping adults improve their education, hygiene, environment, social skills,
and employment. WIA should also allow programs to encourage learners to work
together by exchanging telephone numbers, work in small group as learners,
share information and discuss problems in groups, and seek information from
their instructors. An adult learner who seeks out information tries to
establish a positive attitude and would work harder toward his/her goals.

James Snyder

Subject: EnglishLanguage 5268] Re: WIA and Adult English Language Learners - comments
from SF area practitioner
From: Mona Curtis
Date: Thu Jan 14 19:10:46 EST 2010

Thank you, Kristen, for this very accurate picture of
programs working with English Language Learners. I teach in a community college
in Oregon and we face the same frustrations. I don't do much on this list other
than read things that interest me (I'm too busy trying to run an ESL program
without sufficient funding.) However if messages like this could enter into the
WIA reauthorization conversation we might be able to express our concerns to
policy makers.

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5271] WIA reauthorization - responses from Melanie Coyne
From: Melanie Coyne
Date: Fri Jan 15 08:55:31 EST 2010 ,br>

I feel like I've been listening to the choir this week
singing versions of my song. So in my words: What are your successes in
helping adults acquire English language skills?

We have been able to provide English classes
at five sites in our county. Three of those sites serve families and provide
access to class by having a programming for children at the same time and site
as the classes for adults in the evenings. We also run an Even Start family
literacy program which provides early childhood education, parenting education,
English language instruction and interactive literacy time with parents and
children together. This program has served as a best practice model for our
other more scantily funded programs. All of our programs benefit from the
services of over 20 trained volunteer tutors who supplement the services of the
paid staff at each site.

How can WIA help English Language Learners be successful in
achieving a high school credential or entering post-secondary education and
training or employment?

WIA should consider funding programs that
offer educational pathways which provide content and process learning in the
native language (such as the CONEVyT) while also providing English language
instruction. Programs that couple higher level English language skills classes
with vocational training such as the IBest program are also promising practices
that help learners move forward with their practical knowledge as they gain
language mastery.

What are the challenges you face? What are some possible solutions
to those challenges?

In the words of one of the ESL teachers:
"Multilevel classes are a huge challenge. In the mornings I teach a
multilevel class with students ranging from barely literate to level 5. Meeting
everyone where they are at is difficult because, while I pick a curriculum that
is in the middle of the range, it is always going to either be too easy for
those level 5 students, or too difficult for the level 1 students. One solution
to this challenge is more funding to hire more teachers to be equipped to meet
each student where they are at." The challenges we face include grant
funding as the backbone of our programming which requires higher overhead in
terms of administration and fund development work that provides this money
stream. Lack of benefits for ABE/ESL professionals results in high turnover of
staff. Lack of child care and/or transportation prevents adult students from
attending too often. Possible solutions include a view of adult education as
family education. In this model the children of adult students have their care
and education provided for at the same time adult education is offered in order
to support adult attendance and break the cycle of poverty which results in
intergenerational illiteracy. Acceptance of adult education as an integral and
necessary component of regularly funded educational institutions (such as
PreK-12, and higher education are today) is necessary as our country becomes
more global in its citizenry while maintaining its core values of education and
opportunity for all.

How might WIA reauthorization improve services to adults learning

The WIA reauthorization recognizes that
adults need access to education in order to be productive members of an ever
changing workplace. Keeping the latest demographics and trends (more adults
with less education, and a larger percentage with English language deficits) in
focus as the reauthorization is drafted will help align it with the needs of
our promising and evolving country.

Melanie Coyne

Literacy Program Manager, Skagit County Community Action

Mount Vernon, WA

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5270] (no subject)
From: Grenier, Lisa
Date: Fri Jan 15 12:12:04 EST 2010

Hello, my name is Lisa Grenier and I am a
teacher and coordinator at Pima Community College Adult Education in Tucson, AZ.

1) What are your successes in
helping adults acquire English language skills?

I work in a large program that serves about
5,000 English Language Learners a year. The WIA legislation has made it
possible for many students to learn English, continue on to college and pursue
successful careers. Seeing education make such a positive difference in
individual's lives, in families in the community, is what keeps me in this

2) How can WIA help English
Language Learners be successful in achieving a high school credential or GED or
entering post-secondary education and training or employment?

Funding students for longer periods.
Currently, many students feel rushed by their caseworkers to hurry and get a
job. Learning English takes time. Learning to the point where one can compete
with native speakers in college takes more time. If we want an educated
workforce, we must invest both time and money in their education.

Providing support services. One of the biggest barriers I see is lack of access
to childcare. There seems to be no logic to how these subsidies are awarded.
Without childcare subsidies, students only stay in classes long enough to learn
the rudiments of English before getting the first low-paying, low-skilled job
they can find.

3) What are the challenges you
face? What are some possible solutions to these challenges?

The single largest challenge is adequate
funding. The need is great, but we do not have funding to add more classes.

4) How might WIA reauthorization
improve services to adults learning English?

Supportive services such as childcare and
transportation subsidies could help remove barriers to student participation.
Additionally, a broadening of federal core goals to honor greater community
involvement and involvement in children's education would serve the community.

Lisa L. Grenier

Acting Advanced Program Coordinator, El Pueblo Liberty Adult Learning Center

Pima Community College Adult Education

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5272] Improve services to adults learning English?
From: Diane frank
Date: Fri Jan 15 13:08:41 EST 2010

We can't afford to NOT teach communication
skills to immigrants and natural citizens. I've been observing this forum
during the Q&A session and I've yet to hear from anyone in the Pacific NW
as to the needs of 'Improving services to adults learning English?' in our

This area of the continent may be unique in
that most all immigrants are swayed to come here as forest and fruit
harvester/pickers by large corporations who promise money, lodging. When they
arrive there are few if no amenities for them. Quite often they are illiterate
in their own language and all the efforts to inform them are lost in creating translations.

They are exploited from the get-go by these
corporations and companies who go so far as to:

  • detract
    SS, state and federal taxes from their paychecks (which of course never get
    reported which I have witnessed firsthand)
  • provide
    rotten trailers where 3-4 families try to squeeze into for living quarters
  • very
    often call in INS at the end of a season when they are to pay the workers
    thereby expunging themselves from paying anyone for their hard work.

Many working immigrants end up in jail (which
costs state taxpayers) as a result of being purposely placed on
unleased/improperly leased public and private lands (dropped off by the vans
full day after day by these greedy corporations). There are millions of acres
owned by private/state/federal available for lease.

Our public lands are over-picked, edibles
(such as mushrooms) are not observed/inspected for disease (which must be
inspected at the site) cross contamination (poisonous mushrooms bagged during
picking with edibles). We lose literally millions of valuable resources each
year in this part of the country to this illegal picking at the hands of these

Many immigrants arrive and discover there
really is no work (although promised there would be), don't get paid, suffer
from rain/cold exposure sending them to clinics and hospitals (paid by
taxpayer), get pregnant (enabling a native born legal resident). Worst of it
is, only the workers are caught, not their dependents who are stuck here to
fend for themselves in a foreign country when they and theirs is imprisoned or
deported. Guess where they go for survival? Our state welfare system.

Our food quality is compromised,
resources/revenue is compromised, legal system is overburdened with preventable
arrests/containment/representation/deportation, state human services is
overburdened and suffers budget cuts. And yet the only budget which seems
unaffected is the legal system and dispensing federal administration systems.

Does it appear that I'm ditching on
immigrants? NOT AT ALL. Having voluntarily worked with these immigrants for
years to encourage them to report who they work for which allows us to report
the corrupted exploitation to our state Labor and Industries who may go into
these corporations and fine/monitor their activity to stop illegal action has
been a long, daunting task.

The greatest, safest, soundest, place for
immigrants to report in to is their local literacy center. It is a safe-haven.
It affords them the ability to keep themselves out of jail, report abuse,
become contributing citizens, stay in America, learn English, represent
themselves, communicate. It would be in the best interest of our nation if
corporations who make use of immigrant labor pay a separate tax which primarily
supports literacy education. This tax should be made legal by every state/city.
Taxed money which stays local.

As the result of a phonetic dictionary I
developed (used by ESL), I have had, during promotional tours, the luxury of
visiting literacy centers in 14 states this year. The staff (of which there are
few) the volunteers (of which there are plenty but unreliable) are over-worked
and stressed. They have passion and work like little ants feverishly upholding
the guts of humanity. Little or no pay, unappreciated by white-collar workers
(yes, that term still applies) and loved by millions of those they've helped to
merely survive needs to be addressed. Hitting the pocketbooks and earmarking
tax money specifically is essential. U.S. taxpayers are paying the expense one
way or another, may as well be intelligent about this placement of funding.
Could move a bit of it over to literacy centers from the legal system, yeah? I
was a volunteer literacy tutor for 10 years at the community college level (how
did these kids make it past high school?????) in Texas, California and Alaska.

I know how ungrateful the higher paid echelon
is towards those of us who have mercy and persevere, voluntarily helping the
'challenged' despite the blood and mud in the trenches.

In my interview with hundreds of literacy
tutors this year alone along the west coast, the common denominator is not
learning material, learning/teaching strategies, but is funding to pay people
to keep these centers open and operational. Period.

Diane Frank

Rainier, WA

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5276] Re: Improve services to adults learning English?
From: Teresa Durkin
Date: Fri Jan 15 14:02:43 EST 2010

Wow, Diane! I love your letter and you did a
great job articulating what is happening. Your last paragraph stating that
funding to keep the literacy centers open is the common denominator is
certainly true in the case of our small town (2500 people) in south central Oregon.

I have been the director of our adult
learning center since moving here in the fall of 2002. I was new to this
"career", and the program was not developed at all, but I threw
myself into it on the 10 hours a week I was allowed to work. The program
quickly outgrew its budget (our ESD helped with funding while it could) and my
hours were increased to 20 per week. Most of my students were in the ESL
program. The program has had the same amount of money to work with for over 30
years, and the contract states that we are to provide adult ed services to the
entire county! Even though the programs over us through which our grant money
was funneled received more and more money, we never received one penny more. We
are the third largest county in the state. Our town is the largest town in the
county. I would have to travel over two hours one way to reach the most distant
population center in the county.

Then came July 1, 2009. The state dropped
funding for all of the adult ed programs in the counties which do not have
their own community college. Of course, we don't have our own community
college. We have an extension, but that doesn't count! Even though we are a
small community, we have about 10% of the population which is made up of
non-English speaking immigrants. We also have businesses in town who take
advantage of them, just like you described in your letter. I have confronted some
of these business owners, especially when one stated that he 'counts on the
Mexicans to make him rich.' His wife keeps the books and I told her she knew
they were illegal, but was withholding taxes on them that they'd never receive.
I've also pressed them to fulfill their obligations of taking care of injured
workers through workmen's comp. They pay into it for these workers; the workers
need to receive the benefit when necessary. I disagree with the fact that they
illegally hire illegal immigrants to start with. But to hire them and then to
take unfair advantage of them is a moral issue as far as I'm concerned. <br.

I am constantly stopped in the grocery store
by former and hopeful ESL students as to when I'm going to start up classes
again. I am so saddened to have to tell them probably never unless I can find
the time to do it on my own time, which my after work hours are not the best
hours for these potential students. I've learned what times work best for them
over the years. Evenings do not work for most of them because of their work

Our Director of School Improvement and I have been scouring the internet to try
to find funding for the adult ed program here, but all of the funding comes
through the state. Obviously, since we are not a large area, they don't think
we're worth any funding. However, simply because we are small, there are
fewer options for not only the ESL students, but also the ABE, and GED students
who are here.

If you come up with any solutions, I'd love to hear about
them! My heart really goes out to these folks.

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5274] Re: The WIA conversation
From: Pat Thompson
Date: Fri Jan 15 13:52:21 EST 2010

Thank you so much for sharing so succinctly
the plight of so many adult education organizations during this down economy. I
second your plea to make use of the professional persons from other countries
in appropriate jobs!

Pat Thompson

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5273] Re: The WIA conversation
From: Anurag Sagar
Date: Friday, January 15, 2010 10:13 AM


My name is Anurag Sagar and I have been
working with ESL learners for the last nine years as an ESL instructor and also
program manager.

What are your successes in
helping adults acquire English skills?

At the Center for Literacy in Philadelphi a we have a fairly large program. Last year we served 500 learners in 14
classes spread throughout the city. Our classes are often quite large and
extremely multi level. But thanks to a very dedicated staff we have had high
retention and success in helping our learners achieve many of their goals such
as finding employment, achieving citizenship skills, becoming more involved in
their children's literacy activities as well as their community. A portion of
the funding for our ESL program comes through an EL/Civics grant and we have
integrated the teaching of language and literacy in the context of American
history, government and culture. This curriculum also fits in with the goals of
most of our learners who are interested in not only in improving their English
language skills, but who also want to become better integrated in society as
well as gain citizenship.

Because of the extreme variation in levels
(preliterate to advanced) in the same class, differentiated instruction is a
necessity in our lesson planning. Obviously, these are also very challenging
situations for teachers. CFL also has a large volunteer program and we have
been fortunate in some instances to have trained volunteers, help out in class
by working with learners who need extra attention.

What are some of the challenges
you face? What are some possible solutions to these challenges?

Recruitment of teachers is extremely
difficult due to low budgets for adult literacy. Our teachers work under
difficult circumstances, travelling to different parts of the city at different
times of the day for a lowly remuneration. There is an easy way to solve this
challenge. Elevate the importance of adult literacy for the well being of the
nation and provide better incomes for our teachers.

We all agree that professional development
for staff is absolutely essential to keep abreast of new and innovative ideas
in teaching. Unfortunately money for attending conferences is inadequate or

Although we are able to hire paid staff, due
to budget constraints, we generally need to find rent free classroom space.
Although this is an excellent way to partner with other community based
organizations as well as libraries, due to the recent budget woes this has also
meant that we have needed to cancel classes on short notice when the library
(or other site) couldn't stay open. This is obviously a real hardship for our
students who are poor immigrants making time in their busy lives to come to
class and who in many cases really depend on them to gain the skills to move
on. Better funding for adult literacy can help solve the classroom space
issues; we would have a better capacity to pay a nominal rent for sites.

How can WIA help English Language
Learners be successful in entering-secondary education and training or

Again more funds for our programs would help
provide more technology capabilities at our programs. In the 21st century all
workers need to have some familiarity with computers. With additional funds we
could provide contextualized computer classes for our ESL learners to help them
enter the workforce and move up the ladder at their place of employment.
Computer literacy is of course a necessity for entering higher education. Many
learners do not have a computer at home and their only access may be at a
literacy class. Together with better training appropriate partnerships between
community colleges and CBO's would also encourage in the move to help learners
think about and enter post-secondary programs.

For adult literacy organizations to be more
successful in helping their learners enter employment, businesses need to start
a conversation with them and gain an understanding of the challenges and think
about ways they can help and partner so they are ensured a well educated and
literate workforce.

Many of our ESL students are highly trained
professional adults. There needs to be greater thought put into how their
skills can be used in appropriate jobs. It is a huge waste of human resource to
have someone who was a successful lawyer or engineer or accountant in his/her
native country work as pizza delivery person here!

I appreciate this opportunity to share some
of my thoughts,

Anurag Sagar, PhD

ESL Program Manager, Center for Literacy, Philadelphia, PA

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5275] WIA discussion
From: Weintraub, Lynne
Date: Fri Jan 15 13:53:59 EST 2010

My name is Lynne Weintraub, and I run the Jones Library ESL Center in Amherst, Massachusetts.

What are your successes in helping adults
acquire English language skills?

I run a town-funded library literacy program
for adult immigrants in Western Massachusetts. I supervise 80 tutor/student
pairs, and 3 weekly conversation circles in my half-time position. That means
that over 150 students a year are receiving services from volunteer instructors,
and the whole thing costs less than a tenth, per student, of what a WIA-funded
classroom "slot" would cost in my state. (Since the municipal budget
situation is precarious these days, my program would love to receive WIA
funding, but it's almost impossible to get it for volunteer literacy services.)
We help students who are unable to access classroom ESOL programs for a variety
of reasons. For example:

  • they've
    just arrived in the US and must wait many months for a classroom slot
  • their
    work schedules don't fit with available classroom options or the level
    they need is not offered
  • they
    don't have transportation
  • they
    are home with a baby/toddler
  • their
    goals are narrowly focused & can't be met by classroom programs (e.g.
    citizenship, a particular workplace skill/credential, a driver's permit)

I have highly skilled long-term volunteers
(many of them retired educators), who not only provide language instruction,
but also help their students apply for jobs, enroll in community college,
connect with social services, figure out how to use public transit, understand
their mail, and negotiate many other day-to-day challenges that newcomers face
in the US.

We specialize in helping elderly and less
educated immigrants to pass the citizenship test, and we have a 100% pass rate.

How can WIA help English Language Learners be successful in
achieving a high school credential or entering post-secondary education and
training or employment?

Many of the people we work with are
middle-aged or older. Some are already working. Some are too old to enter the
workforce and do not wish to go to college. Some are owners of local mom &
pop businesses; some are providing care to children at home. Government
funders' exclusive focus on workplace readiness and higher education outcomes
seems unfairly and unwisely biased toward the young. It leaves many of my
students out in the cold.

Why does that matter? Consider:

  • Our
    communities are not very safe if a segment of the population doesn't speak
    enough English to report a crime.
  • Our
    elections are not democratic when would-be new voters cannot speak enough
    English to pass a citizenship test.
  • What
    happens in a natural disaster or public health emergency when a segment of
    the population cannot communicate with the rest of us?

Subject:[EnglishLanguage 5277] WIA discussion
From: Upham, Arthur G
Date: Fri Jan 15 15:13:57 EST 2010

What a tremendously informative and
impressive read the WIA discussion is generating, both thoughtful and
passionate: the dedication and commitment of participants is a real credit to
the profession today. And what an excellent snapshot of the national situation
today, and a scary one, too.

One disadvantage to the nature of this forum
and the question posed is that solutions should involve a holistic/comprehensive
discussion of all the parts that need to come together to shape a
solution-education/literacy is certainly key, but so too the economy and labor
market. Unfortunately, though I confess my limited knowledge about the job
market and near future trends, but it seems unlikely to me that the US will see
the return of many of the manufacturing and production jobs we hear being
outsourced for cheaper labor and materials-the jobs to which the limited skill,
limited English worker could hope to secure. The talk about a growth in high
tech or biotech jobs doesn't seem likely to be accessible for this population
either any time soon. Green jobs may help some but then going green isn't cheap
and this will limit that growth. As more and more employers require a high
school graduation diploma or its equivalent, this too is limiting access to
jobs for many who have now lost the manual-intensive jobs sent outside our
borders. So the need for more funding for adult education is clear but also for
tuition support/loans/student supportive services including childcare.

Other solutions will require creative
thinking. Might we take a model like the Fresh Start program and fund adult
basic ed/literacy half-day with half-day work experience installing or creating
green buildings-with tax credits to both the homeowner and the business to
encourage green projects? Might employers whose primary reason for requiring a
high school diploma is the fear of lawsuit or OSHA fines should an employee
with limited English/reading skills be injured through failure to understand
product hazards be satisfied if the employee presented a certificate of
completion/satisfactory attainment in a community college or literacy class
dedicated to teaching the employee how to read and understand such product
information? If the labor market continues to offer fewer and fewer of the
traditional jobs that used to provide productive employment for these students,
what can we do to find them paying jobs-or will we just put much, much more
money into public assistance and accept a chronically large and growing poverty
stricken underclass? Might Unemployment Insurance and Welfare programs give
much greater permission for those receiving such benefits to get more of the
training they need without penalizing them?

Arthur Upham, Ph. D.

Dept. of Children & Families, Div. of Family & Economic Security,

Bureau of Working Families, Refugee Assistance Services Program Section

Madison, WI

Subject: EnglishLanguage 5278] The WIA Questions
From: Anderson, Philip
Date: Fri Jan 15 15:21:37 EST 2010

Madame Secretary,

Thank you for your request for input on the
following question:

Question 1: What are the successful ingredients needed to help teachers and programs
prepare learners for college and/or work?

Adult ESL teachers need the following
successful ingredients needed to help teachers and programs prepare learners
for college and/or work:

  • Specialized Certificate training and/or College-level or
    Graduate-level degrees in adult education/ESL
  • Ongoing support and technical assistance of mentors/coaches
  • Paid time to participate in professional development trainings

An established role within adult education
programs that offer wrap-around services, such as transition guidance, career
counseling, job-related testing, social services.

Technical assistance of nationally-based
adult education research agencies such as the Center for Applied Linguistics
and its ESOL-focused Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA),
from the American Institute for Research (AIR), the Council for the Advancement
of Adult Literacy (CAAL), World Education, the Voice of Adult Learners United
to Educate (VALUE), and others. These agencies have successfully helped state
initiatives to improve and enhance the delivery of professional development to
teachers, and help to move students into college and good paying jobs.

National technical assistance initiatives
(STAR Reading Program, the Standards Warehouse, the NRS Data Report Cards,
CAELA Network for ESL Professional Development) that have been beneficial to
teachers through building the capacity of state professional development
education initiatives. These should be enhanced.

Strides forward have been made by the
provision of state leadership funds which open the door for states to design
home-grown initiatives that meet the training needs of teachers. Florida has funded projects like Next Steps, a transition program for adult ESOL students
to enter college, Staying Healthy, a health literacy curriculum and support
materials for ESL populations, and the Human Trafficking Adult ESOL curriculum
for teachers. These initiatives improve student's ability to obtain more
education, to keep jobs, and to move into better jobs.

Support of the practitioner community-based
Association of Adult Literacy Professional Development (AALPD) should be
continued and enhanced. The AALPD standards were developed by and for adult
education professional development trainers and consultants. These have given a
strong foundation upon which to build professional development initiatives for

Philip Anderson

Adult ESOL Program Specialist

Florida Department of Education

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5279] Re: Adult English Language Acquisition Questions
From: Michael Gyori
Date: Fri Jan 15 17:03:02 EST 2010

Dear Dr. Dann-Messier and everyone,

I would like to offer my thoughts about the
reauthorization of the WIA and greatly appreciate that the input of the
subscribers to this and other NIFL discussion lists is being solicited.

I've been teaching ESL (ESL-literacy,
content-based instruction, VESL, English for Special Purposes, Family Literacy,
"daily life" ESL, etc.) - as well as EFL - for an array of service
providers (a corporate language school, a 501(c)(3) CBO, a graduate school with
a large international student population, a public middle, a public elementary
school - both with high numbers of ELLs - numerous hotels and other businesses,
and now my own language school) for almost 34 years in Europe, the Middle East,
and the United States. The incredible diversity of individual students,
families, and employee groups I have worked with over the years (ages, L1s,
sociocultural backgrounds, socioeconomic status, skills at the time of program
entry, goals, targeted life outcomes, instructional settings, etc.) points to a
truly vast, multi-faceted, and fascinating field, especially in second language

As you know, in the case of ESL, our learners
are primarily immigrants who have adopted new and unfamiliar surroundings with
the intention of making it their new home. Depending upon how one defines
"English language skills," one can argue that the assistance ESL
learners need encompasses far more than the learning of a new language.

What does or should the learning that has
occurred and continues to occur consist of? The answer varies greatly from
person to person. Some adults who have never attended school (typically due to
poverty) may exit instructional programs having learned rudimentary basic
interpersonal communication skills and secure (minimum-wage) employment, work
two, even three jobs, and live out their lives in such economic circumstances.
Other adults with more extensive formal educational backgrounds in their native
countries have no need for a GED but need academic English proficiency to
pursue or continue tertiary-level education to achieve their professional goals
or be able to continue practicing their profession in the United States.
Clearly, drawing on just these two examples illuminates just how difficult it
is to reduce ESL to a particular "subject area" or learning path.

The characteristics and huge numbers of NNES
learners cannot and must not be ignored: According to the U.S. Census data, of
the 26.4 million immigrants in the U.S., almost 80 percent are adults (Starr,
2001). Consequently, English as a Second Language (ESL) has become the fastest
growing segment in federally funded adult education programs (Pugsley, 1998).
Many of the adult ESL learners do not have much schooling in their home
country, and therefore, lack appropriate study skills important for academic
success. In addition, they tend to face tremendous financial distress and
family responsibilities that oftentimes prevent them from concentrating on
their studies. Teaching them can be a significant challenge for the teacher and
curriculum developer. (Yi Yang, The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XI, No. 3,
March 2005; see http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Yang-AdultLearners.html for full text and references).

Further, depending on educational setting,
between 31% and 55% of all adult education enrollees are deemed to be ESL
learners (Policy Notes, ETS Policy Information Center, Volume 16, Number 1
Policy Evaluation & Research Center, Winter 2008; see http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICPN161.pdf).

If I factor in the ESL population in programs
not designed primarily for non-native English speaking (NNES) adults, such as
GED preparation or vocational training programs, I would surmise that at the
very least 50% of adults being served by WIA-eligible programs are NNES learners.

The ESL program I established and then
directed at a CBO in Hawaii was a WIA-approved provider for ca. seven years in
the 1990s. At that time, all students funded by the WIA in "my"
program were unemployed, and if memory serves me well, about 90% of approximately
50 students served in all during that time period secured employment or
self-employment and were able to sustain it (ascertained by means of
longitudinal tracking). There was no NRS to report to at the time, nor were
there any NRS-approved standardized tests that had to be administered. The CBO,
as a place of "last resort" for many of its students, maintained its
autonomy in addressing learner needs and drew on community resources and
affiliations to facilitate their goal attainment. Maui, where I work, is a
small community, and we were really well positioned to allow "the village
to raise the child" (or in this case, the adult).

Some of the ESL classes at the same CBO were
later funded by AEFLA over a three-year period (ca. 2003 to 2006), with all NRS
reporting and testing (by means of CASAS) requirements placed on them. This was
a time when federally-funded AE agencies were mandated to partner with CBOs to
make maximum use of community resources already in place. For our ESL and adult
literacy programs, it was veritably a taxing experience of attempting to fit a
round peg into a square hole. Of the 12 CBOs statewide that originally
partnered with the AE agencies (including a program of the University of Hawaii at Manoa), I believe only two continue to do so while no new partnerships
have been forged. In a word, the constraints within which the CBOs were
mandated to operate, along with the associated assessment and accountability
requirements, simply did not prove viable and able to produce the required

I have been operating my own school for over
three years now and am no longer subjected to any requirements set forth by
federal legislation and education policy. Once again, I am free to run a truly
student-centered operation without the high levels of anxiety that I understand
is often fostered by WIA, and know has been fostered from personal experience
by AEFLA and NCLB. I'm as busy as I've ever been and am free to do what I
believe it takes to facilitate each of my student's personal goal and life
outcome attainment.

I'd love to see the conceptual framework of
WIA integrated with other government-funded services for our NNES learners,
whether adults or children. Such a framework should reflect the diversity of
human beings served by educational programs, whether in large urban centers or
small rural communities (two very different settings with very different needs,
I might add). I believe that such a framework should evolve from a bottom up
rather than top down approach. Further, success should not, at least not in a
primary fashion, be measured by norm-referenced standardized tests with highly
questionable levels of validity and meaningfulness, but rather by real life
outcomes that can be attributed at least in large measure to the efforts
undertaken by service providers to assist learners in achieving their goals.
The conceptual framework should also differentiate between L1 and L2 learners
in the most fundamental of ways because their educational pathways are, or
should be, for the large part quite distinct.

I am truly concerned that should new laws and
policies be enacted that further raise the choke-hold on our schools, that the
already prevailing high levels of anxiety among educators, and by extension
their students, will backfire to a point that ever-rising negative affective
conditions will lead to even fewer instances of demonstrable instructional
success than is now the case. Let's start by investigating teaching practices
that demonstrably succeed in preparing students for whatever it is they may
aspire to do. Let's also draw on frameworks such as EFF as platforms to help
guide instruction, along with principles of Universal Design (see http://ctfd.sfsu.edu/udl.htm)
to serve as many students as well as possible at any given time.

Thank you again for soliciting everyone's
input. I greatly appreciate the freedom we have to voice our views.

Michael A. Gyori

Maui International Language School

Subject: [EnglishLanguage 5281] Re: Thanks to all who posted for the WIA
From: John Mears
Date: Sat Jan 16 03:00:17 EST 2010

My name is John Mears, and I have been
teaching English as a Second Language in LAUSD's Division of Adult and Career
Education about 25 years. From 1996 to 1999, I was ESL Teacher-Adviser to all
of LAUSD's adult division, visiting dozens of adult schools in LAUSD to ensure
compliance with California's Model Standards for ESL. During that time, I
worked extensively with the CASAS people in San Diego, helping them develop an
exit test for Beginning ESL. I urged CASAS to develop an ESL exam with pre- and
post-tests, but they have not yet developed such a test, to my knowledge.

In 1999, California made TOPS and CASAS mandatory
for all adult ESL programs. Since then, with California's cuts to state funding
for adult education programs, federal WIA funding has become more important to
LAUSD's adult programs, and even greater emphasis is now being placed on TOPS
and CASAS to achieve benchmarks for funding.

As a long-term ESL teacher, I have concerns
about the use of TOPS and CASAS in ESL programs, because neither TOPS nor CASAS
is in my view accurate or appropriate for gathering data on student progress.

Many ESL students in my classes are learning
English so that they can get better jobs. TOPS forms fail to include this goal
in their list of options. For their job goals, students are allowed to choose
between "Get a job" and "Retain job." Nowhere can students
indicate that they want better jobs, and if they get better jobs, no benchmarks
are awarded.

TOPS forms also have a weird way of
classifying students by "race" and "ethnicity." Many of my
students do not fit the pigeonholes offered on the TOPS form.

On the assessment side, CASAS tests are not
really appropriate measures of progress in ESL. It's my understanding CASAS was
originally designed for prison populations. CASAS reading and listening tests
do test some ESL skills, but it is a stretch to call them ESL tests; yet they're
being used as ESL assessments for the purpose of WIA funding.

Either the TOPS/CASAS people should improve
their instruments for data collection and assessment, or the feds should find
or develop another system.


John Mears, ESL Instructor

Division of Adult and Career Education

Los Angeles Unified School District