Strategies for Innovation in Community College ESL, February 4 - 8, 2008

Discussion Announcement

Dear Colleagues,

I'm pleased to announce the following Guest Discussion, which will be held during the week of February 4, 2008: Topic: Strategies for Innovation in Community College ESL.



Guest Participants

JoAnn (Jodi) Crandall

Professor and Director

Language, Literacy and Culture Ph.D. Program

Director, Peace Corps Master's Intl Program in ESOL/Bilingual Education

University of Maryland Baltimore County

Forrest P. Chisman

Executive Vice President

CAAL (Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy)

New York
Forrest P. Chisman is Vice President of the Council for the Advancement of Adult Literacy and has been an independent consultant in the fields of human resource development, health care, and philanthropy. From 1988-1997, he was President of the Southport Institute for Policy Analysis, and prior to that he was Director of the Project on the Federal Social Role. From 1977-81, he was Deputy Administrator for Policy of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Previously he was Director of The Aspen Institute's Program on Communications and Society, and Senior Program Officer of the John and Mary Markle Foundation. He received his BA from Harvard and his doctorate from Oxford. He is the author of numerous books, articles, and reports on a wide range of public policy issues.



Discussion Questions

In preparation for next week's discussion on Passing the Torch: Strategies for Innovation in Community College ESL, our guests have posed a few questions for us to think about and respond to in order to get our discussion started.

To review first briefly, Drs. Crandall and Chisman's research found that: 'only a small percentage of ESL students are enrolled in programs for as long as four semesters (the equivalent of two years or less) - either consecutively or at any time. As a result, few ESL students experience significant learning gains from adult education ESL programs. Moreover, only about 10 percent of non-credit ESL students make transitions to credit ESL, and an even smaller percentage make transitions to college academic or vocational programs.' [p. 5, executive summary]

The authors' research concluded that the following factors are crucial to a successful educational experience:

  • intensity of instruction
  • structures and/or policies to facilitate student transition
  • professional development for staff working with this population

Their research also concluded that these important factors are often ignored, leading to the problems for ESL students described above.

Drs. Crandall and Chisman note that their research is focused on community college, and thus, they are very interested in knowing what this experience is like in non-community college settings. To this end, they have posed the following questions for us:

  • To what extent does your program perceive these 3 factors to be issues?
  • Are these and the other findings of their research typical at your community college ESL program? If not, what is the experience like at your program?
  • How typical are their findings in non-community college settings? (CBOs, LEAs, Faith-Based, Workplace, etc)
  • How does your program offer instruction? (in terms of rigor and intensity)
  • How does your program facilitate transitioning students to workforce/career preparation or higher education and other programs?
  • What type of professional development is offered at your program to help you better work with this population of ESL students?
  • About what portion of your students initially enroll at lower (beginning) levels of ESL and how many levels do most of them progress? (Surprisingly, there is no national data on this).
  • How do you deal with the issues described above in the research, if you experience them?

Please post your answers to these questions, as well as any questions you have for our guests.



Recommended preparations for this discussion

Passing the Torch: Strategies for Innovation in Community College ESL (Executive Summary)

by Forrest P. Chisman and JoAnn Crandall

CAAL February 20, 2007

16 pages

Passing the Torch: Strategies for Innovation in Community College ESL (Full Report)

by Forrest P. Chisman and JoAnn Crandall

February 26, 2007

163 pages

Excerpts from the Executive Summary of Passing the Torch

[Adult education English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction is an essential national education service, but the outcomes of most ESL programs are by no means as great as they should and can be - in terms of learning gains, retention, and transitions to further education… p. 4]

[…According to the NRS, the overwhelming majority of ESL students enter programs at the two lowest levels, and NRS reports that only about 36 percent of ESL students advance one level per year. Longitudinal research prepared for CAAL by two community colleges indicates that only a small percentage of ESL students are enrolled in programs for as long as four semesters (the equivalent of two years or less) - either consecutively or at any time. As a result, few ESL students experience significant learning gains from adult education ESL programs. Moreover, only about 10 percent of non-credit ESL students make transitions to credit ESL, and an even smaller percentage make transitions to college academic or vocational programs. p. 5]

[The problems of learning gains, persistence, and transitions clearly call for serious attention. Fortunately, at least some community colleges and other ESL providers have devised innovative and effective strategies to address them. This report is based on a two-year study of ESL service at community colleges by the Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy (CAAL). The study draws on the authors' extensive knowledge of and exposure to dozens of community colleges and ESL programs through other studies, but it is based primarily on an in-depth examination of the innovative strategies adopted by five community colleges identified by ESL experts and their peers as exemplary in their provision of adult ESL service... p. 5]

PATHWAYS & OUTCOMES: Tracking ESL Student Performance

by Steven Spurling, Sharon Seymour, and Forrest Chisman

CAAL January 2008

212 pages

Note: Alternate printing/display option for this title:
pathways-outcomes1 chapters 1 to 2.pdf
pathways-outcomes2 chapters 3 to 5.pdf
pathways-outcomes3 chapters 6 to 8.pdf
pathways-outcomes4 chapters 9 to 10.pdf

This report is a longitudinal study of adult ESL services at the City College of San Francisco (CCSF). Its primary aim is to help those who plan and design community college ESL programs assess and develop effective services. But it will also help those who offer adult ESL services in other institutional settings, and policymakers and funding organizations. The authors note that CCSF's ESL program has features in common with many other community college programs, and point to the model's importance because so many ESL professionals across the country consider it to be "exemplary." It is both "a typical case and a best case of adult education ESL in the United States." This groundbreaking report contains a wealth of highly detailed research information and analysis. It may well be the most comprehensive, in-depth research ever conducted on any adult ESL program. It is based on College records tracking all students over a seven-year period who first enrolled in CCSF's credit and non-credit ESL programs in 1998, 1999, and 2000. More than 38,000 non-credit and some 6600 credit ESL students make up the "cohort" that was examined. The primary focus is on persistence, learning gains, and transition to credit studies, and on the success in credit courses of non-credit ESL students. Major attention is given to the various features of CCSF's ESL program that affected student outcomes and pathways -- such as terms and hours of attendance, and program design and policy. CCSF's substantial data on "stop-outs" is also presented and analyzed in depth. The report is organized to serve the needs of various kinds of readers.

Related resources of interest

Challenges in Assessing for Post-Secondary Readiness

Policy Brief

by Daryl F. Mellard and Gretchen Anderson

Division of Adult Studies, Center for Research on Learning, University of Kansas

December 4, 2007

This Policy Brief examines the major assessments in use today to measure adult learning gains and determine student placements - e.g., BEST, CASAS, TABE, COMPASS, ASSET, and ACCUPLACER - in terms of their uses and how they well they align with postsecondary education entry requirements. Special attention is given to the GED. The authors identify several problems and challenges as well as recommendations to resolve them.

Transitions: Linkages between Adult Education and Community Colleges

Multiple resources from CAAL (Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy)

Transitions to Post-Secondary Education

Multiple resources from NCSALL (National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy)




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