Using the ESL Program Standards to Evaluate and Improve ESL Programs

This resource defines, reviews the history of, and gives the rationale for utilizing program standards (both adult education and ESL).

J. K. Peyton
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA)
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

This resource defines, reviews the history of, and gives the rationale for utilizing program standards (both adult education and ESL). Peyton delves into the TESOL developed Standards for Adult Education ESL Programs. She describes the standards, the resources provided by TESOL, and how program staff might use these standards to evaluate and improve their program. Furthermore, the author provides a concrete example of how to go about using the standards and guidance for program improvement.

What the experts say

Recognizing the drive towards standards-based programming in Adult ESL, many states have already developed (or are developing) content standards for adult ESL programs.  In order for content standards to be applied effectively and appropriately, programs have to provide the conditions for that to happen, including professional development, allocation of resources, and shared understanding between administrators and teachers of learner outcomes.  This resource provides a clear overview of the purpose of the TESOL Program Standards and how to begin implementing them in adult ESL programs. Particularly useful is the overview of how the field has moved to standards-based education.  The specific example of how different stakeholders at one institution could make use of different sections of the TESOL Program review process is valuable.

One of the more useful elements of the brief, Using the ESL Program Standards to Evaluate and Improve Adult ESL Programs, may be the careful and concise explanation of three types of standards: program standards, content standards, and performance standards. This brief describes each of the standard types clearly and offers examples or cites resources for further study. 

It also details Standards for Adult Education ESL Programs, a book developed by Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and a group of leading adult ESL practitioners.  This section of the brief includes examples of how various stakeholders (e.g., program directors, curriculum developers, professional developers, assessment specialists) might profitably use specific standards to analyze specific program elements. Using the ESL Program Standards also includes links to parts of the TESOL Standards’ Program Self-Review Instrument and Summary Scores and Action Plan Chart.

Overall, Using the ESL Program Standards to Evaluate and Improve Adult ESL Programs provides a useful introduction to adult education standards, explains program standards specifically, and offers a detailed introduction to the TESOL’s Standards for Adult Education ESL Programs.

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