ESL Resources
State Capacity Building

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Do you have a question?

CAELa Currents April 2005

About CAELA Currents

This newsletter is published quartely by the Center for Adult English Acquisition at the Center for Applied Linguistics and is offered free of charge. If you have information that you would like us to consider including in the newsletter, please contact the editor at

To subscribe to CAELA Currents, send a message to

This publication was prepared with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, under contract no. ED-04-CO-0031/0001

The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education (ED)


April Articles

Upcoming State Training Meetings

Technical Work Group Meeting Held

New Brief from CAELA

TESOL Annual Conference

Upcoming State Training Meetings

The Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA) was funded to improve the capacity of states to provide technical assistance to professional developers and teachers of adult English language learners. A major activity that supports this goal is the state capacity-building initiative. In this initiative CAELA will conduct capacity-building workshops for state teams of ESL professionals and provide subsequent ongoing technical assistance to the teams.

CAELA staff sent out application packets to adult education directors and adult ESL specialists from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Twenty-five states submitted applications, and all were accepted to participate in the initiative.

After reviewing the applications, CAELA staff decided to schedule the states in the three trainings—not by their geographic location—but rather by their needs; i.e., states with similar training needs were grouped together. Many of the states participating in the trainings are those with emerging immigrant populations: That is, those for whom the percentage of foreign-born residents grew dramatically between the 1990 and 2000 censuses.

The dates, locations, and participating states for the trainings are as follows:

State Training #1: Washington, DC, Center for Applied Linguistics
April 18 - 19
Rhode Island
West Virginia

State Training #2: Anaheim, California, Anaheim Marriott Suites
May 2 - 3
North Carolina
South Dakota

State Training #3: Atlanta, Georgia, Peachtree Westin Hotel
May 16 - 17
New Mexico
South Carolina

During these trainings, the state teams will identify and begin to create plans to address the state professional development needs that adult ESL instructors have in their states The plans will include followup technical assistance that CAELA will provide each state throughout the year. The teams also will receive training on how to use sections from the CAELA Guide for Adult ESL Trainers (in development) to provide professional development in their states. Participants will submit individual state plans (short-term and long-term) to CAELA after discussions with other state personnel.

Look for more professional development information about regional trainings in the next CAELA Currents, scheduled to be posted on our Web site by the middle of July.

 Technical Work Group Meeting Held

As reported in the last CAELA Currents, CAELA is guided by a Technical Work Group (TWG), a group of experts in the education of adults learning English as a second language. They provide guidance to CAELA staff on information and technical assistance needs of adult ESL teachers, administrators, and professional development providers, including those in states with emerging ESL populations. They also provide guidance on establishing an infrastructure for training and technical assistance, and on development and dissemination of effective materials and resource collections.

CAELA’s first Technical Work Group (TWG) meeting was held January 13 and 14, 2005, at the Center for Applied Linguistics. CAELA staff Joy Kreeft Peyton, Miriam Burt, Lynda Terrill, Carol Van Duzer, Regina Van Horne, and Sarah Young attended, as did OVAE staff Daniel Miller, Ursula Lord, and Lynn Spencer. TWG members Sandra Belitza-Vasquez, New York; Patricia DeHesus-Lopez, Illinois; Miriam Kroeger, Arizona; Federico Salas-Isnardi, Texas; Karen Valbrun, Georgia; and Brigitte Marshall, Oakland, CA were present.

The purpose of the meeting was to inform TWG members of CAELA’s activities and solicit their feedback on how CAELA could best help states build their capacity to serve adult immigrants. Advice given by the TWG included the following:

  • Dissemination of resources: Adult ESL teachers are often part time and have limited resources. CAELA needs to provide teachers with as much hands-on material as possible. Whenever possible, materials should be available in print and online.
  • CAELA Guide for Adult ESL Trainers: Lesson planning needs to be addressed. Teachers need to be taught how to start a lesson plan with an objective, how to assess whether the objective has been met, and how to create activities based on the objectives and expected outcomes. Some of the modules from the Practitioner Toolkit: Working with Adult English Language Learners (2004, Center for Applied Linguistics and the National Center for Family Literacy, available at) could serve as a basis for this trainer guide, if instructions for trainers are included.
  • State capacity-building initiative: States should be encouraged to network and share with one another their successes and challenges in staff development. Timelines for implementation of the professional development plan each state will develop should be realistic, with priorities and incremental steps. States should document the implementation and outcomes of their plans.

Susan Sclafani, Assistant Secretary, Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), attended the meeting on Friday, January 14, and made the following points:

  • CAELA should distinguish between research and evidence and make sure not to claim to have a research base when there is no evidence of outcomes. It is also important to be careful about the term “best practices,” as this indicates supporting research. A better term is “promising practices,” when the research base is limited.
  • Technology holds great promise for adult education and can be an integral part of an instructional delivery. Students in the K-12 system, who drop out of high school and enter the adult education system are ready to use technology to learn. CAELA should look at what the Education Department’s National Education Technology Plan says for 16-18 year olds.
  • Partnerships and collaborations are important. Basic education and community college programs need to work together with businesses to leverage resources and expertise in educating adult immigrants to be successful, productive workers.

The next CAELA TWG meeting will be held in the fall of 2005.

New Brief from CAELA

We are pleased to announce the first in a new series of briefs, How Should Adult ESL Reading Instruction Differ from ABE Reading Instruction?, written by CAELA staff members Miriam Burt, Joy Kreeft Peyton, and Carol Van Duzer. Increasing the English reading skills of adult immigrants is an important task, yet little research exists on how adult immigrants learn to read in English and which instructional practices are most successful. In order to provide evidence-based suggestions for teaching reading to adult English language learners, this brief summarizes the research base on adult English speakers learning to read and provides guidance for instruction suggested by these studies (Kruidenier, 2002) Then, using findings from a synthesis of research on adult English language learners learning to read (Burt, Peyton, & Adams, 2003), it describes how these learners differ from native English speakers, and what impact these differences should have on instruction.

CAELA’s next brief: Using the Standards for Adult Education ESL Programs to Evaluate and Improve Programs will be available and online by the middle of May 2005. Check CAELA’s Web site.


TESOL Annual Conference

CAELA staff attended the 39th Annual Conference of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) held in San Antonio, Texas, from March 29 – April 2, 2005, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The following are brief summaries of some of the presentations that are relevant to those who work with adult English language learners.

“Supporting Adult ESOL Learners Transitioning to College”

Janet S. Fischer, of the System for Adult Basic Education Support (SABES), Lawrence, MA, and Richard Goldberg, of the Asian American Civic Association, Boston, MA, gave a presentation on a transitional program for adult English language learners in the Boston area. Originally funded in 1993, by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, the project continues to this day under funding from the state of Massachusetts. The program prepares intermediate-level learners from the Asian-American Civic Association’s (AACA) adult English program to take college-level classes at Bunker Hill Community College. Since its inception, more than 125 students from AACA have transitioned to higher education classes. Fifty-two have graduated from college. The presenters cited the following as key to the success of the program:

  • Strong intake procedure with assessment, placement, and interview with teacher and counselor (bilingual if possible)
  • Semi-intensive English program of two hours a day, four days a week
  • Curriculum that builds English language skills and provides content needed by those seeking to access higher education in the United States, for example, setting goals, following schedules, and using a computer. Other topics presented in the curriculum include jobs in the United States, health care, and the U.S. legal system.
  • Partnerships with the community college that further prepare students to access higher education before they enroll in the college. These partnerships enable students to make field trips to the college and provide them with assistance navigating the college bureaucracies when applying for financial aid and registering.
  • Regular, planned follow-up with AACA alumni who attended the community college, participation by AACA alumni on the advisory board, and visits from AACA alumni to the class

Note: In the fall of 2005, CAELA will produce a brief on helping adult English language learners make the transition to academic programs.

For more information on AACA’s transitional program, contact Janet Fischer at, or Richard Goldberg at

“Teaching Reading to Adult English Language Learners”

CAELA staff Carol Van Duzer and Miriam Burt and Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools Adult ESOL Director David Red gave a full-day pre-convention institute for TESOL. The goal of the workshop was to increase participants’ skills in developing coherent, comprehensive, and appropriate reading lessons based on promising practices. CAELA’s brief, How Should Adult ESL Reading Instruction Differ from Adult ABE Reading Instruction? was the basis for many of the activities in the workshop. The first three hours of the workshop were devoted to discussing reading theory as it pertains to adult English language learners. In the afternoon, the participants developed reading lessons to develop each of the four skills of phonological processing, vocabulary development, syntactic awareness, and schema activation.

For more information on teaching reading to adult English language learners, see the CAELA brief How Should Adult ESL Reading Instruction Differ From Adult ABE Reading Instruction?

See also:
Reading and Adult English Language Learners: The Role of the First Language

Miriam Burt and Joy Kreeft Peyton, February 2003.

“ESL Orientation by Video”

This session was about a student orientation video developed by Molly S. Williams, Anne Bachmann, and Alice Goldstein of Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Oregon. Clackamas Community College serves both adult learners from the community and higher education international students in a large multi-campus situation.

The presenters decided that the existing student orientation offered by Clackamas had several limitations: It was outdated and was delivered after registration (which defeated the purpose of letting students find out about the program before they registered). The information presented was site-specific so students were not made aware of all of the college services available to them. The schedule for offering this orientation and bilingual support were limited. The Clackamas team wanted an orientation that helped students get a realistic expectation about ESL classes as well as develop an appropriate orientation—one of Oregon’s Indicators of Program Quality.

The presenters described the video and the ways it was developed and funded, use of the video, and results. Participants viewed the 11-minute video, so they were able to see the result and to decide whether or not such a video orientation might be useful in their own programs. By the end of the presentation, some session participants were already beginning to plan how they could produce similar videos for their own programs.

For more information about ESL at Clackamas Community College, please go to and choose English as a Second Language on the menu under Department Homepages.

For specific information about the video, contact Molly Williams at, Anne Bachman at, or Alice Goldstein at

“Using the Adult ESL Program Standards for Program Improvement”

Two sessions focused on the use of the Standards for Adult Education ESL Programs (TESOL, 2003) to evaluate and improve programs. During the first session, Gretchen Bitterlin, Joy Peyton, Paula Schlusberg, and Carol Van Duzer demonstrated how program staff can use the standards document and program self-review instrument. This publication provides standards in nine areas, which include Program Structure, Administration, and Planning; Curriculum and Instructional Materials; Assessment and Learner Gains; and Employment Conditions and Staffing. Each standard has its own self-review instrument, which lists measures and evidence that would demonstrate that the standard is in place. Each self-review page also provides place to score how well the standard is in place, write comments about the standard, write steps for an action plan, and indicate whether work on that standard is high or low priority in the program's overall action plan. A summary scores chart allows data on each standard to be compiled in one place for the development of a program action plan. A facilitator guide (in development) will give professional developers and program leaders the foundation they need to give workshops on using the standards. Use of the standards document for program improvement and professional development can stimulate discussion about important program issues, with data to support the discussion. It can also bring staff together to understand issues and come to common understandings and united plans for action.

In the second session, William McCartan, a professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, used the standards document to evaluate an urban, mid-sized adult ESL program, which was loosely structured and poorly documented. McCartan used the standards to guide his interviews with staff, administrators, and students; observations of instruction; and review of program documents. As a result of the evaluation, the program had data to support its claims regarding success and guide its consideration of weaknesses, and a two-year action plan was developed and implemented. McCarten developed online forms that can be used with the self-review instrument and completed in electronic form as part of the program evaluation. Contact him at for copies of the forms.

The TESOL standards document is available for purchase at A pdf version of the summary scores chart can be printed from this Web site for program use.

Note: As mentioned above, CAELA’s next brief: Using the Standards for Adult Education ESL Programs to Evaluate and Improve Programs will be available and online by the middle of May. Check CAELA’s Web site.