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CAELA Currents July 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)


July Articles

State Capacity-Building Meetings

New FAQs

New Brief on Adult ESL Program Standards

CAELA's Adult ESL Resource Database

Adolescents in Adult ESL Classes

Upcoming Briefs

Upcoming Conferences

State Capacity-Building 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 capacity-building workshops conducted by CAELA staff for state teams of ESL professionals. Three workshops were held in April and May. Nearly 100 adult ESL specialists, professional developers, and teachers from 25 states attended the trainings, held in Washington, DC; Atlanta, Georgia; and Anaheim, California.

Washington , DC
Center for Applied Linguistics,
April 18 & 19

Anaheim , California
Anaheim Marriott Suites,
May 2 & 3

Atlanta , Georgia ,
Peachtree Westin Hotel,
May 16 & 17

Rhode Island
West Virginia

North Carolina
South Dakota

New Mexico
South Carolina


During the three training workshops, CAELA staff helped the state teams determine their capacity-building needs by leading them through a process of analyzing teacher surveys, learner outcome data reported for the National Reporting System (NRS), and teacher characteristics and qualifications. The state teams then identified areas that need to be addressed (e.g., learner gain outcomes are not meeting percentages set by the state for NRS reporting, teachers need or want training on specific topics and strategies) and began to create plans to address the professional development needs that adult ESL instructors have in their states. CAELA team members also delivered interactive sessions on elements of quality professional development and professional development resources. Finally, a training-of-trainers module on lesson planning was piloted. This module will be a component of a Guide of Training Materials for Professional Developers, which will be completed in December 2005.

Each state team drafted professional development plans that address the needs identified. The plans include technical assistance that will be provided by CAELA throughout the year. Since the purpose of the plans is for states to build their capacity for improving the skills of teachers and administrators in adult ESL programs, the plans will focus on developing an infrastructure for professional development within the state. For example, if a state brings in outside consultants to give workshops on topics such as needs assessment procedures or the teaching of reading, the workshop will be followed by ongoing training and mentoring. Study groups, online chats, guided lesson plan development, peer observations, and mentoring by master teachers or trainers will ensure that professional development does not end with one program, regional, or state workshop. States are challenged to build their capacity by developing structures and processes within which programs and individual teachers will continue to learn and improve their practice.

Currently, CAELA staff are working with team members from the participating states to help them revise and finalize their state plans, which will be implemented for three years.

New Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from CAELA

One of CAELA's purposes is to provide useful information for states, programs, and practitioners working with adults learning English as a second language (ESL). A set of FAQs was developed to respond to questions and concerns about adult English language learners and adult ESL education.

Some of the questions include

  • From what countries do adult immigrants come?
  • Where do adult English language learners live?
  • What languages do adult immigrants speak?
  • What are the characteristics of adults learning English in the United States?
  • How do adult English language learners differ from adult basic education (ABE) learners?
  • What instructional practices best meet the needs of adult English language learners?

Each FAQ gives background information, references, and links to resources online that provide further information about the question. Each year the FAQs will be updated, and new FAQs will be added. To reach the entire list, go to

  New Brief from CAELA on Adult ESL Program Standards

A new brief from CAELA, Using the ESL Program Standards to Evaluate and Improve Adult ESL Programs, describes standards for program quality in adult education for English language learners. Written by CAELA director Joy Kreeft Peyton, the brief answers the following questions:

  • Why are program standards important for adult ESL programs?
  • How can program standards be used to improve instruction for adult English language learners?

The brief reviews the history of standards in education, defines the different types of standards in use, and focuses on use of program standards in adult ESL. Templates for using the standards to evaluate a program are provided (See Appendix 1 and Appendix 2).

CAELA's Adult ESL Resource Database

CAELA was created to help states build their capacity to promote the English language learning and academic achievement of adults learning English. One way that CAELA is fulfilling this mission is through the development of an easy-to-use database of resources. In September, the database will be accessible on CAELA's Web site. A search engine will help users find research and resources relevant to their interests in adult ESL.

Documents chosen for inclusion in the database include descriptions of the state of the adult education and adult ESL fields, research articles, evidence-based guides to instructional practice, and recommendations for further research. Document types include dissertation abstracts, academic journals, technical reports, government reports, policy documents, statistical compilations and analyses, literature reviews, monographs, and papers presented at conferences. The materials are recent (all were published since 2000) with the exception of a few important works and statistical compilations written in the late 1990s.

Every item added to this user-friendly and searchable database is coded by publication type. Accompanying abstracts describe the scope and focus, methodology, and conclusions of the document. Users can search the database by key words, categories, dates, or authors.

To familiarize yourself with the layout and scope of CAELA's resource database, consult the Classification Scheme for CAELA Documents by Document Type. We trust you'll find the materials relevant, useful, scholarly, and accessible.

For more information contact Craig Packard, Database Coordinator, at


Adolescents in Adult ESL Classes

A group of local and state school administrators, policy makers, university professors, and youth advocates met at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) June 17, 2005, to develop a policy-oriented document regarding academic literacy for adolescents learning English. Double the work: Academic literacy for adolescent English language learners, a project carried out by CAL with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, aims to define the problem of low academic literacy among adolescents learning English and outline the possible consequences of not addressing this problem. The result will be a policy document that addresses how program design, funding options, and instructional approaches can affect adolescents' academic proficiency and literacy, and that makes clear recommendations for action.

Adolescents learning English are found not only in secondary and vocational schools but also in adult education programs and community colleges. The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) reports that in 2003-2004, there were 372,584 students aged 16-18 enrolled in adult education programs (14% of total enrollment). See Enrollment and Participation in the State-Administered Adult Education Program.

Who are these adolescents who show up in adult ESL classes across the country? These students form a small but growing population that exists, for now, on the periphery. Some of them are recent, perhaps undocumented immigrants who are looking for work and may not have a high level of literacy or academic proficiency in their first language. Others may have been here for many years and have had experience in U.S. high schools, but for academic, vocational, employment, or personal reasons have dropped out of high school. In many states, high school exit exams have made it difficult for these students to graduate. They now wish to continue their education in a less structured, more convenient program like adult ESL. The lack of reliable information about high school dropout and graduation rates makes it difficult to predict when and where adolescents will appear in adult ESL programs.

Adolescents may differ in several important ways from the adults that adult ESL program staff are used to serving. They may be struggling with identity issues, and their cognitive, personal, social, physical, or psychological development may look different from that of other adults.

Understanding these learners and their needs will facilitate the development of program designs and instructional approaches that are appropriate for them and that will help them make effective transitions to postsecondary education and work opportunities. It will also inform professional development for adult ESL teachers.


Two helpful resources on adolescents learning English are available from the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL).

  • A conversation with FOB... No longer for youth alone: Transitional ESOL high school. (2004, June). Interview with Principal Shelley Gutstein of the Transitional English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) High School in Fairfax, VA.Focus on Basics, Vol. 7, Issue A. (
  • Tardaewether, V. (2004, June). What is the magic mix? Teens in adult education. Focus on Basics, Vol. 7, Issue A. (

 Upcoming Briefs

The following briefs will be available in the coming months:

  • How Adult ESL Teachers Can Use Research to Improve Their Teaching Practice -August, 2005
  • Using Technology to Provide Professional Development for Adult ESL Teachers -September, 2005
  • Working with Youth in Adult ESL Programs -October, 2005

All of CAELA's briefs are available online. Check our Web site at

Please send your recommendations for topics you would like to see addressed in future publications to

Upcoming Conferences

There is still time to put in a proposal for a poster or video theater session for the 2006 Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Annual Convention, to be held in Tampa, Florida, March 15-19. The conference theme will be "Daring to Lead."

For more information about the conference go to TESOL and click on The 40th Annual TESOL Convention and Exhibit (TESOL 2006).

To submit a proposal for a video theater or poster session by the August 1, 2005 deadline, go to

See you in Tampa next year!