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CAELA Currents October 2006


About CAELA Currents


This quarterly newsletter is published by the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA) at the Center for Applied Linguistics and is offered free of charge. CAELA was created to help states build their capacity to promote English language learning and academic achievement of adults learning English. (See About CAELA)

If you have questions about topics presented or 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 In the subject line write “Subscribe CAELA Currents.”

CAELA Currents is prepared with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, under contract no. ED-04-C0-0031/0001. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education.


October Articles

Forum on Adult Literacy Education in Immigrant Communities 

Symposium on Transitioning Adult Learners to Community Colleges 

Recent and Upcoming Conferences

The Adult English Language Learner Electronic Discussion List 


Forum on Adult Literacy Education in Immigrant Communities

On September 22, 2006, a forum was held in Washington, DC on Adult Literacy Education in Immigrant Communities, sponsored by the Asian American Justice Center, the National Immigration Forum, the National Council of La Raza, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Over 60 participants attended, representing key stakeholders from local and national immigrant, literacy, and education advocacy and service provider groups, and from government, labor, social justice, corporate, and nonprofit sectors. The purpose of the meeting was to address the need for a strategy to increase access to quality English language learning among immigrant adults and consider what that strategy should include. Participants were asked to consider the political and economic challenges and opportunities that face adult English language learners; the existing research on their English language acquisition; the educational infrastructure needed to support them; and the resources, priorities, and advocacy required for success. These topics were explored through the following panel discussions, presentations, and small- and large- group discussions: 

  • English literacy training for adult immigrants: economic and political context
  • What works in adult literacy education: a presentation and discussion of research findings
  • Supporting the field: priorities and strategies for research and infrastructure
  • Supporting the field through advocacy

During the presentations, participants reflected and commented on these guiding questions

  • What works to increase English language learning for different populations? What are some priority areas for action that show particular promise for success, given added investment?
  • How can we arrive at a shared understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing ESL infrastructure and system?
  • What barriers exist that need to be removed and what additional infrastructure needs to be built?
  • What data, public opinion research, information, and  human resources would be necessary to successfully advocate for improving the system and increasing available resources? Is this best done on a local or a national level?
  • What policies, models, and partnerships on a local and national level would improve both private and public adult ESL education capacity? What exists already, and what would need to be created?

A preliminary report with findings and recommendations regarding priorities, strategies, and next steps will be issued by the Asian American Justice Center by the end of the year.

Symposium on Transitioning Adult Learners to Community Colleges

On September 14, 2006, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) held a symposium on Adult Basic Education (ABE) to Community College Transitions. The symposium was held at the Office of Vocational and Adult Education in Washington, DC. The objective of the meeting was to “stimulate a national discussion on the challenge and pay-off of ABE-to-college transitions approaches in research, policy, and practice to make ABE more effective in promoting successful college transitions.” The more than 60 participants in the symposium included service providers and researchers from adult basic education programs and community colleges, researchers, staff in national and state departments of education, foundation representatives, and those who provide technical assistance to staff working with adult learners.

The symposium began with a presentation by Berkeley Policy Associates (BPA) on their recently completed case studies, Adult Basic Education (ABE) to Community College Transitions. Two roundtable discussions centering around issues raised in the BPA case studies framed the symposium. Roundtable I was entitled “Why are we here? The challenge and pay-off of ABE to community college transitions.” Roundtable II was entitled “Where are we going? Promising approaches to promote ABE to community college transitions.” The roundtables and the full-group discussions that followed the roundtables focused on the following guiding questions:

  • What are the barriers and challenges that ABE students face as they seek to transition successfully to postsecondary education?
  • What are the organizational challenges that impede ABE students’ successful transition to postsecondary education?
  • What are the policy factors that affect the number of ABE students who can successfully transition to postsecondary education?
  • How can programs offer academic instruction to sufficiently prepare ABE students for postsecondary education?
  • How can federal and state policies encourage collaborations that promote successful postsecondary transitions?

The symposium proceedings will be made available in the future. For more information, contact Ronna Spacone at

For more information on what teachers and administrators can do to facilitate transitions to postsecondary education for adult English language learners, read the CAELA Brief, Supporting Adult English Language Learners’ Transitions to Postsecondary Education, by Julie Mathews-Aydinli. This brief describes features of transition programs and suggests research-based strategies for the adult ESL classroom to support students' transitions to postsecondary education. It is available to download at

Recent and Upcoming Conferences

This fall, CAELA staff are participating in the following conferences that support professionals who work with adult learners and adult English language learners:

  • Sharon McKay was the keynote speaker at the Wisconsin Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (WITESOL) conference on September 29, 2006, in Appleton, Wisconsin. Sharon talked about “Making Connections in ESL Family Literacy.” For more information about this conference, go to
  • Miriam Burt and Sarah Young will attend the Two Year College English Association (TYCA) Northwest regional convention on October 13-14, 2006, in Salem, Oregon, to present "Helping ESL students develop academic literacy skills" and "Tools and resources for adult ESL." TYCA is an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). This is the first time that CAELA staff will participate in this convention. For more information about this convention, go to
  • Joy Peyton and Lynda Terrill will attend the conference on Research, Practice, and Policy for Low-educated Second Language and Literacy Acquisition – for Adults (LESLLA) on November 2-3, 2006, at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Joy Peyton will deliver a keynote speech on “Capacity building for professional development: Challenges and a framework.” Lynda Terrill will participate in a panel discussion on “Approaches and strategies for working with literacy level learners.” For more information about this conference, go to
  • Sharon McKay will deliver a six-hour training on “Teaching Reading to Adult English Language Learners” on November 4, 2006, at the New Mexico Adult Education Association 39th Annual Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information about this conference, go to
  • Kirsten Schaetzel and Sarah Young will attend the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education conference on November 7-9, 2006, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Kirsten will present "Planning needs-based, systematic professional development" with members of the Wisconsin CAELA team. Sarah will share "Tools and resources for teachers of nonnative English-speaking immigrants" with conference attendees. For more information about this conference, go to

The Adult English Language Learner Electronic Discussion List

CAELA staff member Lynda Terrill moderates the National Institute for Literacy’s Adult English Language Learners electronic discussion list. This list—formerly known as NIFL-ESL—has been moderated by adult ESL experts at the Center for Applied Linguistics since 1995. The purpose of the list is to “…provide a forum for the field to discuss instructional practices, program design, research, and policy for those who work with adult English language learners. Discussions include such topics as instructional practices, program design, and research.” (excerpted from

While list participants generally post messages about a wide variety of topics related to adult ESL, during the past several months discussions have primarily focused on 

  • adolescent learners in adult ESL
  • reading and adult English language learners
  • working with literacy-level adult English language learners
  • workplace and adult ESL (a cross-list discussion with the Institute’s Workplace list)

Typically, the moderator prepares for a focused discussion by identifying a topic of interest to list subscribers and adult ESL practitioners. The moderator then offers background information, questions, and related resources so subscribers can prepare for a discussion, which usually takes place during a 5-day period. Sometimes guest experts facilitate the discussion as in August’s discussion on working with literacy-level adult English language learners. To learn about the guest panelists for this discussion, go to  For a summary of the discussion, go to

For information about subscribing to the adult English language discussion list or to read current and past postings, go to To suggest a topic for a future focused discussion, contact Lynda Terrill at 


Understanding Adult ESL Content Standards, by Sarah Young and Cristine Smith, has been released and can be found on the Web site at

In standards-based education, content standards, curriculum, and assessment are aligned to ensure that instruction addresses the needs of learners and that learner outcomes are measured appropriately. This brief defines different types of standards and describes the instructional benefits of using adult ESL content standards. It also describes uses of content standards in the adult ESL field and discusses research about the implementation of content standards.

Coming this fall: Another brief on content standards, Aligning Instruction and Assessment with Content Standards for Adult ESL Instruction, by Kirsten Schaetzel and Sarah Young.