Network News logo

June 2008

This newsletter is published quarterly by the Center for Adult English Acquisition (CAELA) Network at the Center for Applied Linguistics and is offered free of charge. The CAELA Network, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is a project to help states increase their capacity to provide more effective professional development to those who teach adult English language learners. Network News is written for practitioners who work with adults learning English and provides information about resources and activities of interest to those who work with this population. If you have information that you would like us to consider including in the next issue of the newsletter, please contact the editor at by July 31, 2008.

To subscribe to the Network News, 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-07-CO-0084.

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

Online Discussion on Reading and Adult English Language Learners
Adult ESL Presentations at COABE
New Report from the Migration Policy Institute
New from the CAELA Network
Upcoming Publications

Online Discussion on Reading and Adult English Language Learners

The week of May 12-16, 2008, Heide Spruck Wrigley, of Literacywork International, was a guest facilitator for an online discussion focused on reading and adult English language learners on the National Institute for Literacy’s Adult English Language Learners electronic discussion list (moderated by Lynda Terrill, Center for Applied Linguistics). The discussion was co-facilitated by several practitioners in Texas who have been working with Dr. Wrigley on a professional development project. The project offers a series of institutes that focus on developing reading skills of English language learners, with a special emphasis on comprehension skills. Over 50 subscribers participated in the discussion, which covered topics such as using the news in the classroom, teaching reading to pre- and non-literate learners, teaching comprehension strategies at higher levels, providing free reading time in classes, and supporting learning circles for teacher professional development.

To subscribe to the Adult English Language Learners discussion list, go to
and click on “subscribe.” From the same page, click on “Read Current Posted Messages” to read the archived messages from this discussion (#2374 through #2558). Watch the Web site at for a summary of the discussion.

Adult ESL Presentations at COABE

CAELA Network and Center for Applied Linguistics staff sponsored an ESL strand at the national Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) conference in St. Louis, Missouri, from April 28-May 1, 2008. The strand consisted of several workshop sessions for a wide audience of ESL and ABE practitioners and program administrators who work with adult English language learners.

Presentations were given on the following topics:

  • “ABE, ESL, and GED Programs: What’s Different for Program Coordinators?” examined what program administrators need to know about working with adult English language learners and providing needed professional development to new ESL teachers.

  • Participants at the “Understanding and Improving Oral Language Proficiency in Adult ESL” session considered different components of language proficiency, focused on adult English language learners. Video clips from administrations of a standardized speaking and listening assessment were used to show how learners’ oral language progresses from beginning to advanced levels.

  • “Educating Immigrants: 100 Years and Counting” examined the origins of adult ESL instruction between 1880 and 1920 and compared the instruction of adult English language learners then and now.

  • CAL staff presented a variety of online and print materials in a session on “Resources for Adult ESL Programs and Practitioners,” including the CAELA Guide for Adult ESL Trainers at
    and the practical, research-based digests and briefs found at
    . The CAELA Guide for Adult ESL Trainers contains training materials that enable professional developers to work with local and regional program staff on important topics for adult ESL instruction. These topics are broadly categorized under Information for Trainers, Workshop Modules, Study Guides for Study Circles and Mentoring, and Resources for Training.

  • “Teaching Reading to Adult English Language Learners” and “Supporting ESL Transitions to Post-Secondary Studies” addressed the need to provide support to students who wish to increase their reading levels and possibly transition to higher education. Information presented in these sessions drew from the “Teaching Reading” module in the CAELA Guide, available at
    , and the CAELA brief on promoting transitions, available at
    briefs/ transition.html

CAELA staff also gave a full-day pre-conference workshop on “Working with Literacy-Level Adult English Language Learners,” which began by describing literacy-level learners and explicitly connecting learner needs assessment and cultural considerations to level-appropriate, respectful, and effective classroom practice. Participants had hands-on practice with activities and materials that work well in the literacy class. For more information, go to

New Report from the Migration Policy Institute

The Migration Policy Institute recently released Los Angeles on the Leading Edge (Fix, McHugh, Terrazas, & Laglagaron, 2008). While the focus of the report is on Los Angeles, it raises questions about the need for development and implementation of coordinated integration strategies and policies to benefit immigrants and communities in the United States. The report found that

  • nearly half of the Los Angeles County workforce is foreign-born
  • over 40 percent of the students in Los Angeles schools are English language learners—the great majority of them U.S. citizens
  • one-third of the adults living in Los Angeles are English language learners

The report recommends a continued focus on English language learning and civics instruction to give immigrants the knowledge they need to engage effectively in American civic life. The report also identifies policies and programs that can be implemented not only to assist immigrants as they integrate but also to aid the broader communities of which they are a part. The report can be found at

New from the CAELA Network

Framework for Quality Professional Development

The United States is experiencing an increase in foreign-born populations, with new immigrant populations settling in states that had limited numbers of immigrants twenty years ago. As a result, many adult education programs are working with new populations of adult learners who need to learn English. A strong workforce of trained and knowledgeable practitioners, who can work effectively with these adult English language learners, is needed. In response to this need, the CAELA Network, under contract with the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, has created a framework to guide the development of high quality professional development opportunities for practitioners working with this population. The framework can be used by practitioners across the United States to plan, implement, and evaluate professional development at the state and program levels.

The framework is available at

CAELA Network staff will use the framework to work with twelve states during the next two and a half years, from June 2008 – September 2010, to help states increase their capacity to provide high quality professional development for practitioners (teachers, program directors, and other administrators) working with adults learning English.

Watch for more information about how states are using the framework in the next Network News.

Upcoming Publications

This summer, look for the following publications on the CAELA Network Web site (

Strategies for Working with Literacy-Level Adult English Language Learners
This brief identifies research on adult English language learners who have had limited access to education and efforts to provide effective instruction for these learners. The brief also describes challenges and strategies in providing effective training about literacy-level learners to adult education teachers, practical tips for trainers and teachers, and examples of effective literacy-level instruction in a variety of settings.

Education for Adult English Language Learners in the United States
Adult English language learners comprise a substantial segment of the population that enrolls in adult education programs in the United States. According to the statistics from program year 2006–2007, 46% of all participants enrolled in state-administered adult education programs were enrolled in English as a second language (ESL) classes (1,142,749 out of a total of 2,581,281). This percentage does not include over 1.1 million to 2.4 million English language learners who are served by other segments of the system, such as adult basic education (ABE) or adult secondary education (ASE) classes.

This paper describes education for adult English language learners in the United States by addressing the following topics:.

  • The foreign-born population (who they are, where they are from, where they have settled, what their goals are)
  • Foreign-born adults who enroll in adult ESL programs, their access to and participation in adult education programs, and the factors that affect their participation
  • The types of instructional programs that serve adult English language learners
  • Professional development and teacher quality
  • The assessment and accountability system in the United States

Future directions in English literacy education and lifelong learning for adult English language learners.


Watch the CAELA Network Web site this summer for this paper. (