Improving Policy and Practice for Adult Education English Learners

 January 2023 – December 2024

English learners (ELs) enrolled in community college-based adult education English as second language (ESL) programs are an understudied population, in large part because these programs are offered in noncredit divisions at no or low cost to the student and enrollees may not be seeking postsecondary credentials. Findings from a project funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) on ELs enrolled in adult education ESL at City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) indicate that while improving English skills was the primary purpose for enrolling in ESL courses, a plurality of students aspired to complete a college credential or to improve their status in the workforce. Yet the multi-level sequence of ESL courses and high-stakes assessments required to enroll in for-credit, college-level courses act as a barrier to persistence and completion for ELs seeking a college degree.

This project builds on and extends the IES-funded research by exploring the backgrounds and goals of adult education ESL students and the barriers students face navigating long ESL course sequences and complicated performance requirements. It will also examine how CCC campuses are reforming ESL, how federal and state policy related to ESL courses is helping or hindering student outcomes, and the perspectives of adult education ESL instructors. A quantitative analysis will examine the progression and outcomes for over 50,000 students. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz are partners on this project.

Funding for this project is provided by Ascendium Education Group.

Project Lead

Nikki Edgecombe