How Can We Better Help ESL Students Get In, Survive College?

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Joined: Fri May 18, 2007 12:38 pm
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How Can We Better Help ESL Students Get In, Survive College?

Post by Eric18 » Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:44 am

What do English language learners need to succeed at work, in college, and in life? That's a tough question with few easy answers.

How many adult ESL students want to improve their academic English language skills? How many ESL students need to improve their English skills to enter community college? Do current adult education and private IEP programs provide the language skills so students can enter and survive in community college classrooms? How can we improve the quality of English language classes in adult education programs and IEP programs?

Here’s a glimpse into how American education researchers and the federal United States government agencies are looking at these questions. OTAN (Outreach and Technical Assistance Network for adult educators) has opened a new forum on the transition from adult education to community college. The research might be of interest to IEP administrators and international language schools too.

The forum includes an outstanding collection of recent research studies looking at the numerous obstacles, program needs, and best teaching practices to help adult education – including ESL – student enter and succeed in mainstream college classes.

Some of the clear conclusions include:
- ESL students can and sometimes do succeed despite many obstacles.
- A huge gap remains between students needs and current adult education programs
- Only a small percentage of adults who would benefit from English language courses attend free adult education courses in California
- ESL students face exceptional barriers and require additional resources
- adult education needs far more resources to meet its missions
- English classes need to teach broader, deeper language skills
- English teachers need far more support
- Current funding formulas fail to adequate fund English language programs
- adult schools should offer a wider range of courses at far more times
- adult education needs to provide more fulltime teaching positions
- funding shortages limit the ability of educators to meet student needs
- Students need to write and speak better to realize their goals
- English remains the passport to the American dream for immigrants

Funding and class size remain critical factors, and adult education remains a distant step-child of the public education system. As class sizes increase, the quality tends to decrease in language classrooms.

That’s very polite language for a tragic bottomline: our current adult ESL programs provide too little help to too few students for too short a time. The standards are often too low, and the standardized tests often only measure passive skills like listening and reading. Far too many adult ESL programs currently fail to meet the student needs to master enough language to enter and succeed community college, earn enough money, or realize their American dreams.

If current funding formulas don’t change, the huge gap between the official ambitions of adult education programs and the actual classroom realities will grow far worse. (Note: California’s governor, facing a huge budget crisis, has already suggested a 10% cut across the board for all state programs, including adult education.)

Immigration, especially illegal immigration, remains a very hot and heated political issue – in California and across the United States. Immigration is – and always has been – a federal responsibility. Likewise, helping immigrants, both documented and undocumented, learn English should also be a federal responsibility. Sharing a common language can also help bring America together and overcome real divisions within society and across the globe.

Let’s help adult immigrants and international students take that huge step by broadening, expanding, and deepening English language classes.

Let’s raise the roof on English language programs – in California and around the United States!

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