Adult English Language Instruction in the United States: Determining Need and Investing Wisely
This report contends that English language acquisition—arguably the United States’ most salient integration challenge—is among the most neglected domestic policy issues. In an effort to identify the extent of the need, authors examine U.S. Census-based estimates of the number, educational attainment, and English skills of adults who are lawful permanent residents (LPRs) or unauthorized immigrants; and translate these numbers into estimates of service hours and financial costs necessary to advance the language and literacy skills of these immigrants to proficiency levels required of civic participation or postsecondary study.
The report purports that bridging the enormous discord between need and available services in adult English language and literacy instruction will not only require significant funding and administrative reforms, but a shift to a more accountable and effective instructional delivery system.
Several considerations are proposed, including: further analysis of the economic return on investment in adult English proficiency, expert-guided content and benchmark standardization of English language instruction programs, allocation of federal funding to support states as they design and implement expanded service delivery systems, development of rigorous professional standards for language instructors, experimentation with distance and/or self-access learning program models, and commission of an ongoing study of changes in English language instruction needs in order to guide future policies.