Surviving vs. Thriving: The Need for a Paradigm Shift in Adult Education for Immigrants and Refugees
Catrina Doxsee, Research Assistant, Migration Policy Institute
Art Ellison, former Bureau Administrator, New Hampshire Bureau of Adult Education; former Policy Committee Chair, National Council of State Directors of Adult Education
Charles Kamasaki, Senior Cabinet Advisor, UnidosUS; Resident Fellow, MPI
Alison Ascher Webber, Director of Strategic Initiatives, EdTech Center at World Education
Margie McHugh, Director, National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, MPI
It is generally recognized that successful long-term immigrant integration requires a broad understanding of U.S. culture and systems, combined with strong English proficiency and other basic skills. For the past 50 years, English instruction classes provided via state adult education systems have been the default mechanism to meet immigrants’ English acquisition—and, to a limited extent, integration—needs. However, this federal-state partnership system meets less than 4 percent of adult learner needs nationally and suffers from serious flaws in the nature and design of instruction when viewed through an immigrant integration lens. Leeway within the system to support successful integration has steadily narrowed in recent years, particularly with passage in 2014 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which instituted mandatory performance measures for adult education programs that focus mainly on employment outcomes and the attainment of postsecondary credentials, placing no value on other essential integration skills or topics.
Taking stock of weaknesses in the WIOA-driven design of most current programming, this MPI policy brief draws on research from the integration, adult education, and postsecondary success fields in arguing for the adoption of a new “English Plus Integration” (EPI) adult education program model. Seeking to make more effective use of immigrant adult learners’ time in a formal program, the model would maintain a central focus on English language acquisition while also building skills and critical systems knowledge to support continued learning long after program exit and speed integration success along multiple individual and family dimensions.
On this webinar, report authors engage in a discussion with immigration and legal services, adult education, and digital learning experts, who respond to the brief’s findings and discuss strategies for implementation of this new model that will weave together supports and strengths from a range of intersecting fields.