MPI Proposes New Adult Education Model to Support Integration Success for Immigrants and Refugees
WASHINGTON — Amid a severe capacity shortage in programs that teach adults English and a federal refocusing of the adult education system towards employment outcomes and post-secondary success, flexibility to support the longer-term integration of immigrants and refugees within the current system has all but disappeared.
Though the goals for adult education under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) allow a more balanced approach to teaching English and meeting learners’ needs in their roles as workers, parents and citizens, the law makes it risky for states or local programs to serve those with goals outside its six narrow mandatory performance measures.
Taking stock of these weaknesses in the WIOA-driven design of most current programming, the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy today issued a policy brief that argues for the adoption of a new English Plus Integration (EPI) adult education program model to complement the existing system and address some of its longstanding constraints.
A robust body of research shows that to achieve successful long-term integration, newcomers need to acquire English proficiency, other basic skills and knowledge related to a wide range of topics regarding life in the United States. These include gaining financial literacy and navigating the health care system as well as the early childhood, K-12 and post-secondary education systems in order to guide success for themselves and their families.
“Without adult education programming that is not bound to current employment- and post-secondary-focused outcome measures, it is extremely difficult to meet the needs of immigrants and refugees seeking to integrate into the social fabric of their communities, support their children’s educational success and ultimately become naturalized citizens,” said Margie McHugh, director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy and the brief’s lead author.
The policy brief, which draws on research from the integration, adult education and post-secondary fields as well as examples from innovative adult ed programs, outlines the key elements of a new EPI model, which would:
- Maintain a central focus on English acquisition
- Equip individuals with basic digital literacy skills, so they can access publicly available resources to improve their skills and continue the integration process when they are no longer enrolled in formal education programs, which typically run just 120 to 160 hours
- Assist students in becoming conversant in a range of important integration topics, including strategies to support education and career success for household members, knowledge of tax filing rules and U.S. history and civics
- Support students in developing an individual and family success plan before program exit as well as strategies for achieving their integration goals.
Today, adult education programs meet less than 4 percent of need nationally (43.7 million adults lack a high school diploma and/or English proficiency, and adult ed programs, which are vastly oversubscribed, served fewer than 1.5 million people in 2016). Major reductions in support for programs that provide English and family literacy instruction for parents of young children accelerated with the advent of WIOA, whose mandatory performance measures place no value on programs such as these and other essential integration skills or topics.
McHugh and co-author Catrina Doxsee outline how states with large immigrant populations, such as California, Florida and New York, could quickly become lead actors in piloting higher-impact EPI programming either through new, targeted funding or by repurposing a portion of the state contributions they counted in the past as a match of federal funds.
“Given the limited resources and reach of the current system and the limited time adult learners busy with family and work demands have available to devote to on-site classes, an EPI approach provides a much-needed solution—one that allows precious class time to be maximally used to equip adults for continued learning beyond the classroom, and that speeds their integration success along multiple individual and family dimensions,” the authors conclude.
Read the brief here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/english-plus-integration-instructional-paradigm-immigrant-adult-learners
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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy is a crossroads for elected officials, researchers, state and local agency managers, grassroots leaders, local service providers and others who seek to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities today’s high rates of immigration create in local communities.