The IELCE Program: Understanding Its Design and Challenges in Meeting Immigrant Learners’ Needs
State adult education systems, which receive significant funding from the U.S. government, are the primary source of many key integration services for adult immigrants—from English classes and literacy programs to civics courses and some workforce development activities. Although such programs have existed for decades, the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in 2014 brought notable changes to adult education systems, including through its instituting of the Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education (IELCE) program.
The implementation of IELCE, which began in 2016, has led to the development of many innovative programs that serve the objectives of increasing participants’ English proficiency along with economic and civic integration. Yet the reach of these programs, and especially their employment-focused Integrated Education and Training (IET) component, has been limited by relatively low enrollment and demand as well as barriers to participation. In addition, the IET requirement attached to IELCE has placed a significant burden on adult education providers and appears to crowd out important efforts to support immigrants’ broader economic, civic, and social integration.
This report, which represents one of the first public studies of IELCE, examines the program's design and the challenges it has faced, including those related to accessibility, practicality, and demand. The study also discusses ways the federal government and states could better ensure that integration programs are able to meet immigrant learners’ wide array of integration needs and goals.
2 The Purpose and Design of IELCE
A. Integrated Education and Training in Section 243 Programs
B. Access to IET and Non-IET IELCE Programs under Section 243
C. Varying State Regulations for Section 243 IELCE Programs
3 The Implementation of IELCE: Effects on Providers, Students, and Potential Participants
A. Challenges for Providers in Building and Maintaining IELCE-IET Programs
B. Who Is Served by IELCE Programs?
4 Recommendations and Conclusion