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ERIC Number: ED527905
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2006-Oct
Pages: 58
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
The ESL Logjam: Waiting Times for Adult ESL Classes and the Impact on English Learners
Tucker, James Thomas
NALEO Educational Fund
Broad agreement exists in the society about the desirability of U.S. residents speaking English. Policymakers, community and civic leaders, and social scientists--and especially non-English speakers themselves--agree that knowledge of English is the gateway to full participation in U.S. society and its many rewards. Yet learning a language is difficult and the primary tool to achieve this consensus goal--English as a Second Language ("ESL") instruction--is in crisis. ESL courses are few, overbooked, and often overcrowded, and students can face long waits for spots on the class roster. As Congress has recognized, the inadequate funding of these courses has significantly narrowed the bottleneck and constitutes a key barrier to immigrants' ability to learn English. How serious is the backlog? Solid data on the waiting lines has been scarce, and recent figures are almost absent. Previously, the best information came from a 1996 survey which relied on some two dozen sources in ten states and was admittedly not "comprehensive." This report updates those findings and provides a much broader foundation of evidence, presenting results of interviews with 184 ESL providers from twenty-two cities in sixteen states across the nation. It finds that almost three in five ESL providers have waiting lists, and that among the others, some face such extraordinary demand that they have abandoned waiting lists altogether. Students seeking an ESL classroom seat can wait three years or longer, yet some providers have had to discontinue classes because of lack of funding. Partly as a result, language barriers remain in the society. Key findings include: (1) A majority of ESL programs have waiting lists; (2) Some programs with excess demand do not keep waiting lists; (3) Some providers try to finesse the waiting list; (4) Growing ESL demands and funding losses have reduced the availability and caliber of adult ESL services; (5) Most ESL providers do not charge adult learners to enroll in their classes; (6) Few classes are available to intermediate and more advanced English learners; (7) The best ESL programs often have the longest waiting times; (8) Nearly all providers stated that at least ten percent of their students spoke Spanish; and (9) ESL capacity is greatest in states with many non-English speaking people, but programs are still often overcrowded and understaffed. Appended are: (1) ESL Program Enrollment and Waiting Times, by State and City; (2) Survey Instrument Used During Telephone Interviews; (3) Prose Literacy Question & Responses, by ESL Level; (4) Document Literacy Question & Responses, by ESL Level; (5) Quantitative Literacy Question & Responses, by ESL Level; and (5) Characteristics of Eng Language Learners. (Contains 5 figures and 203 endnotes.)
NALEO Educational Fund. 1122 West Washington Boulevard Third Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Tel: 213-747-7606; Fax: 213-747-7664; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: Adult Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: NALEO Educational Fund
Identifiers - Location: United States