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Grants and Other Financial Assistance Programs

FY2019: Adult Education Professional Development System

Fund Codes: 667/343


The purpose of this grant program is to establish and maintain a coordinated system of statewide professional development (PD) entities to provide evidence-based, high quality, and effective PD and technical assistance (TA) to the Commonwealth's adult education (AE)1 programs funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE or the Department) and managed by the Department's Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS) unit. All grant-funded PD and TA will support AE programs and practitioners2 in addressing the Department's overarching goal of assisting adult students, particularly those with barriers to employment, to progress along educational and career pathways and gain economic self-sufficiency.


The Massachusetts Adult Education System

In the context of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) signed into federal law in July of 2014, the purpose of the Massachusetts AE system is to:

  • assist eligible individuals to become literate and obtain the knowledge and skills necessary for employment and economic self-sufficiency;

  • assist eligible individuals who are parents or family members to obtain the education and skills that (a) are necessary to become full partners in the educational development of their children, and (b) result in sustainable improvements in the economic opportunities for their family;

  • assist eligible individuals in attaining a secondary school credential and in the transition to postsecondary education and training, including through career pathways;

  • assist immigrants and other individuals who are English language learners (ELLs) to (a) improve their reading, writing, speaking and comprehension skills in English and their mathematical skills, and (b) acquire an understanding of the American system of government, individual freedom, and responsible citizenship; and

  • assist institutionalized individuals to obtain the education and skills necessary to reduce recidivism and facilitate re-entry into society; further education and training or employment upon release; economic self-sufficiency; and smooth transitions in their roles as family members and citizens.

AE system priorities include supporting innovation in the development of AE services, and improving and accelerating learner outcomes including educational functioning level3 completion, high school equivalency credential attainment, and enrollment and success in postsecondary education or training.

A key strategy for addressing the AE system purpose and priorities is to provide ongoing PD and TA to ESE-funded AE programs and practitioners.

The Adult Education Teacher

The Massachusetts AE system is comprised of approximately 1,100 teachers—the majority of whom are part-time—working in 100 local AE programs housed in community-based organizations, local school districts, community colleges, libraries, correctional facilities, and volunteer associations. While many AE teachers have teacher training, hold a professional license, and have relevant multi-disciplinary interests and experiences, too many teachers who have transferred into the field from other professions lack the credentials and experience needed to effectively teach adult learners, both in terms of content-specific pedagogy (e.g., mathematics and adult numeracy, English language arts, English for speakers of other languages) and andragogy.

The Adult Education Student

Adult learners face unique challenges in the AE classroom. They often have substantial gaps in their background content knowledge, resulting from academic content they missed during their K-12 school years. Adult ELLs come to class with a diversity of native language skills, formal education, learning styles, cultural backgrounds, and life experiences, all of which impact their learning. Many adult learners have family and job responsibilities that limit the time they can devote to their own learning.

Conversely, adult students bring an accumulated reservoir of experience that can be a rich resource for learning. Adults' orientation to learning is practical and focused. Adult students need to know why they should learn something and how it will benefit them. They usually become ready to learn something when they experience a need to learn it. Adults tend to be motivated to learn by personal goals and internal factors such as helping their children in school, navigating bureaucratic systems such as healthcare, advocating for themselves and family members, having job satisfaction and increased self-esteem, and achieving economic self-sufficiency and an improved quality of life.

Adult learners benefit from AE programs that help them to articulate their goals and identify specifically what they need to learn to take their next, sequential steps along their educational and career paths towards their goals.

The Massachusetts Adult Education Professional Development System

ACLS has modified the Massachusetts AE PD system to increase the system's alignment with WIOA considerations and other ESE/ACLS priorities while continuing ACLS's commitment to the Massachusetts AE Standards for High Quality Professional Development (HQPD standards) and the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education (CCRSAE), in order to support AE programs in achieving state and local program-level goals.

For the FY19-FY22 funding cycle, the AE PD system will consist of five grant-funded statewide PD centers, functioning as one coordinated PD system, as follows:

  • Mathematics and Adult Numeracy Curriculum and Instruction PD Center
  • English Language Arts Curriculum and Instruction PD Center
  • English for Speakers of Other Languages Curriculum and Instruction PD Center
  • Program Support PD Center
  • PD System Communication Center

The three curriculum and instruction (C&I) PD centers' work includes: CCRSAE implementation; effective instructional strategies with application to classroom practice; addressing the needs of adults with learning disabilities; integration of digital literacy4 into the content and delivery of PD; integration of formative (and other) assessments and use of assessment results to inform practice; contextualized curriculum; being a reflective practitioner; teacher induction support; and instructional leadership PD for AE program leaders.

The Program Support PD Center's work includes: AE program management and educational leadership including the Educator Growth and Evaluation (EGE) cycle5 support; career pathways initiatives; integration of digital literacy; education and career advising; professional licensure support; cultural competence; and resources and training related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)6.

The PD System Communication Center's work includes: continued development and maintenance of a statewide PD website and online calendar and registration system7; promoting the PD system (e.g., development and dissemination of video and print materials); convening PD system meetings; and an annual survey to determine practitioner PD interests and needs.

The PD system will be coordinated by the ACLS PD Specialist.


The following are priorities for this grant program:

  • invest AE PD resources in content expertise using a statewide provider structure whereby PD centers will provide statewide leadership and evidence-based, high quality PD and TA for ESE-funded AE programs and practitioners including alignment with the Massachusetts AE HQPD standards;

  • provide PD offerings for educators at all levels of expertise (e.g., novice, intermediate, advanced);

  • provide a range of PD offerings and supports of sufficient quality, intensity, and duration in order to increase educators' professional learning, improve educator practice, and ultimately support student achievement;

  • strengthen curriculum and instruction at ESE-funded AE programs (a) in full alignment with the CCRSAE and the Massachusetts Professional Standards for Teachers of Adult Education, and (b) with an emphasis on educators8 as reflective practitioners and increased academic rigor for all students, including ELLs;

  • support instructional leadership in the context of mathematics and adult numeracy (Math9), English language arts (ELA), and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) curriculum and instruction;

  • support and strengthen AE programs in the areas of program management and educational leadership, career pathways, digital literacy, education and career advising, professional licensure support, and ADA training and referral;

  • maintain a high-quality, up-to-date website with a user-friendly online calendar and registration system;

  • increase AE practitioner participation in PD system activities and strengthen practitioner access to and use of PD system resources and other relevant PD resources; and

  • promote and maintain a demonstrable commitment to diversity, inclusion, and the principles of cultural competence throughout the AE PD system's work with programs and practitioners, on behalf of adult learners.


Eligible applicants are public and private non-profit entities of demonstrated effectiveness and requisite expertise that (a) include community colleges and other institutions of higher learning, local educational agencies, community-based organizations, volunteer literacy organizations, libraries, public housing authorities, and other non-profit institutions, and (b) have the ability to provide high quality PD services to AE programs and practitioners using multiple delivery formats including online and webinar-based PD; additional eligible applicants are consortia of the agencies, organizations, institutions, libraries, and authorities described above.

Funding Type:

State: Fund Code 667

Federal: Fund Code 343 CFDA: 84.002


The total allocation for this grant program is approximately $2,100,000. The exact number of grant recipients will depend on the number of PD centers for which a successful applicant is awarded funding, and the availability of funds.

  • Math C&I PD Center (up to $450,000)
  • ELA C&I PD Center (up to $450,000)
  • ESOL C&I PD Center (up to $450,000)
  • Program Support PD Center (up to $550,000)
  • PD System Communication Center (up to $200,000)

Funding is contingent upon availability. All dollar amounts listed are estimated/approximate and are subject to change. If more funding is to become available, it will be distributed under the same guideline as listed in the initial RFP document.

Fund Use:

Fund Use Information for All PD Centers

Applicants may apply for funding for as many of the five PD centers as can be effectively managed and implemented; however, only one applicant will be funded for each of the PD centers.

Applicants may use grant funds for personnel and non-personnel expenses relevant to the purpose and priorities of this grant program such as: development and delivery of PD offerings; provision of TA; training of trainers; instructional modeling, teacher observation, and feedback; PD system website and online calendar and registration system revisions, maintenance, and security; PD promotional activities and products; copyedited, professional quality submissions for website posting; PD activity data entry, collection, and analysis; submission of PD reports to ESE; evaluation of PD activities; supervision and support of staff and consultants; and the coordination and management of all PD center activities.

Funds may be allocated as follows: salary and fringe benefits for staff; compensation for consultants with expertise related to grant priorities including coaches and copyeditors; PD travel expenses including transportation, conference registrations, and lodging; relevant PD materials and supplies, including technology costs associated with integrating digital literacy into PD delivery; reasonable costs related to hosting PD activities; promotional and PD video production costs; and other reasonable costs associated with project planning and implementation.

Applicants are not permitted to use grant funds for capital expenses.

Project Duration:

Fund Code 667: 7/1/2018 or upon approval, whichever comes later - 6/30/2019 (State Funds)

Fund Code 343L 9/1/2018 or upon approval, whichever comes later - 8/31/2019 (Federal Funds)

AE PD System grants are renewable for a maximum of three additional years, through fiscal year 2022, subject to satisfactory performance, the appropriation of state and federal funds, and the continuance of federal authorizing legislation.

Program Unit:

Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Contact and Inquiries:

All inquiries must be submitted in writing to AEPDSRFPQ&; a Q&A with answers to inquiries will be posted to ACLS Funding Opportunities on the ACLS website. Requests for assistance with submitting inquiries or locating the Q&A may be directed to the ACLS receptionist at (781) 338-3850.

The deadline for applicant submission of questions is Tuesday, March 12, 2018.

It is the responsibility of applicants to remain up-to-date with the posted questions and answers. Any RFP updates or revisions contained in the Q&A will supersede previous versions of the same.

Date Due:

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Applicants must email proposals to the Department at by 3:00 p.m. on the date due.

Bidders' Conference:

Prospective applicants are invited to a Bidders' Conference for the AE PD System grant program to be held on Friday, February 2, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at:

Mount Wachusett Community College
Devens Learning Center, Room 123
One Jackson Place
27 Jackson Road
Devens, MA 01434

Note: The snow date for the Bidders' Conference is Monday, February 5, 2018 from 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. at the same location.

In the event of forecasted inclement weather for the Bidders' Conference date or snow date, call ACLS at (781) 338-3842 for a message regarding the event status.

Letter of Intent:

The Letter of Intent to Apply (LOI), designed by the applicant, must be emailed to the Department at by 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 22, 2018. Applicants are requested to indicate in the LOI the names of the PD center(s) for which they are applying for funding.

Required Forms:

Applicants must submit the following required forms with the grant application (proposal). All required forms are excluded from the page limit set for each PD center.

Download Word Document
Part I - General - Program Unit Signature Page - (Standard Contract Form and Application for Program Grants), scanned, with original signature
Download Excel Document
Budget Template
Part III - Required Program Information:
Download Word Document
Part III - Math C&I PD Center
Download Word Document
Part III - ELA C&I PD Center
Download Word Document
Part III - ESOL C&I PD Center
Download Word Document
Part III - Program Support PD Center
Download Word Document
Part III - PD System Communication Center
Download Word Document
Statement of Assurances, scanned, with original signatures

Required Appendices:

The following appendices are required and should be developed by the applicant. All required appendices are excluded from the page limit set for each PD center. Proposal submissions must include:

  • Appendix A: current resumes for individuals (staff and consultants) who will provide services and/or coordinate and supervise services provided under this grant program.

  • Appendix B: proposed job descriptions for each staff person and consultant whose resume is included in Appendix A.

  • Appendix C: budget narrative, designed by applicant, for the period July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, that provides an explanation for each proposed project expenditure included in the required Budget Template form.

  • Appendix D: (for non-public entities only) copy of the applying agency's latest completed audit report, issued by an independent certified public accountant.

  • Appendix E: (for PD System Communication Center applicants only) samples of two or three websites and two online calendar and registration systems, all of which have been developed and maintained by the applicant.


All applicants are required to submit a 12-month budget for the period from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. Successful applicants (grantees) may be required to resubmit budgets that divide the funding award between state and federal grant funds.

Successful applicants are required to provide an auditable level of institutional support as it relates to space, technology, and administrative support for the grant program, in order to ensure effective implementation of the grant program that is responsive to all RFP requirements and priorities, including the following:

For the Math, ELA, and ESOL C&I PD Centers and the Program Support PD Center:

  • provide accessible10 physical space and technology needed to effectively implement the proposed PD center activities and services, and house other PD center offerings, to a reasonable extent, at no cost or minimal cost to the grant;

  • ensure the grantee's capability to use the agency platform to deliver high quality webinars and other online PD;

  • secure adequate and accessible space for the grantee's face-to-face PD offerings at other locations throughout the state to maximize regional and statewide practitioner participation in PD, at no cost or minimal cost to the grant;

For the PD System Communication Center:

  • provide accessible physical space and technology needed for PD system face-to-face meetings and other PD system planning meetings as needed, at no cost or minimal cost to the grant;

  • ensure the applicant's capability to use the agency platform to deliver high quality webinars and otherwise effectively conduct online PD system meetings; and

  • provide a webinar platform that ACLS can use on a limited, as needed basis.

Following the funding award notifications, each grantee will be required to participate in a grant negotiation session with the Department at which time any funding conditions will be reviewed and required actions identified. The grantee may be required to revise aspects of its proposed plan such as PD activities, hiring of staff and consultants, identification of satisfactory space and location of PD services, and/or allocation of funds. Grantees will be required to convert their proposed PD programs or service plan into FY19 workplans in consultation with ACLS. In subsequent years within the funding cycle, PD centers will be required to submit proposed workplans as part of the annual continuation funding application process.

PD centers must ensure that priority is given to practitioners from ESE-funded AE programs when registering participants for PD offerings; practitioners from non-ESE-funded programs are allowed to participate in ESE-funded PD offerings only if there is space available and there are no waitlisted practitioners from ESE-funded programs.

Additional Information:

Letter from AE State Director Download Word Document

Grant awards will be contingent upon DESE approval of applicants' audit reports.

Agencies with an approved federal indirect cost (IDC) rate shall not receive more than an 8% IDC rate for AE PD System grant programs, and will be required to submit a copy of their current approval letter upon grant award notification.

Any successful applicant that does not have a current federal IDC rate may apply to the Department for a maximum five percent (5%) IDC rate using the FY19 DESE Indirect Cost Rate Application, available in the spring of FY18, at the following link: Grants - Essential Information. For more information about applying for and calculating indirect costs, see the sample instructions about applying for an DESE approved IDC rate at Indirect Cost Rate - FY18 and the Indirect Costs Calculation Worksheet at Grants Management Forms.

ACLS will work with grantees as needed to facilitate the successful transfer of previously developed PD offerings (e.g., online courses, PD materials and information) and practitioner email lists, to be available for use in the FY19-FY22 funding cycle.

Grantees will be asked to set aside a portion of grant funds at the outset of each fiscal year to allow for customized PD, TA, and other grant activities throughout the year in order to respond to changing PD needs of programs and practitioners (e.g., based on results of annual practitioner survey conducted by the PD System Communication Center or ACLS program monitoring visits) and shifts in ESE/ACLS priorities. ACLS will work with and support PD centers in responding to changing needs and priorities, and reallocating resources as needed.

ESE reserves the right to approve or deny a grantee's proposal to hire key staff or consultants prior to and throughout the grant period. Any substantial staffing change (e.g., full-time equivalency, job responsibilities) should be discussed with ACLS prior to the change, to the extent possible.

ESE reserves the right to require approval of grant-funded PD offerings before they are finalized and delivered.

The AE PD System RFP Scorecard Download Excel Document that will be used by the Department to evaluate proposal submissions is available for applicants' reference only.

When designing grant proposals, applicants are encouraged to refer to the following resources:

View HTML Page
Adult and Community Learning Services website
View HTML Page
FY19 Massachusetts Policies for Effective Adult Education
View External Link
System for Adult Basic Education website


Email complete application to mailbox

Upon award, successful applicants will be required to enter submitted or revised budget documents in EdGrants, and will be contacted by the Department with further instructions on the process.


All applicants requesting funding to operate an AE Professional Development System grant must respond to all sections of Part III - Required Program Information for each PD center grant for which they are applying. See the Required Forms section of this RFP for links to the five Part III documents—one for each PD center.

Pagination Directions:

Narrative responses may not exceed the following page limits:

  • Math C&I PD Center—25 pages
  • ELA C&I PD Center—25 pages
  • ESOL C&I PD Center—25 pages
  • Program Support PD Center—30 pages
  • PD System Communication Center—20 pages

Required forms and appendices are excluded from the page limit. Non-required appendices and narrative pages that exceed the page limit will not be read. Links to other documents or resources that are embedded in the narrative, required forms or required appendices will not be visited or considered in the review process.

All narrative responses must be in Arial 10-point font, single-spaced, with 1" margins.

1 The term "adult education" and acronym "AE" are used in this Request for Proposals to encompass adult basic education (ABE) through adult secondary education (ASE) at 0-12 grade level equivalents (GLEs) as well as English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) services at 0-7 student performance levels (SPLs) for adult English language learners.

2 The term "practitioners" refers to teachers, advisors, and administrative staff (e.g., AE directors, coordinators, other program leaders) working in ESE-funded AE programs, and any other AE program staff for whom a given PD offering may be relevant.

3 For information about educational functioning levels, see the Educational Functioning Levels FAQ.

4 The term "digital literacy" refers to the skills associated with using technology to enable users to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information.

5 Information about the EGE cycle can be found on the ACLS Educator Effectiveness webpage.

6 The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

7 The current Massachusetts AE PD system website that includes a calendar and registration system can be accessed at the System for Adult Basic Education Support website.

8 The term "educators" refers to teachers, advisors, and administrative staff (e.g., AE directors, coordinators, other program leaders) working in ESE-funded AE programs.

9 The term "Math" is used in this document to refer to the combined term "Mathematics and Adult Numeracy" in the context of adult education. In this RFP, the Department uses the definition of numeracy attributed to the University of London's Dr. Diana Coben: "To be numerate means to be confident, competent, and comfortable with one's judgment about whether to use mathematics in a particular situation, and if so what mathematics to use, how to use it, what degree of accuracy is appropriate, what the answer means in relation to the context, whether and how to communicate the answer appropriately, and what action if any to take as a result of the analysis." Facing the Challenge of Numeracy In Adult Education, Dr. Forrest P. Chisman, Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy, September 2011.

10 "Accessible" space refers to space that is ADA compliant and easily accessible by practitioners (e.g., centrally located, near public transportation, with ample, nearby parking).

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.