Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Mission Statement

To provide each and every adult with opportunities to develop literacy skills needed to qualify for further education, job training, and better employment, and to reach his/her full potential as a family member, productive worker, and citizen. — Adopted in 1993

Hot Topics

Adult Education Open and Competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) and Request for Responses (RFR) Announcement

The Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS) Unit at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is pleased to announce FY2024–FY2028 Multi-Year Open and Competitive RFPs for the following adult education services:

  • MassSTEP; anticipated release June 2022
  • Workplace Education; anticipated release June 2022
  • Adult Education and Family Literacy Services to operate Community Adult Learning Centers (CALCs) for ESOL, ABE, pre-ASE, ASE, ADP, and family literacy classes including outstationing services; anticipated release July 2022
  • Adult Education in Correctional Institutions (AECIs); anticipated release July 2022
  • Primary Instruction by Volunteers (PIV); anticipated release July 2022

Additionally, the Department also anticipates the release of an FY2024–FY2028 RFR for Pay for Performance in June 2022.

The RFPs and RFRs timeline can be found on ACLS website under Funding Opportunities webpage. The above-mentioned RFPs and RFR will also be posted there.

The Massachusetts adult education system serves as an on-ramp to the workforce development system, enabling individuals not yet ready to participate in that system with opportunities to advance students to a career pathways and employment in jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and opportunities that would be otherwise out of their reach.

Wyvonne Stevens-Carter
Adult Education State Director

Updates on ACLS/UPD Consulting Partnership Antiracism, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Learning Series

ADEI Learning Series

The ACLS Team, in partnership with UPD Consulting, officially launched the Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ADEI) Professional Learning Series in February. These virtual ADEI learning sessions consist of 4 cohorts, 14 communities of practice, and almost 300 participants across various adult education organizations and programs across Massachusetts. Three of the five learning session cycles have been completed to-date.

Session #3 — Disconnect from oppressive people and practices

Our first session focused on Connecting to the truths of racial inequities in the adult education system. Our second session focused on disconnecting from oppressive people and practices; participants explored the components of the dominant culture and its effects on adult education students through equity detours and pitfalls, and how to disconnect from them. The third session revisited the idea of Disconnecting, focusing on how we can disconnect from apprehension related to discussions on race and embrace the discomfort of difficult conversations necessary to break down existing oppressive systems and create anti-racist structures within participant's spheres of influence.

Additionally, participants continue to cultivate racial integrity and consciousness through the 4C's of Engagement: Connection, Curiosity, Compassion and Courage.

Upcoming session and information

Our upcoming session focuses on Reconnecting ourselves and each other as a community of adult educational leaders and instructors, working toward designing empowering and equitable spaces for students and the communities in which they live. In session #4 we will develop a lens to identify and acknowledge our individual and institutional power and explore how we can use it to co-create spaces of liberation for ourselves and for our students.

UPD ADEI Session four information

Massachusetts Adult Literacy Hotline

Are you a Massachusetts resident who wants to get a high school equivalency credential or learn English? The Massachusetts Adult Literacy Hotline provides referrals to hundreds of adult education programs that offer English language training, high school equivalency test preparation, and other services.

Call (800) 447 – 8844


Adult Education System Evaluation Final Report 2020 (December 2020)

ACLS commissioned the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute (UMDI) to determine if recent adult education system changes have contributed to improvements in the quality of and access to educator PD, quality of adult education provided, and student outcomes. We invite you to review UMDI's Adult Education System Evaluation Final Report reflecting the perspectives of students, directors, teachers, advisors, ACLS staff, and other stakeholders along with findings and recommendations for the future. The report is posted on the Workforce Development and Adult Learners link of the DESE Reports by Topic page.

What Is "ACLS"?

Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS), a unit at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, oversees and improves no-cost basic educational services (ABE) for adults in Massachusetts.

What Is "ABE"?

ABE stands for Adult Basic Education. ABE is an umbrella term used to describe a range of educational services for adults from basic literacy (including English for non-native speakers of English), numeracy, and high school equivalency / adult diploma programs (ADP).

How Does ACLS Help Adults?

ACLS funds programs in Massachusetts to provide educational services to adults with academic skill levels below 12th grade, and/or adults who need English language skills to succeed in our communities. Through both federal and state grants, we fund a broad network of education providers/programs, including local school systems, community-based agencies, community colleges, libraries, volunteer organizations, correctional facilities, and others. ACLS also funds family literacy and workplace education programs.

How Does ACLS Work To Improve the Adult Basic Education Service Delivery System?

In addition to ABE classes, ACLS funds innovative projects to enhance programs' delivery of services, including curriculum frameworks, health education, English Language Civics, community planning, distance learning, family literacy, workplace education, and technology.

ACLS also funds the professional development of teachers and other professionals in ABE programs through the System for Adult Basic Education Support (SABES).

Last Updated: May 6, 2022

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.