Stay informed about Coronavirus — COVID-19. Learn more

Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Educational Functioning Levels (EFL) FAQ

April 11, 2016

  1. What is educational gain?
    According to the National Reporting System (NRS), the primary purpose of educational gain is to measure improvement in the basic literacy skills of participants in the adult basic education program. This goal is the reason that all students are counted in the NRS educational gain measure.

  2. What is the NRS and what is its function?
    The NRS was developed by the Office for Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) of the U.S. Department of Education. All states that receive federal money to support adult basic education programs are mandated to report on the educational gain made by adult students.

  3. How does the NRS measure educational gain?
    The NRS approach to measuring educational gain is to define a set of educational functioning levels (EFL) in which students are initially placed when they enter the program based on their abilities to perform literacy-related tasks in content areas. After a set time period or number of instructional hours set by the State, students are again assessed to determine their skill levels. If students' skills have improved sufficiently to be placed in one or more higher levels, an "advance" is recorded. This process occurs every fiscal year, between July 1 and June 30.

  4. How does Massachusetts measure educational gain?
    Massachusetts measures educational gain in two ways. First, Massachusetts reports the number of learners completing or advancing one or more EFL as defined by the NRS. Massachusetts is required to not only report learning gains based on EFL completion rates but also to use EFL completion rates as a measure of program performance. Second, Massachusetts measures meaningful educational gain by the improvement in test scores between the pre- and post-test (i.e., the first and last test). For example, meaningful educational gain is measured by an increase of 21 or more scale score points on the MAPT. This second way is not federally required, and Massachusetts is the only state in the nation that tracks meaningful educational gain in this manner.

  5. What are educational functioning levels (EFL) and how many are there?
    An EFL is achieved when a learner completes or advances one or more educational functioning levels from the starting level measured at entry into the program. See Implementation Guidelines: Measures and Methods for the National Reporting System for Adult Education for a description of the EFL. The NRS divides educational functioning into six levels for both ABE and ESOL.

  6. What are the six EFLs for ABE?
    The EFLs for ABE, with the corresponding GLE (Grade Level Equivalent) associated with students who place in each level, are:

    • Beginning Literacy (GLE 0–1.9),
    • Beginning Basic Education (GLE 2–3.9),
    • Low Intermediate Basic Education (GLE 4–5.9),
    • High Intermediate Basic Education (GLE 6–8.9),
    • Low Adult Secondary Education (GLE 9–10.9), and
    • High Adult Secondary Education (GLE 11–12.9).
    Each ABE level has a description of basic reading, writing, numeracy, and functional and workplace skills that can be expected from a person functioning at that level.

  7. What are the six EFLs for ESOL?
    The EFLs for ESOL, with the corresponding SPL (Student Performance Level) associated with students who place in each level, are:

    • Beginning Literacy (SPL 0–1),
    • Low Beginning ESOL (SPL 2),
    • High Beginning ESOL (SPL 3),
    • Low Intermediate ESOL (SPL 4),
    • High Intermediate ESOL (SPL 5), and
    • Advanced ESOL (SPL 6).
    The ESOL levels describe speaking and listening skills and basic reading, writing, and functional workplace skills that can be expected from a person functioning at that level.

  8. How do States report on EFL completion and advancement?
    Every year, the total number of learners who complete a level during the program is reported to OCTAE and a rate or percentage of level completion is computed. Additionally, in order to obtain a fuller picture of student flow and retention, states are required to report:

    • the number who continue in the program after completing a level,
    • the number who fail to complete a level and leave the program, and
    • the number who remain in the same level.

  9. How does WIOA increase the importance of EFL completion and advancement?
    WIOA requires States to report on the number of program participants who, during a program year, are in an education or training program that leads to a recognized postsecondary credential or employment and who are achieving measureable skills gains toward such a credential or employment as measured by EFL completion. It also requires States to negotiate performance levels and submit annual performance reports. If a State fails to meet the State adjusted levels of performance for any program year, technical assistance will be provided including assistance in the development of a performance improvement plan. If such failure continues for a second consecutive year or a State fails to submit a report for any program year, the percentage of funds for the immediately succeeding program year will be reduced by 5 percentage points until it is determined that the State meets adjusted levels of performance and has submitted acceptable performance reports. In other words, funding for States with low EFL completion rates will be decreased.

  10. Why are EFL important for programs?
    EFL completion and advancement have always been important but WIOA attaches sanctions to States that don't meet their target EFL completion projections. As EFLs become a primary indicator of performance, programs will need to access and interpret the data contained in Cognos Table 4. Analysis of this data will help programs identify EFL levels that need improvement and plan interventions to improve performance.

  11. What can programs do to improve EFL completion rates?
    The single best thing programs can do to improve EFL completion rates is to align curriculum and classroom instruction to the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education (CCRS) and instructional shifts for ELA/Literacy and Mathematics. The standards are research-based and informed by employers' and postsecondary representatives' assessment of what adults need to know and be able to do to be successful in jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. Teaching to the CCRS and instructional shifts requires thought and planning; the ACLS curriculum policies regarding curriculum development require the development of materials such as scope and sequences and units so that teachers have well thought-out materials to draw from when developing lessons on a day-to-day basis. Once scope and sequences and units are in place, they may be revised or adapted for future use. Programs must integrate the CCRS at every level of instruction and support students in meeting these new learning expectations. Directors who need support in setting higher expectations for teachers and teachers who need support in teaching the CCRS and the shifts are expected to seek PD from SABES. This work is challenging but crucial. Our students will only succeed with our collective effort.

If you need help, contact:

Last Updated: June 15, 2016

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.