Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Logo
Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Mission and Vision Statements


We envision a future where every adult in Massachusetts can gain the knowledge, skills, and support they need to build the life they aspire to live.


Working with providers and partners, ACLS stewards a public adult education system that puts no-cost quality instruction, advising, job training, and career pathways within reach of all adult students in Massachusetts.

Hot Topics

The Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ADEI) series, facilitated by UPD Consulting, recently successfully completed the final sessions in both their Core Learning Series and Community of Practice.

ADEI Core Learning Series

Our final session was held in-person on March 27 at the Devens Center. It was a day spent connecting as a community, team planning of programs' racial equity challenges, and getting feedback and insight from other programs to continue strengthening plans. In addition, over 20 adult education students joined their program teams and lent crucial perspectives to the conversation. It was a beautiful day filled with joy, celebration, student and leader panel discussions, and creativity. Participants were even treated to several ad hoc performances by student leaders during lunch that were especially moving and a testament to the beauty that can happen when inclusive environments are created and students and staff authentically trust each other enough to bring their whole selves to this work. The session ended with Wyvonne Stevens-Carter, Director, sharing final words of inspiration and outlining the impact of the ADEI series at the state and program level over the past three years.

By the Numbers
Years — Three and counting.
Participants — 458 leaders, teachers, mentors, and advisors.
Adult Learners — 21 in the first three years.
Programs — 110 (that is 89% of all funded adult education programs in the state).
Types of Programs — ABE, GED/HiSET, Corrections, LEA's, higher education, nonprofits and more.
Follow-up Support — Communities of Practice (CoP), Support Summit, and one-on-one coaching.

ADEI Community of Practice

The final session was held virtually on April 9. Throughout the CoP series this semester, program leaders and staff that had previously completed one or more years of the Core Learning Series, engaged in planning for increased student leadership opportunities. Participants engaged in journey mapping, focus groups, and action planning to reveal the most impactful opportunities for students. CoP participants are planning to include paid internships, student ambassadors, student-led summits and workshops, and student-created handbooks with updated policies and practices. The highlight of the CoP series were when former students, now program staff members, shared their experiences and the life-changing opportunity to be the bridge when serving current students.

Examples of Student Leadership Opportunities

Member of the Program's Racial Equity TeamStudent Advisory Board
Student Summit or Workshop SeriesStudent Created Handbook
Student-to-Student Mentorship/AmbassadorsPAID Internships or Staffing Opportunities

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.

MA Adult Literacy Hotline phone number 800 dash 447 dash 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 public adult education of Massachusetts professional development (PD) system.

Last Updated: June 3, 2024

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

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.