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Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Curriculum and Instruction

This FAQ has four sections of questions about 1) the Curriculum for Adults Learning Math (CALM), 2) educator effectiveness and curriculum policy, 3) the Massachusetts English Language Proficiency Standards for Adult Education (MA ELPS), and 4) questions about curriculum components. Following these is a brief section on SABES—the System for Adult Basic Education Support—which provides expert professional development, technical assistance, and coaching for all adult education staff.

Questions about the Curriculum for Adults Learning Math (CALM)

Q1: Most of our students struggle with math. Do you have any recommendations?
A: Yes, the CALM is a complete curriculum for students in ABE through ASE. It is based on the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education (CCRSAE) for Math content standards as well as the Standards for Mathematical Practice. It also clearly addresses the CCRSAE key instructional shifts: focus, coherence, and rigor. CALM does not include every single standard, but rather focuses on those key standards needed for adults to be successful math thinkers. CALM follows a coherent continuum that helps students developmentally progress through math topics by making connections among different math content. And, CALM addresses all three aspects of rigor: conceptual understanding, application, and procedural skill and fluency.

If your program's draft curriculum looks very similar to what already exists in most workbooks and published texts, or if instruction focuses primarily on procedures, drill, and memorization, then your students will benefit (as well as teachers) from using CALM. To learn more about this promising resource, see an overview, partial score and sequence, and sample units and lessons, visit CALM: Curriculum For Adults Learning Math

Questions about educator effectiveness, curriculum policy, and submission of curriculum materials to ACLS or SABES

Q2: What is the policy about curriculum and instruction for ESE-funded adult education programs?
A: The policy can be found at ACLS: Curriculum and Instruction Policy webpage.

Q3: Does ACLS expect programs to submit their curriculum for review on June 30, 2019, to "check off" that programs have completed it?
A: No. The deadline articulates ACLS' expectations that all teachers in programs are consistently using an effective, well thought-out curriculum, so students will have every opportunity to achieve their goals and make a family-sustaining wage. Having a CCRSAE-aligned curriculum in place for teachers to use is necessary for student learning, and a non-negotiable tool in overall educator effectiveness. While effective teaching takes time and focused effort to plan and implement, it is an effort that reaps large dividends for adult learners.

Q4: Do programs need to submit any curriculum materials to SABES for review?
A: No. It is optional for programs to submit their materials to SABES for expert advice and feedback. SABES' ability to review materials is dependent on resources and availability, so make any (optional) requests early to ensure technical assistance will be available.

Q5: I am a program director and don't understand why the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education (CCRSAE) are required for use. How should I support my staff in using them in their instruction?
A: The CCRSAE define the necessary levels of academic rigor so adult students will be able to achieve learner outcomes and be ready for further education and careers. To implement the CCRSAE effectively, teachers must first thoroughly understand them. One way to accomplish this is to begin with teachers and directors discussing the standards—what do they mean? What would meeting the standard look like in a student task or product? How can teachers differentiate student learning so that all students, regardless of background and prior knowledge, can master the standards? How would teachers know whether students have met the standard at the various benchmark levels? If teachers (or directors) aren't sure what a standard means or how to teach to the standards, SABES offers a variety of professional development (PD) targeted to teachers and directors, either together as a team, or separately. PD is available in a variety of formats, including face to face, hybrid, and online. Expert practitioner coaches can come to a program to support staff and directors as a group; contact SABES to learn what free services are available.

Questions about the Massachusetts English Language Proficiency Standards for Adult Education

Q6: What is the current policy for ESOL curriculum and instruction?
A: The current policy for programs offering ESOL services are here, but the text states: "Programs offering ESOL instruction are required to implement curriculum aligned to the Massachusetts English Language Proficiency Standards for Adult Education (MA ELPS) beginning July 1, 2019.1 These standards incorporate the CCRSAE for ELA/Literacy and the instructional shifts for ELA and contexts them within the lens of English language learning. ACLS also requires that ESOL programs integrate civics education in ESOL and workforce preparation at all levels.

Note: The Massachusetts English Language Proficiency Standards for Adult Education are the standards to which to use for English language acquisition. Programs providing mathematics instruction to English language learners should align instruction to the CCRSAE for Mathematics and the Standards for Mathematical Practice, so that instruction is reflective of the CCRSAE for Mathematics instructional shifts.

For more information on English language acquisition, see the SABES ESOL Curriculum and Instruction PD Center website and the WIOA Brief on English Language Acquisition."

The Massachusetts English Language Proficiency Standards for Adult Education, incorporate the CCRSAE and the instructional shifts but context them within the lens of English language acquisition skills. They are intended to be a standalone document, although ESOL teachers will find it helpful to review the original CCRSAE language and explanatory chapters as needed.

Q7: The MA ELPS were released in mid-February 2019, and programs are to have completed and be using their ESOL curriculum by June 30th of the same year. How is that possible?
A: This question was addressed in a May 2, 2019 memo to program directors.

Q8: I am unclear about the standards and benchmarks that my program should use considering the change to the MA ELPS. Is there a new benchmark notation in the MA ELPS?
A: Yes, the MA ELPS has a new benchmark notation which will result in some adjustments to existing ESOL curriculum materials. See page 6 in the MA ELPS to learn the new benchmark notation to use in curriculum and instruction.

Q9: Is there training on the MA ELPS?
A: Yes, the SABES ESOL Curriculum and Instruction PD Center offers a monthly online overview of the MA ELPS. The training

  • provides an overview of the standards,
  • highlights the similarities and differences between the MA ELPS and the 2005 Massachusetts ESOL Curriculum Framework,
  • shows how the CCRSAE and the OCTAE English Language Proficiency Standards have been incorporated, and
  • demonstrates how the revised standards can effectively guide curriculum development and improve instruction.

In addition, the SABES ESOL PD Center offers a follow-up session, Using the MA ELPS to Inform Teaching Practice. This 5.5 hour training explores the ways that teachers can use the MA ELPS to increase academic rigor in adult ESOL instruction. Consult the SABES Calendar or consult the ESOL PD Center for more information.

Questions about curriculum components

Q10: Should our scope and sequence be "ideal" [e.g., what we think we should do, ideally]? What should the pacing be? How long should a unit be?
A: Curriculum materials should meet the needs of the students at the program while taking curriculum and program design into account. Generally, the length of a unit depends on program intensity, the topic, and the students' needs and interests, but units are often two to four weeks in length, sometimes longer. For example, a teacher may plan for a unit on a certain topic to be a set amount of time, but due to higher than anticipated student interest she extends the unit and learning experiences, trimming another unit down a bit to accommodate. Programs may decide how to best address students' needs, in order to support students in meeting their outcomes.

Q11: Do lesson plans need to be created around themes and instructional units? We have been using this method. I need clarification as to if it is required.
A: Lesson plans tied to a unit are more effective than standalone lessons, as are those that are part of a coordinated learning plan that build knowledge and skills over the course of an instructional unit. Programs should focus on what will be the best way to support students in making outcomes and earning a family-sustaining wage. For questions or support regarding using a standards-aligned curriculum, SABES is eager to help.

Q12: What components of our curriculum do we need to have?
A: Programs have the flexibility to decide what curriculum materials they need to use to provide effective, high-quality instruction that will enable learners to achieve outcomes. There are a variety of curriculum resources on the ACLS and SABES webpages.

Q13: Is there a requirement (or expectation) for the number of lesson plans teachers need to have documented? Does ACLS just want some sample lesson plans for each unit, and should we have all the lesson plans for every unit written up?
A: It can be helpful to have some sample lessons with a unit plan so that the lessons can be models for staff new to using the unit, and so other teachers can build subsequent lessons off from them. Programs can decide the right number of lessons and lesson materials that will be needed to provide the best learning outcomes for adult students.

Support for Effective Curriculum Development and Instruction

The SABES PD Centers for ELA, ESOL and Math are ready to help with technical assistance, professional development, and resources:

  • Take part in PD for creating, revising, and translating standards-aligned curriculum into instruction
  • Find curriculum examples and other evidence-based resources
  • Work with an expert curriculum or instructional coach
  • Request SABES review program curriculum materials (resources and time permitting)

ELA and ESOL Practitioner Coaches are available to help answer questions and facilitate your curriculum work on site at your program. The Math PD Center provides CCR Open Houses and encourages you to invite them to your site. These on-site Open Houses are opportunities to support programs in developing instructional units as part of an overall ABE math curriculum. Program directors and teachers can participate as program teams, and communities of learning are an effective evidence-based practice for supporting positive instructional change. For more information about upcoming CCR Math Open Houses, see SABES PD Center for Mathematics and Adult Numeracy. Directors may wish to have staff from local programs collaborate as a partnership and share the resulting curriculum materials among the programs. Staff can find a variety of opportunities for face-to-face as well as hybrid and online PD at SABES.

1 To better understand the role of the CCRSAE in these standards, ESOL teachers will benefit from reading the following CCRSAE sections: Introduction (pp. 1-3), Instructional Shifts for ELA/Literacy (pp. 9–11), Instructional Shifts for Mathematics, and Standards for Mathematical Practice (pp. 44–50), Appendix B, Connections Between the Standards (pp. 95–97), and Appendix D: Understanding Text Complexity (pp. 117–118).

Last Updated: August 2, 2019

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