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Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

About Curriculum and Instruction

Curriculum Matters

Teachers in Massachusetts adult education programs have a critical role to play in preparing all adult learners for their next steps, whether those steps are to attain a high school credential, score well on the Accuplacer, or succeed in postsecondary education and/or training. The focus is on supporting students to achieve these outcomes, with the ultimate goal of family-sustaining employment and a career.

Why Standards-aligned Curriculum?

Curriculum refers to the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which includes the learning standards they are expected to meet; the units and lessons that teachers teach; the assignments and projects given to students; the books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course; and the tests, assessments, and other methods used to evaluate student learning.1

The Massachusetts adult education system is built on learning standards to which curriculum, instruction, and assessment are required to be aligned. The standards provide clear expectations for students, teachers, and other stakeholders. They also provide a focus for educator growth leading to improved teaching. Building on a foundation of clear expectations and educator effectiveness, standards support higher and deeper levels of learning for students.2

Massachusetts adult education teachers are required to align their curriculum, instruction, and assessment to one of two sets of learning standards:

  • Programs offering ABE instruction in mathematics and English language arts (ELA) implement curriculum aligned to the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education (CCRSAE). The CCRSAE respond to the critical need of ensuring adult students are able to access family-sustaining employment3 via postsecondary education and/or training. In 2013, Massachusetts adopted the CCRSAE as the standards describing what all Massachusetts adult education students should know and be able to do.

  • Programs offering ESOL instruction implement curriculum aligned to the Massachusetts English Language Proficiency Standards for Adult Education (MA ELPS). In 2019, Massachusetts developed and adopted the MA ELPS4 which combine college and career readiness skills with English language acquisition skills into a single set of standards for English language learners.

To help teachers provide effective instruction, the ACLS Curriculum and Instruction webpages contain a variety of resources, including professional standards for teachers, templates for creating lessons, units, and scope and sequences, and information about evidence-based reading instruction.

Educators are also supported by high quality professional development (PD) and technical assistance opportunities. ACLS funds SABES, the System for Adult basic Education Support, which offers free, high quality technical assistance and PD featuring national and local experts. See SABES for a variety of PD offerings, relevant research, and other resources pertaining to the SABES Curriculum and Instruction ESOL, ELA, Mathematics and Adult Numeracy PD Centers and the SABES Program Support Center.

Questions? Please contact Dana Varzan-Parker, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Specialist in ACLS.

1 Adapted from The Glossary of Education Reform.

2 Adapted from Testing, Teaching, and Learning: A Guide for States and School Districts, National Research Council (1999), p. 20.

3 "Leading economists who have examined labor market projections note that key college and career ready knowledge and skills are closely linked to being able to get the training necessary to earn a living wage in high-growth industries. It is crucial, then, that adult education programs provide students the opportunity to acquire these skills to pursue their long-term career aspirations and goals." Pimentel (2013). College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education, page 2.

4 The MA ELPS integrate standards from the Massachusetts ABE Curriculum Framework for English for Speakers of Other Languages (2005), the CCRSAE, the English Language Proficiency Standards for Adult Education (2016), and the Oregon Adult Learning Standards (2017-2018).

Last Updated: August 30, 2019

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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