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Changes to the NRS Standards for Adult Education

In January, the U.S. Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) released the long-awaited updates to the National Reporting System for Adult Education (NRS), including the new Educational Functioning Level (EFL) descriptors for ESL. These updates are of critical importance to programs that receive funding under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The details of the revision are provided in the document titled “Technical Assistance Guide for Performance Accountability under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act,” which can be accessed here.

Below is a summary of what you need to know about the new NRS EFL descriptors for your English language learners. Please note that these descriptors are still evolving, and it is not clear when the changes will come into effect. We will update you when there is additional information published by OCTAE.

  1. The NRS descriptors for English language learners cover six educational functioning levels (EFLs).

1 – Beginning ESL Literacy
2 – Low Beginning ESL
3 – High Beginning ESL
4 – Low Intermediate ESL
5 – High Intermediate ESL
6 – Advanced ESL

  1. These six levels focus on three main modalities:
  • Interpretive: Receptive skills to understand, process, and interpret written and oral language delivered at an appropriate level and presented in a variety of contexts and genres.
  • Productive: Productive skills that allow learners to produce spoken and written language that transmits meaning in a variety of contexts, both in everyday and academic interactions.
  • Interactive: Skills that allow learners to process and produce meaningful interactions in spoken and written forms in a variety of contexts and settings.

The three modalities cover four language skills:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Listening
  1. The revised NRS EFL descriptors for English language learners draw content from the recently published English Language Proficiency Standards for Adult Education (ELPS). The ELPS are designed to identify skills most important and most relevant for adult English language learners as they pursue their educational, career, and life-improvement goals. The ELPS integrate with the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS), providing a foundation for academic rigor.
  1. The revision of the NRS EFL descriptors calls for an increase in text complexity and progression of topics (progressive complexity) from familiar to academic in both instruction and assessment. Materials need to present level-appropriate text complexity that includes demanding language structures, academic vocabulary, and concepts as well as tasks that develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  1. The new version of the NRS EFL descriptors puts a significant emphasis on the development of college and career readiness skills and the integration of academic rigor in the English language learning process at all levels, including the use of level-appropriate academic language in a variety of academic content areas, and including informational text in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
  1. The new NRS EFL descriptors promote the integration of technology in instruction, including the application of digital tool and resources, and the development of learners’ digital literacy.
  1. Although these new NRS EFL descriptors present the most important concepts and skills that should be taught at each level, they also leave room for state and local instructional frameworks and standards to guide lesson planning and curriculum development.

In this new WIOA landscape, programs need to not only help learners develop competence in reading, writing, speaking, and listening, but also develop the skills to problem-solve, evaluate complex texts, analyze information, and think critically so that they are prepared to achieve their educational, career, and personal goals.

Pearson ELT is committed to adult education and to the instructors who work to help learners achieve success. We are committed to keeping up with the changing landscape of adult education and to ensuring that our materials and tools are in alignment with the most recent standards. Comprehensive correlations of our materials to current standards are at your fingertips and can be accessed here.

The chart below outlines the correspondence of the NRS EFL descriptors to CCRS, ELPS, and CASAS and shows how Pearson materials are positioned within each level.

Click on the chart to enlarge the image.