CATESOL Position Statement on the Role of English as a Second Language (ESL) in Public Postsecondary Education


The many language needs of the adult limited English proficient (LEP) population of California can be best be served by a multiple delivery system for postsecondary education This postsecondary system includes 1) adult education programs in the K-12 system, 2) both credit and non-credit programs in the community colleges, 3) the California State University system, and 4) the University of California System·


  1. The State of California must recognize the varied backgrounds among the LEP population. Members of this population differ in
    • previous education
    • knowledge of English
    • age of first exposure to English
    • use of English (at home, in school, in the community)
    • number of years in the U.S.

  2. The State of California must meet the diverse educational needs of this LEP population. Such needs include English for
    • academic study
    • vocational training
    • life skills
    • general purposes
    • citizenship


  1. The State of California must provide access for LEP students to all segments of postsecondary education. Access should be based on
    • language proficiency and assessment
    • tests normed on non-native speakers of English
    • other appropriate assessments, such as academic performance and motivation

  2. LEP students should have access to ESL courses in whichever postsecondary segment they are enrolled.
    Within each segment, the instructor should:
    • be appropriate to the students' academic level
    • advance students' English language proficiency
    • meet students' career goals


LEP students must be served by quality programs in each segment.
To assure this, the instructional programs must:
  • be designed specifically for learners of English as a second language
  • reflect the fact that students may need more than one course to learn to use a second language adequately and appropriately
  • have instructional faculty with training and credentials appropriate for working with linguistically and culturally diverse students
  • maintain continuity through a core of tenured faculty
  • provide support services, including counseling and advising
  • assess student performance to maintain standards of excellence
  • offer credit for ESL courses which meet the criteria established by each segment.


To ensure LEP students access to the quality ESL programs they need, the State of California must commit substantial funding--on a continuing basis--to these programs.


CATESOL (Califomia Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a professional association for those concerned with the teaching of English as a second language and with bilingual education. Its membership includes faculty and administration at all levels of education.

CATESOL is issuing this statement because the demand for postsecondary ESL is immense, unmet, and rising. This demand results from the large number of immigrants and refugees and the implementation of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act.