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Willmar, Minn., adds more structure to enrollment for adult English class

WILLMAR -- Adult Basic Education classes will start today in Willmar with a new managed enrollment system for students learning English.

Instructors hope that the new schedule for English as a Second Language classes should help students make faster progress toward their goal of learning English.

In years past, the program's ESL classes had open enrollment, said Adult Basic Education co-coordinator Jim Nicholson. Nicholson supervises programs at Jefferson Learning Center, where Adult Basic Education is part of the Willmar Community Education and Recreation Department.

"Teachers didn't know who was coming," he said, and they sometimes had different groups of students from one day to the next.

The English as a Second Language program teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced classes, as well as pre-reading classes for people with little or no English or literacy skills. Some adults come to the program with no school experience at all. Others were educated in their home countries but need to learn English.

The program offers help to people who want to learn about computers and for people studying for their GED or citizenship.

With managed ESL enrollment, students will register for a two-month session that meets four days a week. If they miss four classes over two months, they will be removed from the class and put on a waiting list for the next session, Nicholson said.

Each day's session is split into four one-hour class periods between 9 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. There's time between periods for coffee breaks, lunch or working in the computer lab.

Budget cuts led to the closing of the child care offered at Adult Basic Education, but the additional room is being used to add classroom space and move classes out of the computer lab, Nicholson said. That could pave the way for more computer training, too.

Many students seem happy with the changes so far, because they think it will help them learn faster, Nicholson said. "For the serious student, it's more structured, and there's not as much time spent in review."

It's not just students. "The teachers really like it," he said. "It's consistent for them and it's consistent for the learner."

For students unable to attend structured classes or those who are waiting for the next session to start, the computer lab is available during Adult Basic Education hours.

Last week, just a few spots remained open for the September/October ESL sessions. Students may sign up for open slots through Sept. 14, when the class will be closed until the next session starts.

The Willmar program has room for 48 students in each two-month session. GED and citizenship classes are busy, too, and the program may see as many as 75 students in a day, Nicholson said.

Many other programs around the state use managed enrollment, Nicholson said. All students in the classes must register and go through an orientation session that is usually done on Friday mornings.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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