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    Chapter 3: Drop-in vs. Managed Enrollment

    Fundamental Considerations Chapter 3


    What is the difference between the two main types of classes?

    Adult ESOL classes can be divided into two main types: drop-in classes and those with managed enrollment. 

    Adult ESOL Students in classroom learning

    Drop-in vs. Managed Enrollment

    Depending upon your organization or program’s mission and target learner population, one type of enrollment may be more relevant and appropriate than the other. See the table on the right for benefits and drawbacks of each type of enrollment to help you evaluate what would be most appropriate for your classes/program.

    • Drop-in classes (or rolling enrollment) allow students into classes at any point during the session, and students are not necessarily expected to attend every class period. A drop-in class may be particularly appropriate for learners who do not have the time, or are not ready otherwise, to take a more structured class.
    • For managed enrollment courses there are set beginning and end dates and students must register and enter at the beginning of the session. Instructors usually track their attendance and performance.


    Click on table to enlarge


    DROP-IN VS. MANAGED ENROLLMENT: Must a program be one or the other?

    Instructor round table discussionNo. Some programs are set up as managed enrollment to help learners make steady progress. But rather than make students wait until the next session, programs will test students as they show up and let them enter mid-session. George B. Thomas, Learning Academy (GBTLA) has chosen to have rolling, or open, admission for its English classes for parents of children who attend its Saturday School programs at public schools in Montgomery County. For GBTLA, offering parents the opportunity to improve their English skills is an important part of encouraging and preparing them to become more engaged in their children’s education within the Montgomery County Public Schools. Rolling admission allows the program to support any parents who are willing to learn but may have other commitments that do not enable them to attend regularly.

    For other organizations, drop-in classes are the most appropriate for specific learner populations they serve. For example, CASA has classes for day laborers waiting for work that are drop-in classes, since day laborers cannot be expected to attend on a consistent basis. (See Notes from the Field below). CASA also runs a Life Skills ESOL program that has managed enrollment. Still other organizations, like Community Reach (see Notes from the Field below), have a main program that is managed enrollment, and also have a drop-in class (in many cases a conversation class) where students can join anytime and stay until the next registration date for the managed enrollment class.

    Some programs are established as drop-in and then develop into managed enrollment programs. The Ana A. Brito Foundation had been supporting adult ESOL classes at Epworth United Methodist Church for a number of years before deciding to transition its program to a managed enrollment program in order to better assist their learners meet their personal goals. 

    Drop-in vs. Managed Enrollment


    Marta Brito Perez, presidentAna. A. Brito Foundation
    Marta Brito Perez, former President 

    English Literacy Program


    The Ana A Brito Foundation was founded in 2014 to support the growth of existing English and computer classes at Epworth United Methodist Church in Gaithersburg.

    2017–18 DATA
    CLASS SITES: 1 CLASS LEVELS: 5 TOTAL ENROLLMENT: 159 unique/260 duplicated 

    “In 1985 the Language and Computer program started as an informal program and has evolved into an important dimension of services upon which the local immigrant community relies. To respond to continued learner demand, we increased the number of ESOL levels, and added computer classes and support services over the years. We have also added more structure to the ESOL classes, to better enable students to reach their goals, whether it be communicating in English better at school, with doctors, or at their place of work. An ongoing challenge to the program and the ability of students to advance to higher levels has been the inconsistency of attendance. The program began as an informal drop-in program with no strict attendance policy. In 2015 the foundation was able to transition to managed enrollment with two entry points during the school year, fall and spring. For those students who wished to start ESOL learning mid-semester, the program added an informal bridge class that followed the basic class curriculum, which they could attend until the beginning of the next semester. While there are still those who are not able to consistently attend class, those who do attend regularly are able to make remarkable progress and are more likely to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. On occasion, if a student comes in the middle of the semester, we may place them in the immediate level below where they test so that they can start taking classes and don’t have to wait a full semester before starting.” 

    Students starting mid-semester take an informal bridge class that follows the basic curriculum



    CASA dataCASA has been offering drop-in classes for a number of years at their sites for day-labor workers to improve their Engish while they wait for possible positions.  Community Education Manager Shannon Wilk and ESOL Coordinator Rebecca Cusic offer some suggestions for what makes their program a success.  Learn More >>








    Community Reach Conversation Groups data

    Cecilia Rojas, Program Manager of the Language Outreach Program (LOP) for Community Reach, explains an innovative drop-in conversation group approach started in 2016 to enhance their larger LOP managedenrollment ESOL program.   Learn More >>    

    Sample Worksheet from CASA (Click to enlarge to PDF)

    Image of Workforce Beginner Pre/Post Test