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ESL Orientation

Berkeley Adult School recently developed a new program that requires every incoming ESL student to attend a six-hour orientation.

The decision was driven by the school's goal of having students start class with an accurate CASAS test, an understanding of their own short term goals, and an awareness of the school and all of its programs, Prior to this, students entered class with little understanding of school procedures, a less-than-perfect placement procedure, and no one-on-one contact with any staff member. Berkeley’s ESL program serves more than 2,500 students each year, and the staff was concerned the school was not providing a welcoming introduction to the program.

Berkeley’s vice principal’s advisory council developed a process that involves placement assessment on the first day and a three-hour workshop on the second day. The workshop addresses general school information, ESL department information, a goal-setting activity, a CASAS and writing test, and a school tour. These orientations are scheduled both day and evening, twice weekly.

The new program has been in place for eight months, and data has proven that the process is successful. Persistence, as defined by the number of students who take two tests, has increased by 17 percent. In addition, the school has experienced a 22 percent increase in benchmarks or learning gains per student, and an increase in the number of classes each student attends, with the average number of hours of attendance increasing from 39 to 60 hours.

Most important, students report that they feel connected to the school and to other new students, are comfortable being placed in a class and believe they can succeed in the program.

For more information, contact Vice Principal Joan Lehman at 510-644-8964.

Published in the October 2008 issue of the CSCAE Insider