Castro Valley Adult & Career Education

Submitted By: Beth Cutter

Chabot - Las Positas / Mid - Alameda County Consortium


Type of Practice: Program Development / Curriculum / Classroom

Program Area(s): ESL / EL Civics / Citizenship

Region: Bay Area

Consortia Involved: Chabot-Las Positas/Mid-Alameda County Consortium

Program Overview

Castro Valley Adult & Career Education piloted a fully online citizenship class to make it more accessible and convenient to a larger segment of the community.

The Program of Practice

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, our Citizenship Preparation class was an in-person, open entry/open exit program offered on weekday afternoons. The class enrollment numbers tended to be low due to the in person model and time of day. The instructional model was mainly lab time with short periods of direct instruction. It was difficult to track student progress and consistently administer the CASAS Reading, CASAS Government and History, and Citizenship Interview tests. During the pandemic, our ESL classes transitioned to fully online classes but we did not have the available staff to continue with the Citizenship Preparation class at that time. During the 2020-2021 school year, we were not able to offer a Citizenship Preparation class but we gave ESL students the opportunity to take the CASAS Government and History test. Of the 188 students enrolled in the 2020-2021 school year, 8 took the Government and History test.

As we prepared to begin the 2021-2022 school year, we considered how to re-implement our Citizenship Preparation class in a more effective manner. Our main focus was on how to make the class more accessible and convenient to a larger segment of our community. We also explored how to target instruction to the specific skills English Learners most needed to strengthen in order to more efficiently obtain U.S. citizenship. These were determined to be primarily speaking and writing skills. Supporting our students in obtaining citizenship is one of the key ways we can support our immigrant students in integrating into their communities and achieving their personal, family, education, and career goals.

The Response

Our data clearly indicated from March 2020 to May 2021 that online classes increased student access to our programs, supported students in overcoming barriers to attendance such as work schedules and childcare needs, and improved both retention and persistence. Persistence rose from 76% in the 2019-2020 school year to 91% in the 2020-2021 school year. We also saw a rise in our completion rate, from 44% to 51% for the same time period.

Given the success of our online model, we decided to pilot a fully online Citizenship Preparation class beginning in November, 2021. The class met one evening a week for three hours on Zoom. The class met for twelve weeks, providing 36 hours of synchronous instruction. Students came to our campus twice: one time to take the CASAS reading test as a pre-test and a second time to take CASAS reading as a post-test, as well as both the Government and History test and the Citizenship Interview test. We were able to enroll 25 students in this pilot online class, which clearly indicated that the online model was easily accessible for students. We offered a second session of this online model in the Spring quarter of 2022 and enrolled 15 students.

The Unique Features of the Program

Our program capitalizes on the features of Zoom to target specific speaking, reading, and writing skills necessary to pass the U.S. Citizenship test. Every class session utilizes a variety of instructional strategies such as whole class practice and continual rotations of small group and partner practice in breakout rooms. The instructor provides students with a running list of reading and writing sentences to practice in breakout rooms (reading) and whole class dictation (writing) weekly, which students then reinforce with practice on their own during the week. The instructor continually rotates through each breakout room to assess understanding and monitor progress. Breakout rooms are always followed by whole class follow-up and clarification as needed.

Another unique feature of our online course is the use of a variety of technology resources to increase student engagement and digital literacy skills. Students prepare on their own for a weekly quiz from the USCIS 100 Civics questions, grouped by topic instead of numerically to increase the retention of information. Weekly quizzes are presented in a variety of formats including Zoom polls, Google forms, Quizlet, Quizizz, and Kahoot. Finally, the curriculum includes the use of numerous videos to supplement and reinforce the Civics content as well as to provide larger historical context and insight into American culture.

The Outcome

Both qualitative and quantitative data indicates the success of this program, both in persistence and outcomes. In our pilot class session, 88% of enrolled students completed the class, and 87% of enrolled students completed the class in our second session. Student feedback has been extremely positive with multiple students repeating the class. Additionally, we saw an increase in our payment point outcomes and students obtaining citizenship as shown below:

Total ESL Enrollment - 411
Citizenship Preparation Enrollments - 25
Ratio of Citizenship to Total Enrollment - 6%
Citizenship Payment Points - 13
Ratio of Citizenship Payment Points to Citizenship Enrollments - 52%
New U.S. Citizens - 2

Total ESL Enrollment - 326
Citizenship Preparation Enrollments - 33
Ratio of Citizenship to Total Enrollment - 10%
Citizenship Payment Points - 29
Ratio of Citizenship Payment Points to Citizenship Enrollments - 88%
New U.S. Citizens - 3

Total ESL Enrollment - 188
Citizenship Preparation Enrollments - 8
Ratio of Citizenship to Total Enrollment - 4%
Citizenship Payment Points - 8
Ratio of Citizenship Payment Points to Citizenship Enrollments - 100%
New U.S. Citizens - 0

Total ESL Enrollment - 325
Citizenship Preparation Enrollments - 27
Ratio of Citizenship to Total Enrollment - 8%
Citizenship Payment Points - 43
Ratio of Citizenship Payment Points to Citizenship Enrollments - 159%
New U.S. Citizens - 11**

*Government/History test only; no Citizenship class offered
**The total number of Citizenship Preparation enrolled students from the 2021-2022 school year to obtain U.S. citizenship was 12. One student obtained citizenship after the school year ended.