Twin Rivers Adult School

Submitted By: Tanya Praest

Capital Adult Education Regional Consortium


Type of Practice: Learner Transition

Program Area(s): ABE / ASE, ESL / EL Civics / Citizenship, CTE / Workforce Prep / Pre-apprenticeship

Region: Northern California

Consortia Involved: Capital Adult Education Regional Consortium

The Program of Practice

Based on feedback from students in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, many ESL and ABE/ASE Twin Rivers Adult School students reported they felt unwelcomed and unsupported when they enrolled and attended school. The enrollment and orientation process was impersonal and students didn't feel they were actually heard. Orientation would include at least 30-35 students filling out a paper registration form, attending a PowerPoint presentation, CASAS testing and then a quick 1 to 2 minute conversation with a counselor. After enrollment, many students reported through surveys, exit interviews and intake meetings, especially ABE/ASE students, who didn't feel like staff cared about their academic progress. Some students quit attending school altogether because communication with their counselor or teacher was unprofessional and inconsistent, if they even received a response back at all. Students also reported feeling penalized and belittled due to the strict attendance practices, with no wiggle-room when dealing with family or work obligations which sometimes took precedence above their studies. There also wasn't a clear, defined learner transition path for students or staff through our ESL class levels, transition into ABE from ESL, or from ASE into a post-secondary or CTE program. After reflecting on our current practices, there was a clear need to restructure staff in a way that supports student access and achievement, more effective procedures for orientation and enrollment, and staff hospitality professional development.

The Response

With the support of District Administration, site administration started making changes to restructure staffing. The counselor positions were eliminated, Academic and Career Advisors were hired (over a 2 year period) and an Academic Intervention Specialist job duties shifted to what was more consistent to the job description. This allowed CAEP funding to be utilized in a more targeted fashion supporting student needs and achievement. For the 2023-2024 school year, a Guidance and Learning Specialist (Admin) and Paraeducator Specialist (program support) have also been hired.

Due to our Covid responses in 2020 and moving some of our practices online, in Fall 2021, registration continued online and group orientations shifted to in-person, one-on-one intakes between the student and the Academic Advisor or Academic Intervention Specialist. In some cases, immediate family members attended intake meetings together because they helped translate, had transportation barriers and/or all family members registered for school and it was more convenient for them to attend an intake meeting together. The Academic Advisor and Academic Intervention Specialist were able to take more time getting to know the students, talking about needs, goals and other resources they may need. During the intake meetings, an Academic and Career plan is created for ESL students Intermediate Low through Advanced, and also for ABE/ASE and Workforce Prep/CTE students. These plans allow staff to understand student goals and their needs. It allows staff the ability to find more resources and support for students while they are attending Twin Rivers Adult School and as they transition to work, post-secondary or short-term CTE programs. Students are also assessed during their intake. Academic Advisors and Academic Intervention Specialists have also started creating more efficient plans to provide more formal check-ins with students throughout the school year. They are able to update any needs, answer questions or just continue to give encouragement to students. Advisors also provide help with resumes, job applications, college applications and financial aid applications, such as the FAFSA.

Attendance procedures were changed to meet the needs of our students. Prior to the 2021-2022 school year, if a student missed 3 days they received a phone call or email from a staff member (not a teacher) reminding them of the attendance policy. Many of our ASE/ABE students felt the email to be unprofessional and negative instead of encouraging. Starting 2021-2022, a plan was put in place for teachers to be the staff to reach out to students when they missed school. Teachers were given PD on how to say things to students that wouldn’t be deemed uncaring or unprofessional. Teachers were given support with email wording so students would be more apt to respond rather than ignore. ABE/ASE schedules changed so students could work independently from home rather than come to school every single day. Students are now only required to attend class one day a week in person to check in with the teacher. Students are able to attend more if they need more support. Students are also not penalized for missing a weekly check-in if they contact their teacher through email, text or Zoom meeting.

Staff has had hospitality training and what that looks like for us, our students and community. Staff is welcoming the second a student and/or community member walks through our doors. All staff take the time to understand the problem or question, and work diligently to offer support, finding resources or providing solutions.

The Unique Features of the Program

All decisions and procedures we make are based on what is best for our students and community. Because of our approach, students are feeling more connected and supported. Some features of our program include:
- In 2021, we successfully reduced our graduation credit requirements from 200 to 160.
- Class schedules vary between 8:30am and 8:00pm Monday through Thursday, and 8:30am-5:15pm on Friday. This gives students enough flexibility to choose a time and place that works for their busy schedules. Locations vary throughout schools within our district boundaries.
- Staff members are diverse and have an authentic relationship with students, which contributes to student outcomes and productivity. We offer interpretation and translation services, and our staff members are culturally sensitive, which allows students and staff members to communicate and interact more effectively.
- Motivation and passion are present, and staff members and students tend to be more resilient when encountering obstacles, rather than just "in it for the money or benefits," and accordingly tend to be people with more positive outlooks and can overcome difficulty through problem-solving.
- We have partnered with our district office to collaborate and build effective programs to assist with retaining classified staff and build career development opportunities
- We allow our students to identify the best qualities in themselves. Students actually begin to believe in dreams that may have been stunted due to lack of a high school diploma.
- Our staff provides outreach at local community events and other agencies such as our local SWJC, Los Rios College District, Sierra College, Mutual Housing Network, Sacramento Library, North Highlands Park and Recreation, City of Sacramento Youth Division, SETA Head Start, Wellspace and Homecare Assistance.
- We started our first ever TRAS Resource Fair in Fall 2022 and had many community organizations in attendance providing information and resources to our students, district families and community members.

The Outcome

A supportive work environment not only motivates employees, but provides hands-on guidance for participating in projects and formally recognizes hard work. When support is gone or is less efficient than expected then some supportive practices can obtain the endorsement the school desires, like increasing self awareness by asking for support and deepening our work relationships with opening dialogues and developing our own supportive tools. Our administrator provides us support, but allows us the autonomy to try new things to help support our students.
- Keeping better track of students' gains using shared forms and digital data input has become an effective tool to monitor students' progress as well as calculate the data for gaining points and offer academic support for students who are struggling and not progressing. This also gave staff ownership over student achievement. Overall EFL gains for ESL students increased by 31% and overall EFL gains for ABE/ASE students increased by 27% from 21/22 to 22/23.
- Increase in diverse student enrollment.
- Increase in high school graduates. Grad rate increased 7% from 21/22 to 22/23
- Built more community partnerships
- Collaborative methods with different departments and programs in TRUSD. Our NCLB prep program had 45 attendees during the 22/23 school year and 16 got jobs (36%) in our district. Our first NCLB Prep Day in July 2022 only had 4 people in attendance. Our last NCLB Prep Day in May 2023 had 20 people in attendance.
- Team Building among staff has increased.
- There have been more opportunities for staff to reflect as a whole on our procedures and processes. We use these reflections to make adjustments to our procedures and processes, making them more effective each year.