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Practices with Promise Success Story

Submitted By: Barbara  Pongsrikul, San Diego Adult Education Regional Consortium

ESL students succeed in personal care assistants class

The Challenge

More than half of the students at San Diego Continuing Education who wanted to work in the health care field or study to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) were second-language learners. They didn’t have the basic skills necessary to obtain employment or to succeed in the CNA class and pass the required state certification exam.

The Solution

To address the challenge, the school assigned the vocational (registered nurse) and English as a second language (ESL) teachers to co-teach: the RN demonstrates a skill and the ESL teacher provides language and vocabulary instruction to enable students to complete the skill. The ESL teacher develops comprehension activities to scaffold the information, as well as podcasts for audio support, since the textbook presents language challenges. In the future, the model may be modified to the alternating teacher (concurrent enrollment) model in which the ESL instructor teaches the language and vocabulary in one class, such as from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and immediately afterward students practice the skills with the RN, such as from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., with the teachers collaborating and coordinating lessons but not co-teaching.


After 240 hours of contextualized instruction in the ESL for Personal Care Assistant class, students were qualified to work as personal care assistants and to apply for the CNA training program.

The Data

Since the inception of the class in 2009, about 30 students successfully completed the CNA training program. In the spring 2016 semester cohort, there was 90 percent persistence after 240 hours of instruction. Of 32 students, 15 made gains from the CASAS pre to post test in reading, 13 made gains in listening and over half of the students completed a level. Two students were accepted in the CNA program, and eight students work as personal care assistants. The ESL teacher stays in touch with former students through Facebook, which is an innovative way of tracking student outcomes.

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