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Practices with Promise Success Story

Submitted By: Lanzi Asturias, Los Angeles Unified School District

Contextualized, integrated math helps photovoltaic trainees succeed

The Challenge

Students enrolled in the Photovoltaics (PV) Training Program at Los Angeles Unified School District’s East Los Angeles Skills Center were experiencing significant difficulties with the applied math skills needed to successfully complete the training. Students mastered most training competencies, except for those that required a math background. As a result, program attrition was high and the number of completers was low. Students were frustrated. They were unwilling to add more time to their training, and they were not convinced that math was relevant to their ability to secure a job.

The Solution

LAUSD, a member of the Los Angeles Regional Adult Education Consortium (LARAEC), realized the program’s success would require the use of contextualization and integration, meaning that math instruction would need to be taught in a way that the future photovoltaic installers could see how the concepts applied to the trade they were learning – and it would need to be incorporated into photovoltaic training, instead of students taking it as a separate class. AEBG funding made it possible for math and career technical education (CTE) instructors to collaborate to develop the contextualized math curriculum and to integrate it into phases 1 and 2 of the photovoltaic installer training. Students took both the newly designed class and the first two phases of training at the same time.


By integrating math instruction into skills training, students were able to proceed with their CTE courses instead of having to wait until they mastered the necessary math skills. The majority of students who trained under the new approach completed the program and earned an industry-recognized credential after the contextualized, integrated course was added to their CTE program. This represents tremendous success, particularly because many of the students were former inmates who had not attended school or training for many years. Subsequently, most participants, many of whom were referred by community partner Homeboy Industries, secured employment installing solar panels at homes, businesses and solar power plants.

The Data

Over an 18-month span, East Los Angeles Skills Center enrolled 77 students concurrently in the contextualized math class for photovoltaic installers and in phases 1 and 2 of installer training. Seventy students completed the math course and phases 1 and 2 of training. The same 70 completers enrolled in phase 3 of installer training and 65 of them – or 85 percent – completed the entire program and earned their industry-recognized credential.

The results also were promising for 2016-17. During the first half of the school year, among two cohorts of students, an average of 89 percent completed phases 1 and 2 of the training, and of those students who had taken a pre- and post-assessment (CASAS) to measure progress, the average learning gain was 8.4.

Supporting Information

Photovoltaic Installer Program featured in the Homeboy Industries Website

Solar Power World publication features the program

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