Special Populations Collaborative

Effective Practices for Limited English Proficient Students

Mt. San Antonio College ESL and VESL Career and Academic Laddering

Title: ESL and VESL Career and Academic Laddering

College: Mt. San Antonio College

College Contact: Liza Becker Assistant Director, English as a Second Language and Intercultural Programs

1100 N Grand Ave, Walnut, CA 91789

909-594-5611 x5233 or lbecker@mtsac.edu

Description: The goals of the practice are to provide LEP students with a supportive educational system that improves English language skills, provides opportunities for higher levels of vocational and academic education, increases job readiness skills, and encourages career exploration through research and work-based experience. Mt. San Antonio College currently serves over 5,000 LEP students in the non-credit ESL department. The college offers a tiered ESL and VESL program that is built upon the concept of Laddering, with each level of student accomplishment leading to greater academic preparedness, vocational/career advancement opportunities, and increased civic/community participation. Students are assessed upon entry into one of seven levels of ESL (Pre-level 1 through Level 6) and are provided with an interactive orientation to the program, the campus, and educational/career opportunities. As a student advances, a certificate is awarded for each level successfully completed. This advancement is based on the student portfolio record of skills and accomplishments, including successful completion of a project such as development of a resume, demonstration of successful job interview techniques during a mock interview, or organizing a service learning or volunteerism assignment. When a student reaches levels 5 and 6, they are eligible to apply for the VESL program. The VESL program includes two Technical/Vocational Education tracks: Careers in Business and Careers in Health. The program includes a counseling component and information on transitioning to credit academic and vocational classes, business vocabulary, training in keyboarding and basic computer skills, and completion of a final project. Students can also enroll in a one-unit career guidance course, staffed by a counselor who is licensed in disability assessments and specializes in serving LEP populations. Final projects are class/student-driven and often involve a project or presentation that synthesizes their learning.

VESL has also partnered with the College Regional Health Occupations Resource Center (one of eight established in the State through a grant from the CCCCO) to produce a 10- month Health Care Interpreting Program. The program trains bilingual and bicultural 92 students for effective interpretation in hospitals, clinics, and other health care settings. During the last month, students participate in a work-based activity as volunteer interns in health care settings.

The ESL Department hosts an annual Career Conference for students at Level 3 (intermediate-low) and higher. Guest speakers represent areas that include academic and vocational education, as well as business and industry. Topics include information on career options, job readiness skills, student services and programs available at the college, and strategies for pursuing degrees. Instructors incorporate specific career fair assignments into their lesson plans before the conference. On the day of the conference, instructors host the various guest speakers, thereby facilitating the communication between outside speakers and LEP students, when necessary. Pre-Level 1 (literacy level) through Level 2 (beginning-high) classes conduct a career-based activity in their own classrooms in order to participate in the career conference within the safety of a comfortable language level environment.

Programs and services are marketed via publications and the program’s web site ( http://esl.mtsac.edu ) displays and notices posted throughout the facility and in classrooms, and by instructors and presenters in the classroom and at special events. The program is developing a database to gather information on ESL and VESL student success and outcomes. Anecdotally, the staff knows that VESL students are more likely to advance their postsecondary education through academic and vocational programs (i.e. there is a high transition rate).

The program has been successful in part because the ESL department has collaborated with other programs of the college to serve a high demand and high interest career areas. The program was designed in such a way to create a sense of support and community. This included cohorts of students, an integrated curriculum, and a cluster of courses. An outcomes-based curriculum with portfolios, projects, and multiple forms of assessment all contribute to the “evidence” that supports learning and shares the responsibility of instruction.