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Illustrative Example: Dual Enrollment

California English Learner Roadmap (CA EL Roadmap) Illustrative Example from the Mountain Empire Unified School District and Cuyamaca College on Dual Enrollment for English learners.

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Illustrative Example Overview


Mountain Empire Unified School District is a small, rural district close to San Diego and the Mexican border. The district’s English learners, who comprised 28 percent of the student body in 2018–2019, are nearly all Spanish speakers.

Mountain Empire replaced its prior English language development (ELD) courses with Cuyamaca College’s course sequence and curriculum, allowing students to earn both high school and college credit at the same time. This rigorous dual enrollment model for English learners is delivered by high school teachers who became certified as adjunct college faculty and collaborated deeply with Cuyamaca’s English as a second language (ESL) team. This innovative partnership model is leading to increased achievement for English learners and aiding their postsecondary transitions.

Course Structure

The Cuyamaca College ESL dual enrollment course sequence has three primary levels. The first two courses count towards A–G requirements and all courses provide college credit at Cuyamaca College.

Course Title Description A–G College Credits
ESL 50 + ESL 50 g Beginner Yes 9 units, non-transfer level
ESL 1 a/b + ESL 1 g Intermediate Yes 9 units, non-transfer level
ESL 2 a/b Advanced No 6 units, transfer level

The sequence follows an accordion model so that students can repeat a level with fresh content or skip to the next course if they have gained mastery. For example, students attaining proficiency at the end of ESL 1a will continue to ESL 2a. Students not attaining proficiency at the end of ESL 1a, will move to ESL 1b, which covers the same learning objectives but with new books.

Each of the three primary courses may also be accompanied by companion, 3-unit grammar courses. The companion course is almost always utilized at the first level (ESL 50G) and less often at the higher two levels.


As opposed to classes that focus primarily on reading and listening, the Mountain Empire Unified School District/Cuyamaca College curriculum balances these key skills with conversation and writing. To facilitate rigor and engagement, the courses focus on authentic, compelling texts rather than textbooks. From non-fiction articles on growth mindset to classic literature such as Fahrenheit 451, the curriculum aims to challenge students in a way that creates excitement around conversation, writing, and the deeper meaning of the texts.

In an operational sense, the curricular approach is informed by the California Acceleration Projects’ Five Principles of Acceleration:

  • Backwards design from college-level courses;
  • Relevant, thinking-oriented curriculum;
  • Just-in-time remediation;
  • Low-stakes, collaborative practice; and
  • Support for student’s affective needs.

The instructional approach further incorporates well-established ESL methodology such as total physical response, a communicative approach, content-based learning, community learning, and student-centered learning.


While Mountain Empire Unified School District once used a combination of tests and writing samples for initial placement, it has now found that students can better place themselves. Students use a survey for guided self-placement that involves evaluating writing samples to determine at which level they feel most comfortable working. This new method of placement has proven effective, relatively fast, and less anxiety-inducing.


The high school dual enrollment courses are college courses, so the high school faculty who teach them must also be college adjuncts. These teachers have trained with the Cuyamaca ESL faculty and exchanged pedagogical techniques. They remain employees of the school district while also receiving a stipend from the college.


The initial results of the model are extremely promising. During high school, students are developing confidence with language at a faster pace and consequently getting more involved across their other content areas classes. The accelerated challenge of ESL for college credit may be helping to drive their exceptional high school graduation rates:

  • 2017: 90.5 percent
  • 2018: 100 percent
  • 2019: 95.8 percent

Students from Mountain Empire Unified School District are now arriving at Cuyamaca College with more confidence, greater language skills, and a head start on college credits. Professors are noticing the difference in high school ESL preparation, particularly in writing.


The JFF research report Dual Enrollment for Students from Special Populations External link opens in new window or tab. provides information on promising practices and recommendations for an assets-based approach to dual enrollment that includes English learners, students with disabilities, foster youth, and young people experiencing homelessness.

Principles, Elements, and Priorities Addressed

Principle Two: Intellectual Quality of Instruction and Meaningful Access

Principle Four: Alignment and Articulation Within and Across Systems

Questions:   Multilingual Support Division | | 916-319-0938
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, November 08, 2022