WHHS No. 1 in state for medical careers concentration
WHHS No. 1 in state for medical careers concentration
Posted on 11/06/2014
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WEST HAVEN, Nov. 3, 2014 It’s mid-morning on a Tuesday in room F15 at West Haven High School, and the certified nursing assistant class is reviewing for an upcoming test. Instead of lecturing at the front of the classroom, teacher Valerie Cosenza sits among her students, treating the teens more as colleagues in a group where all members can learn from each other.

A few minutes later, the class breaks into small teams to practice strategies for safely moving a patient, using 150-pound mannequins or each other, along with wheelchairs and hospital beds. Cosenza travels from team to team, noting when students have taken all the right steps or asking the “peer supervisor” member of each group what should be done differently.

With each daily class taking up the length of three periods, the CNA students and Cosenza work hard, and it shows. WHHS has been ranked No. 1 in the state in the area of medical careers out of 37 high school programs, and Cosenza was honored at the Connecticut Career and Technical Education Conference October 22.

The ranking was determined by last year’s scores on the Statewide Career and Technical Education Assessment, with WHHS students testing in the medical area concentration scoring a mean of 93.6, as compared to a state mean score of 70.5. Students in the certified nursing assistant class take the test each year.

The full-year course dedicates the first semester to “home care” and CNA responsibilities, and the second to working in medical facilities, such as convalescent homes, three days a week. Students also plan and execute a blood drive each year.

“Anyone can take this course and go into healthcare. It teaches the fundamentals, whether you’re going to go on to be an x-ray technician, a doctor, a physical therapist, a CNA, a nurse or any other career in healthcare,” said Cosenza, who has taught the class on her own for five years, after working with another teacher for the class, and previously teaching the West Haven Adult Education CNA class for 20 years.

“This program opens doors up to students. It empowers them with the knowledge of what’s available and gives them the tools they need to be successful in any healthcare profession they choose,” she added.

Many of her students do go on to work in the medical field, and some choose to come back and share their experiences of their clinical work while in Cosenza’s class and post-graduation work. One came back to talk to students on the recent Tuesday morning. And a current WHHS student was stopping by during his free period to observe, since he’s hoping to take the class next year.

“I like to bring together people from the past and future because it’s a community. That’s an important piece,” Cosenza explained. “We also do a lot of team-building because when you’re working in a medical facility, you need to work in teams. For us to learn well, we need to be cohesive, and no one can be afraid to get a critique from someone else. We treat this like a real job, like the real world, especially when we start working at the medical facilities in the spring.”

In a few months, students will put into practice all they learned in the fall semester. When the class goes to a local medical facility, students will be expected to wear a uniform and deliver care to patients. At the end of the class, students will take the state assessment and the CNA test.

The state administers assessments to students in the areas of career and technical education at schools that receive Carl D. Perkins Grant funding. It also oversees performance standards and competencies for such programs based on national standards. There is a state assessment for each career and tech ed concentration. The medical area assessment test isn’t just for CNA students, but is for students in any kind of medical area concentration class.

“The bottom line is the class must teach the foundation, which is medical careers, and that is where West Haven was number one,” said Dr. Stephen W. Hoag, State Coordinator for the Connecticut Career and Technical Assessment. “The Connecticut Statewide CTE Assessment is based on the instruction of the Connecticut State Performance Standards and Competencies. Last year, 25 percent of that assessment was the contextual application of Common Core reading and math competencies in career and tech ed. The students, in order to do well on that test, have to be proficient in reading and math Common Core competencies. That makes it more challenging for our folks, and that’s why what happened in West Haven was significant.”

Cosenza and WHHS Principal Pamela Gardner say they are proud of what CNA students accomplish and of last year’s stellar performance on the state assessment. But Gardner added she’s especially proud of Cosenza and what she’s contributed to the WHHS community.

“Val has made an impact on adults in West Haven through her years with the Adult Education CNA class and on high school students. And that’s very clear when you see how graduates want to come back and visit her class or when former students say she inspired them to have a career in healthcare or medicine,” Gardner said. “West Haven High School is very lucky to have such a wonderful certified nursing assistant program.”

Contact: Communications Director Susan Misur, 203-937-4300 X7114; susan.misur@whschools.org