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English as a Second Language Update

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On April 4, 2017, Jonathan Covel, the Pittsburgh Public School District’s Director of English as a Second Langauge (ESL) Department, presented an update to the School Board’s Education Committee about the district’s work to serve ESL students.

Pittsburgh Public Schools continues to see increasing enrollment of English Learners. However, the increase in English Learners has highlighted that the district lacks a standard of service to ensure that students receive the supports they need. The good news is that the district acknowledges this shortcoming, and is working to remedy it. Another issue that was highlighted during the presentation is that several ESL centers (Colfax, Banksville and Arsenal K-5) are running out of physical space or are in need of additional teachers to meet the demand.

Mr. Covel also spoke to the recommendations that were made in the Council of Great City Schools’ report. Among the responses that the ESL department has taken are:

  • Refocus Title III spending
  • Strengthen ESL data and systems
  • Redesign model delivery for ESL and sheltered instruction
  • Increase family support
  • Focus academic tracking of English Learners
  • More English Learners in Gifted/ Talented
  • Increased ESL policy dissemination
  • Instruction

Currently, there are 1,056 English Learners in PPS which represents a 17 percent increase from the end of last school year. This growth highlights the need to devote more resources to the ESL department and the ESL centers within the district. The ESL department’s recommendations moving forward include: creating a 6-12 Newcomer Academy for Level 1 & 2 English Learners, offer ESL services in feeder schools for all other 6-12 English Learners, and ESL services would be provided in home schools for K-5. It is estimated that the implementation of these changes should take 2-3 years.

Career and Technical Education Update

Angela Mike, the district’s Executive Director of Career and Technical Education (CTE) gave an update to the board about the status of CTE in Pittsburgh Public Schools. Currently, there are 15 CTE programs offered in 6 high schools that serve approximately 500 students.

Upon completion of the CTE program and high school graduation, students can qualify for industry certifications, articulated credits through S.O.A.R. (Students Occupationally and Academically Ready) and a Pennsylvania Skills Certificate signed by the Governor.

Over the past several years Pittsburgh Public’s CTE program has seen considerable growth, both by enrollment and the number of students who earn certifications. In the 2009-10 school year, 42 industry certifications were earned by students, in the 2015-16 school year, 482 certifications were earned. In that same time frame, the NOCTI pass rate went from 36 percent in ‘09-‘10 to 70 percent in ‘15-‘16. Also, the district has opened four new CTE programs in the last 3 years; Emergency Response Technology at Westinghouse, Entertainment Technology at University Prep at Margaret Milliones, Multimedia Production and Coding at Brashear, and Carpentry at Carrick and Westinghouse. Another positive is the over 60 community partnerships the district has made with the city of Pittsburgh, businesses and unions.

The next steps that Ms. Mike outlined for Pittsburgh Public’s CTE programs include creating an exploratory CTE program for Langley students in grades 6-8 and continuing to forge partnerships with groups and organizations to give increased supports to CTE students as they enter the workforce.