At a Glance
Since 2018, a full-time ESL assistant has worked at Reading Muhlenberg Career & Technology Center (RMCTC) to provide English language learners (ELL) students push-in support services. To create and fund this position, the Reading School District (RSD) and RMCTC administrators collaborated to reallocate a district support staff member to the CTC.
For many years, RMCTC has served a relatively large number of ELL students. As of the 2020-2021 school year, approximately 170 RMCTC students (14 percent of enrolled students) are identified as English language learners. There are ELL students across all 30 of the CTE programs at RMCTC.
Administrators recognize the importance and challenges of meeting the specific needs of ELL students to help ensure their success while enrolled at RMCTC and after they graduate. After analyzing performance data, they realized that ELL students struggled with the program-specific vocabulary and content being taught in English. As students became frustrated due to these challenges, they sometimes decided not to attend RMCTC.
To address these challenges, RMCTC and its sending school district conducted joint planning sessions that focused on identifying practical strategies that would provide ELL students with the support they needed to be successful. RSD and RMCTC administrators decided to place a full-time ESL assistant at the CTC. The RSD reallocated this position to RMCTC, and the district funds the cost of the employee.
RMCTC wanted to maximize the impact of the ESL assistant and so decided she would provide individual push-in support services for students. At the beginning of the year, the ESL assistant receives a list of ELL students across all programs. She meets with teachers to discuss these students’ levels and the types of support they will need. (RMCTC instructors also may request support from the ESL assistant if they identify evidence of limited English proficiency once they begin working with a student.) Throughout the year, the ESL assistant then provides students with translation services and individual in-class support. She goes into the lab area to support them with the physical and performance portions of the class, and this service helps to address the challenges ELL students may face in applying program-specific and highly technical language. The assistant also attends parent conferences as needed.
According to RMCTC Administrative Director Erick Kahler, the move to place a full-time ESL assistant at the CTC was a turning point in its ability to best meet the needs of all the ELL students across multiple programs. He notes the importance of strong collaborative relationships between classroom instructors and the ESL assistant as well as the ongoing opportunities for pre-planning and communication so that the ESL assistant can effectively support students.
For other career and technology centers that want to better serve their ELL students by employing an ESL assistant, Administrative Director Kahler suggests they first analyze demographic and performance data to identify the need. Then, they should reach out to the sending school districts to collaborate and problem solve together.
Since RMCTC and RSD created the ESL assistant position, instructors have observed increased task completion and improved rate of acquisition for new vocabulary among ELL students that receive these support services. Furthermore, as RMCTC continues to promote the ESL position, enrollment among ELL students continues to increase.