Pittsburgh Public Schools: Equitable Access Practices to Support English Language Learners

Posted on Categories English Learners, Special Populations

At a Glance

Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) Career and Technical Education (CTE) division strives to ensure equitable access to all 16 CTE programs for all students regardless of gender, race, disability or any other special populations category. Two specific ways we have done this is through creating virtual tours of all 16 programs on our website, as well as translating and distributing CTE brochures in the five most commonly spoken languages by English Language Learners (ELL) within PPS.


PPS Executive Director Angela Mike and her leadership team set the goal of having  all students and families feel comfortable applying for and enrolling in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programming and eliminating as many barriers to that process as possible. They created a Virtual Tour of their CTE programs and translated their CTE brochures into the languages most commonly spoken by PPS students and families. These practices provide more and better access to information about CTE programming available for all PPS students.

The Virtual Tour and translated ELL brochures were both implemented through grant funding but were developed internally by CTE staff members. The Virtual Tour was implemented several years ago as both a recruiting and marketing tool to allow students, parents, and all stakeholders to see PPS CTE program labs, as well as the equipment and tools used within them. From there, individual or small group tours can be arranged through our Career Counselors to support students in selecting a program that best fits their passions and career goals. They contracted with a company called YouVisit to create the virtual tour, which includes 360 photos of each lab space, as well as additional photos highlighting some of the state-of-the-art equipment available for students to train, practice and learn on. These videos and photos are all housed on the PPS CTE website. We have developed a schedule to update programs’ tours on a rotating basis as new and updated equipment and tools are added to the labs.

The translated ELL brochures are new for the 2021-22 school year, as PPS continues to strive to provide equitable access to all secondary students. Brashear High School in particular has a large population of ELL students, as well as housing four CTE programs. However, with an ever-evolving population as the City of Pittsburgh itself evolves over time, pockets of ELL students exist in all PPS schools, so they wanted all students and families to understand that these CTE program opportunities were available to them, regardless of their ethnicity or first language. To develop these brochures, input was solicited from their English as a Second Language (ESL) division to identify the five most commonly spoken non-English languages in the district. From there, they contracted with Global Wordsmiths to translate their primary PPS CTE brochure, (which provides general information about CTE, as well as detailed information about each of the sixteen programs), into Arabic, Nepali, Spanish, Swahili, and Uzbek. The printing of these brochures was contracted to a local company; KDC Printing. Display stands and posters were purchased to make these brochures prominently available in the guidance offices of all PPS high schools and have received a lot of positive feedback.


The Virtual Tour provides data by tracking each visit to the site, as well as logging which individual programs visitors click on. Reports can be generated by region, school and program. It was vital to recruiting efforts during COVID, as PPS schools were remote for more than a calendar year. In lieu of on-site visits and walkthroughs of the labs, they relied on the virtual tours for two large virtual recruiting expos during the 2020-21 school year, as well as smaller recruiting efforts facilitated in Microsoft Teams virtual classrooms where their Career Counselors visited ninth grade Social Studies classes for recruiting purposes. In addition, virtual tours are held during stakeholders meetings with community, government and industry partners as a means to seek their continued support and guidance.

If interested in replicating these best practices, the PPS teams suggests that you meet and talk to your people frequently. Sometimes the best and most creative ideas come from collaborating and brainstorming ideas as a team. Decisions should be made by the leader of a school or division, but those decisions should be guided by a collaborative effort of the team you have in place.


Career and Technical Education (CTE) / CTE Virtual Tour (pghschools.org)

PPS ELLs Brochure


Pittsburgh Public Schools, Career and Technical Education Division

Angela Mike, Executive Director