Nashua CTE working to attract English Language Learners

NASHUA – The goal of Nashua’s Career and Technical Education program is to open pathways for all students to be successful, and with district demographics rapidly changing, Director Amanda Bastoni said adjustments to the curriculum are in order.

In fact, there are now 126 students at Nashua High School North, along with another 169 at Nashua High School South, for whom English is not their native language. These students are, therefore, classified as English Language Learners.

This is a major part of the reason Nashua CTE is rolling out a new initiative, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Education, to attract ELL students to the program, including those who would be considered nontraditional.

A nontraditional student, Bastoni said, is defined in relation to traditional gender roles. This could include a female student in machining, engineering or automotive classes, or a male in the early childhood development or cosmetology programs. Classes such as photography or culinary arts would not fall into this category since the gender distribution is typically pretty even, she said.

“This pilot program is a step toward expanding the available pool of nontraditional CTE students by engaging non-trad ELL students and providing them with a structured pathway to success that allows them to reach beyond cultural roles to more fully embrace the diverse opportunities available to them in their adopted country,” Bastoni wrote in the grant application.

The CTE serves both high schools. About 7.3 percent of students at the city’s north high school are considered ELL, while the percentage is 9.1 for the south high school.

Bastoni said when speaking with ELL parents during a presentation earlier in the year, she noticed many parents were unfamiliar with the CTE program. Then, she realized that all the promotional materials were in English.

Once the school district received the funds, work to train teachers and industry professionals began immediately. This would not only help teachers know many of the resources Nashua has to offer, but also provide some cultural background.

The professional development aspect will also help explain the ELL program, Bastoni said. For example, there are five levels of proficiency, so knowing the level a student is on and what that means will help teachers more accurately know how to assist them. For the first round, students will be high-performing, meaning level four and above. They will be given program-specific vocabulary terms to study.

While there are dozens of languages spoken in the Nashua schools, the CTE grant will focus solely on Spanish for now, as it is the predominant language ELL students speak.

Teachers and students have also been busy filming and recording Spanish voice-overs for safety videos for many of the classes, Bastoni said. They are also translating information on some of the quizzes as they relate to safety.

The students who enroll in the program will also be asked to spend two E-block periods per week working on CTE with their teacher available.

“Student enrollment trends show that (ELL) is a growing population, and one that has been largely untapped for participation in CTE courses here,” Bastoni wrote in the application.

Officials’ immediate goal is that by the end of the year, the female students will have completed their first year of a nontraditional CTE program and that they will have developed a training and support system “that will provide them with the best chance for success.”

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashua

telegraph.com.