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Pennsylvania ACTE Newsletter Fall 2014


High School Students Get College Experience Through Engineering Program

PA Engineering

Getting students ready for the rigors of college is a challenge for every high school. But some, like Harry S. Truman High School in Bristol Township, go beyond preparation to actual college course completion.

Engineering instructor Cosmo DiLiegro took on that challenge back in 2009 and developed a program that gives students the opportunity to earn college credits while boosting their STEM knowledge. The program offers four advance placement-weighted engineering courses through curriculum provided by Project Lead The Way.

Qualifying students, who must score 80 percent or above in algebra, are introduced to engineering design and the principles of engineering classes before moving on to civil engineering, architecture and digital electronics courses. The classes educate students on 3D modeling software; solving problems through research and design; building and site design and development; and foundations of electrical engineering, electronics and circuit design.

“They move along just like they would in college,” explains DiLiegro. “They do the prerequisite intro classes, then the principles classes, ending with the capstone class.”

DiLiegro also explained that “students learn how to use skills developed in other classes and be innovative. To have them accept challenges that require higher-level thinking. These students use their own minds and imaginations in addition to the skills they have learned.”

DiLiegro added that students who complete the program and pass the exam receive 12 college credits. “The exam costs $200 compared to what it would cost to pay for those courses at a college.”

One of the 135 students in the program, Jason Narine, said his physics class got him interested in the program and learning how things work. “You have to have a serious mindset for these courses,” he said. “It is really in-depth and you need to be prepared.” Narine, who is attending Drexel University with an interest in their Business Engineering major, said his favorite part of class was when he and the other students worked together to achieve their goals. For example, when they were programming robots or constructing different systems of work.

The program has also added partners like Lockheed Martin to give the students real-world, as well as college, experiences. “When the students get to see impressive people doing amazing things, it gives them someone to strive to be and look up to,” DiLiegro said about the business partnerships.

The program has risen in popularity because of the great success it has had. “Each year we have more students pass the national exam and earn college credit,” DiLiegro said. “We have more kids going into engineering in college. And the success is in what we see. Every day kids come up with ideas as far as designs go and I wonder how they do it. It is really amazing. Every year I learn from them. Every time they show me something I did not know. That is when I know we are headed in the right direction.”

The program’s success has also meant that there are now engineering classes at the school district’s two middles schools. “We are hoping this will mean more students will be ready for us when they get here,” DiLiegro explains. DiLiegro also said they are working with Project Lead The Way to pilot an elementary program as well.

DiLiegro said that they are now trying to get more girls involved. “From a practical standpoint, there is a greater number of women in college and completing college. We need to get more girls in there.” He is also looking to recruit teachers and offer more courses to those interested. “If a student is interested and meets the requirements, we do not turn them away. We will find a spot.”



Blending ELL and CTE Instruction


“Teaching ELLs CTE is really a blended concept,” said Abraham Lincoln High School Principal Donald Anticoli. An inner-city Philadelphia comprehensive high school with career pathway academies, Anticoli oversees a diverse population of 1,600 students, seven percent of them English Language Learners (ELLs). Anticoli, along with ELL Coordinator Anchalee Sybrandy, discussed how to bridge ELL and Career and Technical Education (CTE) instruction to help this special population succeed in the CTE classroom.

Understanding English Language Learners
To understand how CTE can better serve ELL students, it is best to get a brief understanding of how ELL students are classified and assessed.The main way a student’s English competency is assessed is through the WIDA (World Class Instructional Design and Assessment) Access Placement Test. This test, usually given once a year in January to ELL students, assigns a one through five level to a student. Each level or standard is broken down to include four areas of language: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Sybrandy suggests that the WIDA Can Do descriptors based on the assessment can be the basis for CTE instructors to build their lesson plans for ELL students. For example, for a level 1 or entering ELL student, the teacher would want to match visual representations to words and phrases and label content-related diagrams or pictures from the student’s word bank.

How ELL Instruction Works in CTE
“The thing that makes ELL and CTE a good combination,” says Anticoli, “is that when you are teaching vocabulary and terminology to students, it is new to all of them. They are learning the vocabulary of their industry together. It is a very good blend.”
Sybrandy agrees, “In CTE, students see the real subject, the real content, and they can understand the language better. The volume of technical vocabulary in CTE allows you to blend ELL strategies to teach vocabulary in the CTE classroom.”

Sybrandy described that in an English as a Second Language (ESOL) Classroom, there are four English language development strategies that can be used in the CTE classroom as well:
1. Visuals – Using pictures, graphic organizers, etc. to help define the word.
2. Vocabulary – Studying root words, prefixes, and suffixes.
3. Sentence starters – Giving students prompts to help them use the words correctly.
4. Student engagement – Giving them the opportunity to practice and model their developing vocabulary.
Sybrandy urged attendees to not allow students to sit silently in their classrooms. “They need to practice,” she says. “Let another student answer first and then ask the ELL student the same question. Let them model what they are hearing in class.”
With the vocabulary used in a CTE classroom, Sybrandy broke it down into three levels. For example, in the health field, tier one words would be basics like cough, bleed, and fever. The second tier would be words like unconscious or emergency. The third tier would be the most advanced terminology like electrocardiogram and resuscitation.

And Anticoli described the three key ways that CTE instruction in his school blends with the ELL instruction so well:

1. CTE gives students the opportunity to use academic language.
2. CTE encourages students to extend, elaborate, and clarify responses about content area lessons and CTE content elements.
3. CTE helps students negotiate dialogue norms between the teacher and themselves and among classmates and themselves.

Utilizing the CTE classroom as an instructional tool for ELLs and implementing ELL instructional strategies in the CTE classroom has helped students at Abraham Lincoln High School complete career competencies and pass their NOCTI exams. “It is working for us,” says Anticoli. “And our students are learning English at a much higher level.”

For more information on ELL students and CTE please visit
WIDA Can Do Descriptor Examples
11 Tips on Teaching Common Core Critical Vocabulary
8 Strategies for Teaching Academic Language


CTC's Get Creative to Increase Enrollment

PA Enrollment“When a program goes to half time, it is out the door,” said Laura DelVecchio, Director of Student Services at Beaver County Career and Technology Center (BCCTC). “We needed to target the community and benefit the community as well. We need to open up our school to the community.”

BCCTC’s Logistics Material Management Program was struggling with poor enrollment. “It used to be that all you needed was word of mouth to the sending schools to give the program a boost,” says DelVecchio. “But now enrollment is down in those 14 districts as well.”

So DelVecchio and the program’s instructor, Christopher Graham, looked to a different population: adult students. In Beaver County there are a lot of dislocated workers from factory and warehouses closing up shop. BCCTC partnered with The Community College of Beaver County and invited the adult students to come in with the high school students to receive certification and then go on to get degrees with the community college.
“We sat with the adult students and the community college and learned that the adult students need instruction on computer skills, communication skills, and team work, so the community college recruited people in certain areas for their piece,” says DelVecchio. “We also gave our curriculum to the college instructors so they could let us know what we needed to expand to help these students.”

Graham added, “I worked with teachers at the community college and I suggested business math, e-mail, some skills the average person takes for granted but some of the adult students never experienced. We just want them to be more well-rounded in general.”
There are currently seven adults and nine high school students enrolled in the program. “They all work together. It is a nice combination to see how well it works together,” says DelVecchio.

Graham said he is learning day by day how to work with the adult students. He is getting their feedback every day, figuring out where they are and how to include them. “I really think the kids will be able to help the adults and the adults help the kids.”
Graham also discussed how the high school students “feel territorial about the workroom and don’t want outsiders. And the adults were apprehensive at first since it had been a long time since they were in school. I wasn’t sure how it was going to mesh together, but it did on its own. I start to see them interact and ask questions of each other. … The adults have been talking to kids about bad habits with operating machinery safely. They have 20 to 30 years of real-world manufacturing experience”

Right now, the adults are only enrolled for the one year. Graham is compressing the two-year curriculum so the adults can get the program completed. The second-year high school students and the adults will complete the same certification for logistics and forklift at the end of the program.
DelVecchio is optimistic about what bringing in the adult students will do for the program. “When you have a program with low enrollment, you need to bring in the community. Once you bring people in, they are not so ignorant about what goes on at the CTC. Then they might just have a cousin that they will tell to come see us.” Graham said that the adult students have already started telling other workers recently laid off about the program.

DelVecchio is also getting something similar started with The Machine Tool Technology Program that went half-time at the end of last school year. “For this program we have started an advisory committee with area businesses to build the program and help the community as well. What we heard is that there are 70 jobs open. We also heard what these businesses need.”

The advisory committee will meet once a month until it is up and running. Once everything is in place, the committee will present to the school board and get some politicians on board.

For more information on BCCTC and their programs, visit http://www.bcctc.org/.


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