Shawsheen and Nashoba Lead World Language Curriculum Initiative in Massachusetts Vocational Schools

May 13, 2024
World Language instructors pose for a photo at Shawsheen Tech during a professional development session led by Prof. Catherine Ritz from Boston University. Back row (left to right): Elizabeth Cygan (Pathfinder), Kate Sanders and Marcio Sabo (Keefe), Amy St. Arnaud (Nashoba), Prof. Catherine Ritz (Boston University), and Aaron Mendelsohn (Smith). Front Row (l-r): Jacob Goliti-Chase and Nicole Forgione (Essex). Not pictured: Andy McDonie (DESE: OLA) and Dr. Vilma Bibeau (MaFLA President). Courtesy photo

Jacob Goliti-Chase, a Spanish teacher at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School, and Amy St. Arnaud, a Spanish teacher at Nashoba Valley Technical High School, are spearheading an innovative effort to overhaul world language education in Massachusetts vocational schools. 

With the support of the FC 189 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), they have brought together a coalition of six vocational school districts to enhance world language programs and to promote collaboration among teachers.

Aimed at supporting proficiency-based outcomes in Languages Other than English (LOTE): World Language (WL), Heritage Language (HL), Dual Language (DL), and English Language Learner (ELL) programs, this grant has awarded lead grantee Nashoba Valley Technical High School $48,500, as part of a $500,000 state-wide initiative. This is the first year the grant specifically targets vocational-technical schools, with roughly 10 percent of its overall funding allocated to this new focus. Shawsheen Valley Technical High School partners with Nashoba Tech in this innovative program.

Six regional-vocational schools are collaborating to share resources, to align curriculum with the 2021 World Languages Framework, and to take steps to address the shortage of world language teachers in vocational settings: Nashoba Valley Technical High School (Westford), Shawsheen Valley Technical High School (Billerica), Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School (Danvers), Keefe Regional Technical School (Framingham), Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School (Palmer), and Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School (Northampton).

Vocational schools offer students both a traditional high school diploma and a diploma in their chosen career and technical education (CTE) field. This dual focus often limits elective courses, including world languages, leading to smaller language departments and reduced collaboration among language teachers. This initiative seeks to address these challenges by creating a network that facilitates professional development and collaboration among world language educators in similar vocational-technical settings.

This cohort has been meeting regularly since the start of the year. According to Shawsheen Tech, key milestones included two professional development conferences hosted by Shawsheen, featuring Leslie Grahn, a national expert on proficiency-based instructional resourcing, and Education Professor Catherine Ritz from Boston University. 

During these sessions, participants explored effective strategies for aligning vocational world language instruction with national standards, including the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’ (ACTFL) core practices. Participants also engaged in exercises to develop immersive, culturally relevant learning resources for their students.

Shawsheen Tech says, “Early success of this four-month-old initiative has drawn attention from state leadership in world languages.” President of Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA) Dr. Vilma Bibeau attended the March 1 professional development held at Shawsheen, as did Andrew McDonie, World Language Support Specialist in DESE’s Office of Language Acquisition, who said, “This collaborative effort has the potential to transform world language instruction in vocational schools, offering students a brighter future through innovative and culturally relevant education.”

Shawsheen Spanish Instructor Jacob Goliti-Chase collaborates with vocational world language instructors during a professional development session for the FC 189 World Language Grant. Courtesy photo

Shawsheen’s Academic Director Danica Johnston, said. “This grant has allowed Jacob to collaborate with other world language teachers from vocational schools across Massachusetts, resulting in new practices and activities that actively engage our students. This is just the start of further developing Shawsheen’s world language program.”

Encouraged by its initial success, Amy St. Arnaud and Jacob Goliti-Chase intend to reapply for additional grant funding to extend the program into FY25. Their goal for the next phase includes formalizing a knowledge-sharing system and expanding the collaborative network to include more vocational school districts.

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