UMass and the city of Springfield cement partnership
Last November Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and University of Massachusetts Chancellor Robert C. Holub signed a long term partnership agreement aiming to stimulate the city’s slumping economy.
Along with University funding, a grant from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce totaled a combined $320,000 towards achieving the mission set forth by the city of Springfield and UMass. The partnership will mainly look to boost energy conservation and green fuels production that are available at UMass, but will also contribute much needed support to Springfield’s public school system.
Unemployment stands at 8 percent within the city, but with low proficiency ratings of 28 percent on MCAS scores, the future looks uncertain. Coupled with these low test scores, Springfield public school’s drop-out rate currently stands at 12.3 percent, four times the Massachusetts state average of 3.4 percent. Roughly half of the students attending these schools graduate within a traditional four year period.
Poverty has also had its crippling effect on the community’s education, as most students qualify for free or reduced priced meals.
The goal of the Chief of Grants Management in the school system is to allot federal resources, such as the grant received from the University, to fully educate all students and boost academic achievement.
SEI, or Sheltered English Immersion, is a program required by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and is specially designed for students with limited English. Nearly a quarter of the students enrolled in Springfield’s public schools do not speak English as a first language. Training teachers in one of the four SEI categories is just one of the initiatives of Springfield public schools.
Additionally, resources will be used to increase the number of students who have to attend summer school. Another primary objective is to boost the low proficiency ratings of not only MCAS scores but the Massachusetts English Proficiency Assessment (MEPA) and the oral test (MELA-O) as well.
The partnership between UMass and the Greater Springfield area will also be geared toward nutrition education for low income families, continuing and professional education and youth development.
At the official ceremony held at the Old First Church of downtown Springfield, Paul Kostecki, vice chancellor for research and engagement at UMass reflected on what he hopes the partnership will accomplish.
Kostecki said, “Bringing education to the masses and developing the intellectual capital that we do on campus, to the society.”
Matt Sullivan can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.