Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Amherst, Holyoke schools given $300,000 grant to promote and improve bilingual education programs

‘The goal of the program is to reach high levels of academic achievement’
Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

In an attempt to promote bilingual education, the Amherst and Holyoke public school systems were awarded a $300,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to facilitate collaboration on dual language programs.

According to a joint press release from Dr. Stephen Zrike, superintendent of the Holyoke public school system, and Dr. Michael Morris, superintendent of the Amherst public school system, the money awarded will be used to fund a new English/Spanish dual language program in Amherst, first being piloted with the 2019-2020 kindergarten class at Fort River Elementary School.

In Holyoke, the money will be used to further fund and expand its already existing dual language program and create more opportunities for students to earn a Seal of Billiteracy, an award given to students around the country who have attained proficiency in at least two languages.

The dual language program “offers students the opportunity to learn in two languages (English and Spanish) by using a curriculum aligned with the state’s curriculum framework,” according to the release.

The release also notes that, “the goal of the program is to reach high levels of academic achievement, bilingualism and biliteracy in a safe and engaging learning environment that values multiculturalism while preparing students for college and career.”

Alongside the two school districts, colleges in Western Massachusetts are looking to provide education and training to staff of both Amherst and Holyoke schools.

The release also states that The University of Massachusetts and Westfield State University plan to “work with the Districts to offer staff the opportunity to take courses toward a new Bilingual Education Endorsement program that is currently under development.”

Additionally, Greenfield Community College looks to provide entry-level Spanish language classes for Amherst staff at no additional costs and will be offered in Amherst. The International Language Institute plans to offer similar services by providing free Spanish language classes to Holyoke staff.

The funding will also be used in Amherst to obtain curriculum materials and assessment kits, and in Holyoke it will be allocated to expanding the program to more grade levels.

The Holyoke school district’s dual language program is the first in Western Massachusetts. The program’s vision statement reads, “All students in HPS dual language programs will be recognized for having high levels of academic achievement and biliteracy through rigorous standards-based instruction in Spanish and English that enhances student motivation and engagement in their own learning.”

In November of 2017, Massachusetts changed its policy on bilingual education when Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill into law that provided schools with options for bilingual education. According to a Boston Globe article, this ended a previous ballot measure that prevented bilingual education in many public schools.

Gov. Baker claimed the bill provides “school districts with the opportunity to adopt alternative, credible ways to teach English that may be more beneficial for certain students.”

Both Zrike and Morris emphasized their optimism for the dual language programs.

The statement reads, “Amherst and Holyoke District leaders are excited about the dual language programs in their Districts because of their promising outcomes for all students, especially Spanish speaking English Learners.”

Will Mallas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @willmallas.

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    pete mostJan 23, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    Wow take it to these liberal communities to exclude hispanics by putting them in a separate classroom and learning method. I thought … this ended in the 1950s and 1960s with integration?? Why are liberals always trying to bring us backwards although they call it “progress”???

    Hispanics should be be able to learn in integrated classrooms, they are only going to be disadvantaged by being separated. It’s not worked so well as it is for the hispanic community, who is the second poorest behind african-americans and let’s not forget Holyoke, one of the poorest cities not only in Massachusetts, but the United States.

    So sad to see this happening in Massachusetts, hopefully Massachusetts will catch up to the 21st century soon!