New law allows for bilingual teaching in MA public schools - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

New law allows for bilingual teaching in MA public schools

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(Western Mass News photo) (Western Mass News photo)

A new law signed by Governor Charlie Baker will allow public schools in Massachusetts to teach students in their native languages.

It also gives parents more flexibility when choosing how their children learn.

In Holyoke, they're welcoming the news and hoping this gives more resources to a predominantly Hispanic student population.

In Holyoke, English is the second language for about a quarter of the student population.

The district already has some dual language programs in place where teachers can teach math, for example, in both Spanish and English.

But going forward, students can be taught math in just Spanish.

"We had already had plans to increase the amount of bilingual programming. I think this just gives us another layer of support in doing that from the state," said Anna Lugo.  

Anna Lugo, the English Language Education Director told Western Mass News that they haven't received any additional funding right now, but they do expect more money or resources to come.

"What I expect more likely than even funding is the support of the state. What the bill calls for is to have an endorsement for teachers that are teaching in a bilingual program and that will be hugely helpful."

But Lugo said that getting teachers that are fluent in a specific language could be a challenge.

"As we look to expand our bilingual programming, that is by far the most challenging area, because not only do you need to have informal Spanish, but it has to be formalized Spanish, where you can really instruct."

For a school district to consider adding the new bilingual program, at least 20 students in the school must be speaking a different language at home.

Lugo said that it also promotes a "seal of biliteracy," a designation on a diploma.

"We know that's something that they will need for college or career and it's a way for us to provide them an additional credential."

The Massachusetts Teachers Association told Western Mass News that it applauds the new law and said it respects the diversity of learners and their native languages and cultures.

Copyright 2017 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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