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Should Massachusetts Make Education Bilingual?

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Massachusetts lawmakers have voted to end English-only education.

Karla Estrada, the deputy superintendent in charge of support services at Boston Public Schools, is a strong supporter of bilingual education for English Language Learners, so she was paying close attention as the Massachusetts Senate voted unanimously to reverse a 15-year-old voter-approved ballot question that requires English immersion instruction for public school students.

“It allows us to have greater flexibility in the type of programs we can offer our English learners,” she said.

After the 2002 referendum, bilingual education was stopped in most public schools, except for those with waivers, in favor of full English immersion.

But Sen. Sal DiDomenico says the current data shows it was not a success.

“The ELL students are not going to school at the same rate, college at the same rate as their peers, not graduating at the same rate as their peers and the gap keeps widening,” he explained.

Almost 100,000 Massachusetts students are classified as ELL, English language learners — nearly 10 percent of the public school enrollment — and that number is growing.

“Sheltered English immersion sounds great on paper,” DiDomenico said. “And then when you try to implement that in the classroom, every child has diverse needs. And one size does not fit all.”

Estrada says the bill would open doors for many English language learners who would have an opportunity to graduate with a certificate showing competency in two languages.

“You look at the workforce, more and more jobs are expecting our workforce to be bilingual,” she said.


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