21st Century Initiatives and Life Long Learning
As a school Superintendent, I am still learning everyday on the job. I had to learn about the culture and history of Maynard when I first started almost a year ago. I also had to transfer my understanding of Rhode Island state education laws and regulations to Massachusetts state education laws and regulations. As I continue to learn about 21st Century Learning, I will share the information with my School Community through these Superintendent’s Notes. This week I have learned a lot that I am looking forward to sharing it with you.
21st Century Technology Integration
Yesterday, I learned so much more about 21st Century Learning Skills and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). School Committee Member Ken Estabrook and I attended the PAGE Symposium for educational, government and industry leaders. PTC® the product development company located in Needham Heights, Massachusetts hosted this event and the information that I learned was just amazing.
The Keynote Speaker was Dr. Jeff Hoffman, who was a former NASA astronaut and is a current MIT Professor. He shared with us the future of space travel and the potential for commercial space travel within the next decade. The aerospace engineers of the future will not only be working for NASA, there will be a need and a significant growth in the private aerospace industry as well.
There were break out sessions with a focus on STEM through higher education, industry, and government. I attended the workshop with Linda Noonan from the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and learned much more about developing partnerships with industry and their perspectives.
21st Century Global Learning
On Tuesday, Dr. Masterson and I met Dr. Brenda Finn at the Massachusetts International Academy (MIA) in Marlborough, Massachusetts. She introduced me to Allan Guo, the University of Massachusetts China Institute Executive Director. We discussed the programs that they offer their students at the MIA and the China Institute’s desire to expand programs to include host communities. They were interested in the Elementary Foreign Language Immersion Program that we are proposing for next year, and were impressed with our community’s global vision and support. They would like to meet with the School Committee in the near future to see if we would consider a Maynard High School Chinese Cultural Program.
Such a program could exist on several levels. It could include Maynard High School hosting 4 to 8 Chinese students during their senior year. These students may be interested in attending Maynard High School for their senior year as a sort of reverse immersion program that could be beneficial to both them and us. If they are already planning on attending American colleges or universities, it would be good for them to attend our high school and become immersed in the American culture and language. For Maynard, it would help us to develop our 21st Century global learning initiative K-12.
On another level, we talked about further opportunities for the China institute to provide teachers from China to teach a course at Maynard High School in Chinese culture to our students. Again, this would expand our curricular offerings with programs that are unique and special.
We also talked about creating a community program to support the Chinese Students who attend Maynard High School. A host family would spend one weekend a month inviting the Chinese students into their homes and possibly do some sight seeing to include visiting areas of interest in American culture (i.e. the many museums and attractions that New England and Massachusetts has to offer).
The possibilities are endless, and I am excited to be investigating them on behalf of the Maynard Public Schools. I will continue to keep you updated on all of these 21st Century initiatives.
In the article below, it describes initiatives in several states around bilingual education. One benefit of Maynard developing a Spanish Foreign Language Immersion Program that I hadn’t thought of until I read this article is through the potential inclusion of English as a Second Language (ESL) students.
ESL Students often require 3 to 8 years of specialized instruction, until they are fluent in American English, and do not need any additional support in their American education. Those ESL students, who had rigorous schooling in their native language, are the students who become fluent in American English more quickly. A Foreign Language Immersion Program such as the one the School Committee has been considering for Green Meadow Elementary School, could benefit some ESL students who have had rigorous schooling in a Spanish speaking country to become more fluent in American English more quickly.
The Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, Dr. Mitchell Chester, has focused this year on the improvement of ESL programs in an effort to close the achievement gaps in Massachusetts between ESL students and general education students. The article below identifies that bilingual programs can help in closing the achievement gaps for ESL students.
In this Education Week article, Lesli Maxwell reports on the growing popularity of dual-language or two-way bilingual immersion programs. There are now more than 2,000 nationwide, mostly in schools that have similar numbers of native speakers and second-language children. California, Texas, and Utah have been leaders in the movement. “The momentum behind these programs is really amazing,” says Virginia Collier of George Mason University in Virginia. “And we are not talking about a remedial, separate program for English-learners or foreign-language programs just for students with picky parents. These are now mainstream programs where we’re seeing a lot of integration of native speakers of the second language with students who are native English speakers.”
“The goal isn’t to run away from one language or the other,” says Leonides Gomez of the University of Texas-Pan American, “but to really educate the child in both and to use the native language as a resource and an asset. Content is content, and skills are skills. When you learn both in two or more languages, it moves you to a different level of comprehension, capacity, and brain elasticity.”
California, the site of a heated controversy and ballot initiative on bilingual programs in 1998, hosts a significant number of two-way programs. Spanish is the most common second language, followed by Mandarin Chinese and French. Last year, 6,000 graduating seniors earned the state’s “seal of biliteracy” on their high-school transcripts and diplomas, signifying that they had achieved fluency in English and a second language.
Research on two-way programs is less than definitive because most students self-select, but anecdotal evidence is strong, especially on the potential of these programs to close the achievement gap. Among the biggest challenges: finding teachers who are truly bilingual and expert in subject matter.
“‘Dual’ Classes See Growth in Popularity” by Lesli Maxwell in Education Week, Mar. 28, 2012 (Vol. 31, #26, p. 1, 16, 17), available to subscribers only
College information website – The College Board has created Big Future, a website with information on finding the right college, getting admitted, and paying the freight. It’s at https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/