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Bilingual Education Bill Strongly Favored By Holyoke Schools

Massachusetts lawmakers have passed a bill to give schools more flexibility to teach students in their native language.

The legislation would reverse a 2002 ballot measure that said bilingual education must be mostly avoided with students learning English. Immersion became the path forward.

Steven Zrike is the superintendent of the Holyoke Public Schools, where a quarter of students have a first language other than English.

"There's a tremendous amount of research from others states where they have used the primary language much more strategically than Massachusetts has allowed because the law just hasn't allowed a lot of flexibility with the native language," he said.

The Holyoke Schools were taken over by the state in 2015 because of low test scores.

Zrike said he thinks the change in the law could impact the overall performance of the school system.

Governor Charlie Baker hasn't signed the bill, but it passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education, and politics. Working with correspondent Morley Safer, he reported from locations across the United States as well as from India, Costa Rica, Italy, and Iraq.
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