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Milford Catholic Elementary to begin Spanish immersion instruction

By Pilot Staff
Posted: 2/22/2013

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MILFORD -- At Milford Catholic Elementary School (MCES) this coming Fall, students will begin learning Spanish, but not in a Spanish class, in core classes like math.

In January, the school was chosen by the Innovation Institute for Catholic Educators, the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education of Boston College, and the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) to participate in the Two-Way Immersion Network for Catholic Schools (TWIN-CS). The program delivers classroom curriculum in two languages, English and a well-represented minority language -- Spanish in the case of the curriculum at MCES.

"We welcome this program that will further the skill set and cultural understanding of our students," said MCES Principal Andrea Tavaska.

In the fall, kindergarten classes will mix native English speaking students with peers who speak Spanish, allowing both groups of students to become bilingual. Enrolled students after that semester will participate in classes in a way that educators hope will encourage students to become bilingual. A press release said the aim of the program is to help students become bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural citizens in an increasingly diverse world.

"This two-way immersion program will enhance the academic quality and student outcomes of Milford Catholic Elementary School students. It is an honor to be an early adopter of this bilingual education model," she said.

TWIN-CS is the first initiative of the Innovation Institute for Catholic Educators, co-sponsored by the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education of Boston College and the NCEA.

"The need for citizens to be bilingual is increasing in demand in the global workplace. Bilingual graduates have an advantage as they apply to college and eventually, professional careers," said Patricia A. Weitzel-O'Neill, executive director of the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education at Boston College.

Through the TWIN-CS program, staff and faculty from MCES will collaborate with school leadership teams of 11 other schools from across the country, accepted into the program. Participating schools will receive continuous support from experienced scholars and practitioners from Boston College, Marquette University, and other institutions across the nation, who will guide the design and implementation of the two-way immersion model best suited for each school community.

"This program not only will teach students the mechanics of two languages, but by blending cultures in the classroom, will foster cultural understanding among the student population at Milford Catholic Elementary School," said Martin Scanlan, assistant professor of education at Marquette University in Milwaukee, and faculty design team member.

Training, related to implementing the program, will begin with online networking this winter. In June, the 12 school leadership teams will come together with a faculty team for a week-long intensive workshop in Boston.

"Scholar-practitioners from across the country will ensure success of the two-way immersion program by providing on site coaching and mentoring for school teams. In addition, schools will form a working network of support and receive help from collaborating colleges and universities through the duration of the program," said Heather Gossart, of NCEA and co-director of the Innovation Institute.

TWIN-CS is the first initiative of the Innovation Institute for Catholic Educators, a program designed to promote and support innovative academic opportunities for PreK-12 Catholic education. The Innovation Institute formed as a partnership of the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College and the NCEA. The partnership is meant to encourage academic models that support successful student outcomes for Catholic schools.

A spokesperson for the elementary school said the initiative will not result in changes to the curriculum at the school.

"It is not going to change the curriculum, only now the curriculum will be instructed in Spanish -- and some parts in English. The children will get their core classes in Spanish, and then the art and music in English. So, social studies, math and science will be in Spanish," Yara Hentz, marketing director at MCES, said.

The initiative aims to prepare students for experiences beyond the classroom according to school officials.