How Massachusetts Passed Legislation for the Seal of Biliteracy
Phyllis, Nicole, and Helen at the ACTFL in November 2016, when Phyllis and Helen won the MaFLAs Friend of Foreign Languages Awards.
In 2002, Massachusetts' voters passed a bill that made bilingual education in Massachusetts obsolete, favoring only English instruction. In recent years, specifically with the passing of Proposition 58 in California, bilingual education has taken off, and more and more schools are starting Dual Language programs every year.
Research proves that the benefits of Dual Language education are infinite, and schools have begun to catch on to this notion. With this knowledge, three women in Massachusetts, namely Phyllis Hardy of the Massachusetts Association for Bilingual Education (MABE), Helen Solorzano of the Massachusetts Educators of English Language Learners (MATSOL) and Nicole Sherf, the Advocacy Coordinator for the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA) would not accept this lag in the Massachusetts education system.
With the odds stacked against them, these three women formed a coalition, which they called the Massachusetts Language Opportunity Coalition, to take on Congress with a new bill, titled the LOOK bill. The LOOK bill would allow educators to teach students in their native language, which would create more dual language schools, and increase the chances of English Language Learners (ELLs) success. We spoke with these three women regarding their journey.
One thing that stood out in our conversations with these three women was their mutual gratitude for the bond they formed through this coalition. The coalition consisted of these three women, backed by their organizations, which allowed them to work as a team to further the chances of the passing of this bill.
"I feel really, really lucky to have found this coalition. It's been such a very interesting process for me as a foreign language educator for the past thirty years to be working so closely with Phyllis and Helen and learning about how to make language learning, a process in schools to look at all the different types of language programs that there are and all the different types of language learners that there are and, work together both on the legislative side and on the seal of bi-literacy pilot side that it really has been such an incredible learning experience and I really think a powerful experience for the people who have participated in our coalition and our pilot as well."- Nicole Sherf
Nicole is a long-time board member of MaFLA, and was a former K- 12 French and Spanish teacher for the
first half of her career. She then earned her doctorate and started working at the college level at Salem State University teaching teachers and has been there for sixteen years, training Spanish teachers as a Secondary Education Coordinator.
Phyllis, Helen and Nicole in front of the Massachusetts State House during their 2015 hearing.
Continue reading to see how these women were able to pass the Look Bill & Seal of Biliteracy…