On Friday, Governor Deval Patrick announced additional funding to support early career education and intensive English Language instruction for students in Gateway Cities as part of the Administration’s Gateway Cities Education Agenda. This funding will further the Patrick Administration’s efforts to close persistent achievement gaps and build a 21st century public education system that prepares all students to succeed in the classroom, the workplace and in life. Holyoke was among the cities awarded a Continuation Grant of $195,000 for English Language Learners Enrichment Academies.

The Gateway Cities Education Agenda, first proposed by Governor Patrick in November 2011, aims to close the persistent achievement gaps that disproportionately affect children living in poverty, students of color, students who are English language learners, and students with disabilities, many of whom are heavily concentrated in the Commonwealth’s 26 Gateway Cities.

Fifth Hampden State Rep. Aaron Vega says: “We are thrilled to be among the recipients of a Continuation Grant Award from the Governor to continue our efforts in supporting our students here in Holyoke. Making sure our English-language learners have the support they need to flourish in school is critical to both their future graduation and also in turn the economic success of Holyoke. Having the continued support of the state demonstrates that our programs are moving in the right direction; it is critical that we can count on this funding to continue and strengthen these programs.”

Friday’s awards, announced at the Parthum Middle School in Lawrence, one of the districts that will receive grant funding, are the second round of competitive grant programs proposed by Governor Patrick and included in the FY13 budget to support early career education and intensive English Language instruction for students in Gateway Cities. The first round of Gateway Cities grant awards is having positive impact in our Gateway Cities. In the Gateway Cities that received English Language Learners Enrichment Academies grants, educators are working with colleges and universities, community-based organizations, and non-profit organizations to operate intensive and accelerated English language instruction to middle and high school students. In these communities, students are significantly enhancing their English language skills, which will prepare them to succeed in college, career, and beyond.

“I am thrilled about the level of engagement in this work as well as the relationships that have been created among K-12 districts, higher education institutions, industry and workforce development partners, and community-based organizations to better serve our students,” said Secretary of Education Matthew Malone. “We need to meet each student where they are and give them the supports they need to be successful.”

The FY2013 budget included $3.5 million to fund grant competitions in the Gateway Cities. In January 2013, the Administration awarded 10 Career Academies planning grants to promote career education and hands-on learning opportunities for high school students, and 12 English Language Learners Enrichment Academies grants to support the establishment of English language enrichment programs for middle and high school students. The FY2014 budget includes $3.5 million for a second year of these grants. The Governor proposed a $4 million investment for these grants in his FY15 budget.

The English language enrichment academies, which include Summer English Language Academies and can also include after-school, Saturday, or April vacation programs, provide middle and high school English language learners in awarded communities with high-intensity learning opportunities. All academies will be geared toward middle and high school students classified as English language learners and will accelerate their acquisition of English language and literacy skills in varied learning environments. These enrichment programs will also be operated by strong local networks that include educators plus school and district educators plus representatives from institutions of higher education and community partners.