A message from the
Massachusetts Department of
Elementary and Secondary Education

April 30, 2020
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  1. New Resource: Updated Remote Learning Guidance
  2. Did You Know? Free Online Advanced Placement Review Classes
  3. The Buzz: Linguistic Heritage Month

1. New Resource: Updated Remote Learning Guidance

On Friday, April 24, DESE released additional guidance on remote learning that builds on the initial guidance released on March 26 (download), with a deeper focus on two areas:
  • Further defining the recommended elements of a quality remote learning program, including a focus on teaching the content standards important for student success in the next grade level, and
  • Encouraging districts to move all students towards successful engagement in remote learning, with a focus on addressing fundamental needs.
This guidance is designed to both affirm work already underway and provide additional ideas and strategies with an intentional focus on the standards that will be important for students to transition to the next school year. The guidance also brings increased attention to student engagement.
For a look at one teacher's experience with remote learning so far, check out this interview that WCAI did with 2020 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Takeru Nagayoshi, who works at New Bedford High School. In May, Mr. Nagayoshi will host a Twitter chat on remote learning. Stay tuned to @MASchoolsK12 and @TK_Nagaysohi for details.

2. Did You Know? Free Online Advanced Placement Review Classes

Advanced Placement (AP) exams will only be given remotely this year, and the
College Board is offering free, virtual classes for Advanced Placement (AP) students in addition to at-home AP testing. (The exam will only include topics and skills that most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March. Information about what will be covered on this year’s AP Exams is listed on AP Central.) Students and teachers can attend free, live AP review courses, delivered by AP teachers from across the country. These mobile-friendly classes will be recorded and available on demand so teachers and students can access them any time and will focus on reviewing the skills and concepts from the first 75 percent of the course. There will also be some supplementary lessons covering the final 25 percent of the course.
Schools served by the Advanced Placement (AP) STEM and English Program implemented through Mass Insight Education can contact Wesley Chin at for information on additional AP programming support.

3. The Buzz: Linguistic Heritage Month

Before COVID-19 hit, we at DESE were set to celebrate April as Linguistic Heritage Month to:
  1. Recognize and celebrate the diverse linguistic assets of students and educators/education employees,
  2. Dispel stereotypes and stigmas surrounding those who speak languages other than English and those who speak English with an accent, and
  3. Encourage students to certify their linguistic skills with the Massachusetts Seal of Biliteracy.
For an interesting look at how languages shape people’s thinking, consider watching this TedTalk.
The teacher reflection below, from a teacher in a dual-language program in Brockton, was written before schools closed due to the coronavirus. Remote learning resources for English learners are available online at

Teacher Reflection: The Challenges of Bilingual Education
Suzana Blake teaches second grade students in Portuguese as part of a dual language program at the Manthala George, Jr. Global Studies School, which is part of the Brockton Public Schools. This is her second year as a bilingual teacher at the school.
kids working on computers
Second grade students in Suzana Blake’s Portuguese classroom at the George School in Brockton use programs such as “Elefante Letrado” (literate elephant), “Fast Math,” and “Imagine Learning.” (Photo courtesy of Suzana Blake)
Becoming a bilingual educator is the outcome of my lifelong passion for learning, my core virtues, and my beliefs. I know the benefits of dual language education include development of literacy skills in two languages and cultural knowledge, but taking a job as a bilingual teacher in an urban elementary school has made me realize the great commitment required for this journey as a teacher. I have adjusted my own professional practices greatly, from differentiating lessons to how I speak in the classroom, and I have learned to embrace my students’ multicultural backgrounds. Although all my students are learning in Portuguese and English, some students’ first language is neither of those.
My university education gave me the basic support and accreditations necessary to get a job, but my work every day humbles me to continue to study. I have a master’s degree in teaching in Portuguese, but I’m working on a graduate certificate in bilingual education to be a better bilingual educator.
My students are the best part of my career; it is riveting to see their growth week by week. Teaching academic content in a foreign language is, without a doubt, a very efficient way to teach a language, using authentic texts and meaningful context. Children are inclined to learn whatever we present to them, especially when the content is exciting. The challenge is always to create meaningful activities that the students could apply in real-life situations, like using coins to shop for fake fruit and other materials in the classroom. Respecting the “silence period” when students are learning a new language but having trouble producing it is important, but motivating students to participate is essential.
Oral language development is part of the foundation for biliteracy, so my lesson plans include discussions, partner talk, and strategies for classroom interaction. They also include assessments designed to measure how students are learning. I have found that the results are beneficial to not only teachers and administrators, but to students themselves, who want to improve.
I am not alone in my work. I am paired with an English partner teacher who has a different classroom, and we teach two classes, each of which spends half the day with each of us. Our building also includes dual language classrooms in Spanish and French. It takes a knowledgeable and dedicated leadership team working together with passionate and caring bilingual educators and committed parents and students to produce successful results.
For more information on bilingual education, check out the Utah State Board of Education website and the Multistate Association for Bilingual Education, Northeast. Information on dual language education, world languages, and the state Seal of Biliteracy is also available on DESE’s website.
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