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Mass. Middle School To Focus on Hispanic Youths

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The Holyoke (Mass.) Public Schools and the private Mount Holyoke College in nearby South Hadley plan this fall to open a magnet middle school dedicated to addressing the problems of Hispanic children and urban youths.

The Holyoke Magnet Middle School will use experimental curricula and teaching methods developed at Mount Holyoke College in working with the school's 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-grade students.

Seventy percent of the district's students are Latino. It has a 24 percent dropout rate and the state's second highest teenage-pregnancy rate, college and district officials said.

Fine arts will be emphasized in all core subjects to enhance teaching and raise the self-esteem of students, said J. Efrain Martinez, director of the district's magnet-school programs.

"We think that one of the best ways to enhance the self-concept is to make sure students are involved in the production of something beautiful," Mr. Martinez said. "Once you have produced something of great beauty, you cannot be convinced that you are not worth a great deal.''

Foundation Grants

The school has received a $400,000 grant from the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, which is directing a $10-million, five-year effort by the Ford Foundation to improve middle-school mathematics for disadvantaged students. (See Education Week, Oct. 25, 1989.)

The foundation's quasar project--an acronym for Quantative Understanding: Amplifying Student Achievement and Reasoning--is expected to announce other grant recipients later this month.

Officials at Mount Holyoke College said that math courses at the magnet school will emphasize problem solving over rote learning.

The school also has received $150,000 in grants from the Jessie R. Cox Charitable Trust and the Merrill Lynch & Company Foundation for teacher training.

The grants are for five years and will not be included in the school's operating budget.

The school plans to admit 126 6th graders in September and grow to an enrollment of about 400 within two years.

Spanish will be the primary language of about 60 percent of the school's students. Those learning a second language--be it English, Spanish, or another--will take increasing numbers of academic courses in that tongue.

Students and teachers at the school will be grouped in teams to ensure that every student is known well by at least one adult. Students will not be separated by achievement level, but instead will be placed in small groups to facilitate cooperative learning, Mount Holyoke College officials said.

College officials also said the school will encourage parental participation and offer parents meaningful roles in school governance.

The college's faculty members will train teachers, and its students will serve as classroom aides.

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