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Mattapan language and GED program loses state funds, state cites poor performance

Posted by Patrick Rosso  June 29, 2012 01:22 PM

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The Mattapan Family Service Center has lost state funding for its Mattapan Adult Education Literacy Partnership, effectively eliminating the neighborhood’s only state-funded program to teach non-native English speakers and help them receive a high school equivalency diploma.

The state notified the service center on Monday, angering center officials who say they have few choices to find a new source of money to keep the program going.

"We never received an explanation about how we scored on our grant application. All I know is that 50% of the score was based on neighborhood need and we certainly met the criteria for that,’’ said Milly Arbaje-Thomas, Director of the Mattapan Family Service Center.

“Our partnership is solid and our students are thriving. This was evidenced at our recent graduation where students spoke of big educational and language gains.’’

Less than a month ago, the program graduated more than 70 adult students from its English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education classes in Mattapan. Because of the lost grant, prospective students will not have a location to learn English or obtain their GED in their neighborhood.

“A couple of weeks ago I was at the graduation and it was wonderful,” said John Drew, president and CEO of ABCD. “Then all of a sudden we go hit. We never thought the Mattapan program would be wiped out.”

The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which funded the program through its Adult Basic Education Grants, announced this week that it had made its choices for grants recipients in Boston. According to ESE, 31 organizations in Boston submitted applications and 22 were funded.

Although the loss in funding is a blow to the neighborhood, which is heavily populated with new immigrants especially of Haitian, Cape Verdean, and Dominican descent, the state said the recipients were chosen based on their performance.

All programs that applied were evaluated and scored based on criteria that includes: attendance, average attended hours, pre and post testing percentage, learner gains, setting and meeting student goals, and Educational Functioning Level completion.

The Mattapan program, according to the state, scored a 60.5.

The lowest score of an ESOL program that was funded was the International Institute of Boston with a score of 63.5.

The highest score obtained by a funded program was by the Catholic Charitable - El Centro with a score of 95.5.

While the Mattapan ABCD did not receive funding, ABCD’s North End and Roslindale programs were funded and had a score of 73, the sixth lowest.

With the loss of the $105,666 grant ABCD’s Mattapan program is dead in the water and will not be opening classes for next year. ESE funding will stop on July 31. The program also, according to ABCD, lost a $50,000 Community Service Block Grant, that was linked to the ESE grant.

A latter from the state said it "will work with you to ensure that students are able to transition to an ESE funded Community Adult Learning Center and to address issues related to the termination of your grant.''

Karleen Porcena, the operations manager for the Mattapan Family Service Center, said the program was successful and a vital component to the neighborhood.

“These programs are tremendously important with the large numbers of Haitian immigrants because of the earthquake,” said Porcena, who said classes were consistently filled and the center will keep searching for funds. “Right now we are doing all we can to fight this but it’s so late in the game that we can’t look for other funding.”

Drew said his group will be appealing the decision. He called the decision “arbitrary” and “unfair”.

“None of these numbers were shared with us,” said Drew. “They will have to explain how the scored was arrived at.”

Drew said there is no doubt that the program was meeting the standards.

“I can’t understand how they can arrive at any score that eliminates a program,” said Drew. “You can hide behind scores but I think the ESE owes a real response to the residents of Mattapan.”

Drew also contends that the loss of the program in the neighborhood will be detrimental to the area and the immigrants who depend on its services.

“To strip a community of a core program like this is outrageous,” said Drew. “These programs are a path to becoming an American. People make attempts to move forward and if they don’t learn English and integrate into society it affects the whole household.”

Of the 22 programs funded that provide ESOL classes, three are located in the adjacent neighborhood of Dorchester and one is located in the adjacent neighborhood of Hyde Park.

The city's Office of New Bostonians' online directory of ESOL classes currently doesn't have any classes listed that are located in Mattapan.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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