||What is ACCELA?
The ACCELA Alliance (Access to Critical Content and English Language Acquisition) is a federally-funded professional development partnership between the University of Massachusetts Amherst, three local school districts, and several community organizations in Western Massachusetts (see History).
Under the leadership of Dr. Jerri Willett, a faculty member in the School of Education, ACCELA was established in 2002. The purpose of ACCELA is to support teachers, administrators, community members, teacher educators, researchers, and policymakers in more fully understanding and critically responding to the combined influences of a variety of district, state, and federal school reforms. These reforms include the adoption of state-wide curriculum frameworks, the passage of anti-bilingual education measures, changes in licensure requirements for teachers, mandates for high-stakes testing practices for both students and teachers, and the implementation of No Child Left Behind legislation.
Stakeholders committed to equitable public education are keenly aware of both the positive and negative implications of these collective reforms. This awareness is especially true for educators working in communities experiencing rapid social, economic, and demographic changes. For example, over the last decade the number of linguistically and culturally diverse students attending rural, suburban, and urban schools in Western Massachusetts has increased dramatically. At the same time, English-only mandates and high-stakes testing practices have created a situation in which all teachers are required to teach and test English language learners (ELLs) in a language most are just beginning to use for academic purposes. However, few teachers have been provided with sustained professional development in the area of second language learning, teaching, and assessment in ways that would support them in productively responding to the changing nature of their work. Not surprisingly, following national trends, many students from linguistically and culturally diverse homes are struggling to pass state exams. To counter this trend and take fuller advantage of the opportunities provided by current school reforms, the creators of the ACCELA Alliance are committed to providing data-driven, locally-responsive, and sustained professional development to educators working to support the academic literacies of linguistically and culturally diverse learners in Western Massachusetts. As part of this effort, the ACCELA Alliance has developed TWO professional development programs, one in ESL education, and another in READING. All classes are taught in Springfield or Holyoke by professors from the University of Massachusetts School of Education.