BUHS sole high school in U.C. Latino pilot program

Ceremony at the White House honoring Octavio Alvarez with Project SOL
Ceremony at the White House honoring Octavio Alvarez with Project SOL

BRAWLEY – BUHS principal, Simon Canales, reported at the last district board meeting that the Project SOL funding with its 4-year run had ended. Now Project SOL 2, a pilot project, is being implemented. BUHS will be the sole high school in the pilot project.

Project SOL (Secondary Online Learning) was a demonstration civil rights project focused on specific school-based interventions and teacher-supported, online curriculum designed to accelerate the content learning of Spanish-dominant secondary school students. BUHS math teacher, Octavio Alvarez, was honored through this program as one of the top 10 exceptional teachers of Latino students. The White House personally honored Alvarez at a presentation last year.

Project Sol 2.0 draws from an older program known as Project Sol, a four-year program in Southern California that used a Mexican curriculum provided by the Colegio de Bachilleres, a college in Mexico,  to help native Spanish speakers learn math and science in secondary school. Project Sol extended into four high schools in Southern California, BUHS being one, and received $1.2 million in grants from the Carnegie Foundation, the Gates Foundation and the Irvine Foundation, Gandara said.

Researchers at UCLA are working with universities in Mexico to develop Project Sol 2.0 the bilingual version of a national K-12 curriculum that will be implemented across 45 states in the coming years. Meanwhile, BUHS is the beginning pilot program.

This is part of an effort by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA to help Spanish-speaking students enroll in college, focusing primarily on the math and sciences, said Patricia Gandara, co-director of the Civil Rights Project and education professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

The Civil Rights Project is working to align the national curriculum with the Mexican curriculum by collaborating with the University of Guadalajara in Mexico, Gandara said.

There are a large number of students moving between the United States and Latin America, which is one of the motivations behind the project, said Orfield, who is also an education professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

The Civil Rights Project ended the first Project Sol implementation in June of last year, and is now focusing its resources on developing Project Sol 2.0.

Alvarez said he thinks standardized bilingual curriculums are helpful for students.

“(Project Sol) provided supplemental material for the Spanish-dominant speaking students in my classes,” said Alvarez. “The students were more active in their learning, such as asking questions and doing test preps at home.” He added that the bilingual curriculum was a beneficial experience for both the students and himself as the teacher and that the interaction between students and teachers becomes more active when everyone understands the material.

Orfield said that in addition to helping students in the classroom, Project Sol 2.0 aims to provide a bilingual curriculum to connect the two regions in terms of education.

“We are making a real education communication between the two regions,” Orfield said. “The border does not separate us as much as people imagine.”