FRAMINGHAM—Education researchers presented Framingham as a model of success at a fiery debate Wednesday over a ballot initiative to end bilingual education in Massachusetts.

Framingham education officials made a detailed presentation of the district’s approach to bilingual education during the debate at Lesley University, in Cambridge, which featured Californian Ron Unz, sponsor of the ballot initiative that would force Massachusetts schools to scrap most of their bilingual programs, and several of Unz’s detractors.

“We should be free to use whatever methods we want to reach the standards set by the state,” Framingham superintendent Mark C. Smith told the audience of about 200 educators and education students.

Nearly one-third of Framing ham’s 8,739 students speak a first language other than English, and about 1,500 of them participate in some variety of bilingual education. On average, Smith said, students spend two years and three months in bilingual programs and score above state averages on MCAS.

Unz argued that bilingual programs have been a colossal failure, and has gathered enough signatures in Massachusetts for his measure to be on the November 2002 ballot.

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