FRAMINGHAM -Framingham State Representatives Chris Walsh, Carmine Gentile, and Jack Lewis joined their colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass legislation that will enable districts to implement alternative English language learner (ELL) programs.
Understanding that Massachusetts’ ELL population is incredibly diverse, the proposed change will allow for more flexibility so that districts can tailor programs to better meet the specific needs of their ELL population.
English learners are the fastest growing student population in Massachusetts. While academic achievement has improved for other minority populations, significant achievement gaps persist for ELL students. This legislation seeks to remedy that discrepancy.
“When it comes to education, one size does not fit all and we cannot squeeze different cultures and languages into one bucket.” said Rep. Chris Walsh. “This legislation is a recognition of the fact that standardization does not work in all aspects of education.”
“A 16 year old does not acquire a new language as easily as a 6 year old”, said Rep. Gentile (D-Sudbury), who represents Precinct 3 in Framingham. “This legislation gives local school districts the flexibility to educate children employing their native language, as needed, rather than arbitrarily stopping after one year.”
“This bill will provide greater flexibility to school districts and better serve our communities’ diverse students,” said Rep. Lewis (D-Framingham). “As a parent with a child in one of the few alternative programs currently permitted, I am hopeful that more communities will be able to explore options that put our children first.”
To ensure accountability and effectiveness, the legislation establishes a 17-person commission to review the collection and dissemination of ELL data and make recommendations on improvements. It also enhances existing reporting requirements to ensure ELL students are making academic progress as a result of classroom programming.
In addition, this legislation further supports parental involvement for ELL families, requiring the establishment of English Learner Parent Advisory Councils in districts that serve more than 100 ELL students or in which English learners comprise more than five percent of the student population (whichever is fewer). It also expands the current waiver process to allow a school, on the recommendation of a teacher or guidance counselor, to obtain the waiver for the individual student.
The bill now goes to the Senate.