FRAMINGHAM – State Representative Chris Walsh (D-Framingham), Representative Carmine Gentile (D-Sudbury), and Representative Jack Lewis (D-Framingham) joined colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass bipartisan legislation that updates the existing statute relative to English language education in the Commonwealth’s public schools.
An Act relative to language opportunity for our kids, also known as the LOOK bill, promotes research-based best practices for programs serving English learners (EL).
This bill will now move to the Governor for his signature
Since the year 2000, the number of EL students in Massachusetts has doubled to more than 90,204 students, or 9.5 percent of the student population.
While statewide graduation rates for students have risen over the past ten years, the achievement gap between EL students and their peers persists.
“As Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, I have learned firsthand about the current challenges that students face throughout the Commonwealth. This bill will close learning gaps by ensuring that English learner programs are high quality, requiring teachers in these programs to be properly trained, certified and endorsed. In addition, it allows the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to provide support for districts such as Framingham, with a large population of Portuguese and Spanish speakers, through establishment of benchmarks, guidelines and templates. Providing a mechanism for districts to offer the English language programs that best fit the needs of their English Learner population is imperative in encouraging all students to succeed,” said Rep. Walsh in a statement.
“One size does not fit all in learning a new language,” said Rep. Gentile, in a press release. “Sixteen year olds cannot learn a new language as quickly as younger, elementary school students. This legislation allows the needed flexibility to best allow all our children to succeed.”
This bill will provide greater flexibility to school districts and better serve our communities’ diverse students. I am hopeful that this legislation will enable more communities to explore options that put children first,” said Rep. Lewis.
This bill expands on the current mandate requiring schools to use Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) as the default English learner program model by giving schools the flexibility to establish programs based on the diverse needs of their students.
Under this legislation, school districts can maintain current SEI programming or choose to implement an alternative instructional program that meets federal and state standards.
This bill supports parental choice and involvement by expanding the role of Parental Advisory Councils and allowing parents the flexibility to choose programs that best meet their child’s needs.
To better identify and assist English learners, this legislation requires greater tracking of academic performance and enhanced review of programs. Furthermore, this legislation directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop additional guidelines and supports for school districts.
Recognizing bilingualism and biliteracy as valuable strengths for students in a 21st century world, this legislation establishes a state Seal of Biliteracy. The seal will be awarded by participating school districts to students who have attained a high level of proficiency in English, and one or more foreign languages.