Summary: This legislation promotes English Language Learner (ELL) program flexibility, while increasing accountability, improving quality instruction, and increasing the role of parents so that all ELLs can become proficient in English and perform at the level of their native English speaking peers.
Why This Matters: The research is clear: the present system for teaching Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students in Massachusetts is horribly ineffective at reaching its goal: helping these students become proficient in English.
LEP students have higher dropout rates than any other group (10.4% for LEP students, compared to 3.6% for non-LEP), and the performance disparity between LEP students and their native English-speaking peers is rising disproportionately.
The present system is the result of a November 2002 voter referendum, spearheaded by California millionaire Ron Unz, which eliminated bilingual education as a means of teaching English and other subjects to LEP students in Massachusetts and made instruction in any language other than English a punishable offense. This initiative passed because of the desire of the electorate to ensure that all children learn English as quickly as possible and the belief that current programs weren’t doing that. However, the initiative’s one-size-fits all model ignored relevant research, and has actually had the opposite effect voters desired – far fewer children are learning English today than in 2002.
Increasing failure rates and dropout rates for LEP students will not only affect students and families, but also will have a negative impact on the economy of the Commonwealth. By updating this law, we have the opportunity to change the lives of tens of thousands students, as well as those who will depend on them in the future.
What this Bill Would Do: This legislation gives school districts the choice of what English language programs to offer and holds them accountable for their implementation and effectiveness. It’s based on legislation previously passed by the Legislature in 2002, the Larkin/Antonioni Bill.
Specifically, it would:
- Strike language in current law that declares that Massachusetts academic instruction should be given only in English and remove language that allows teachers to be sued for using a language other than English to assist students in learning English.
- Strike language in current law that requires that English language learners be taught only in shelter English immersion classes.
- Require that school districts provide at least one English language learners program for all limited English proficient students.
- Provide school districts the flexibility to choose appropriate instruction, including transitional bilingual education, two-way bilingual education, structured English immersion, English as a second language, or other innovative programs.
- Require that school districts with 50 or more LEPs in one language offer at least two full-time English language programs.
- Allow students to remain in ELL programs for up to two years or until they achieve English proficiency. Require that those students who do not become proficient after that time will receive intensive English learning instructions.
- Require that school districts collect data on English language learners and file reports on the programs and curricula that have been implemented to educate them, and the outcomes of these programs.
- Require that parents and guardians be notified of the availability of these programs.
- Regulate the certification of bilingual teachers.
- Place English language learners with English speaking students where possible.
- Regulate establishment of pre-school or summer school programs.
- Direct the Department of Education to establish rules and regulations relative to said provisions.