Last week, the Massachusetts House passed a bill that would eliminate “one size fits all” teaching for English Language Learners ( ELL ). The bill, H. 3736 or “An Act relative to language opportunity for our kids”, was originally filed by Democrat House member, Jeffrey Sánchez, and was reported by the committee on House Ways and Means.
The bill aims to diversify how ELLs are taught in Massachusetts schools. School districts will make plans to evaluate the effectiveness of their ELL programs in areas of English language proficiency and readiness for students to join mainstream classrooms. The bill will also ensure that records are kept for instances in which a parent or guardian requests a waiver to remove a student from or refuse a student’s participation in an ELL program. It also expands a waiver process that was previously in place, that in which parents can remove their children from sheltered English immersion programs. The performance of the ELL children will be monitored to draw conclusions on teaching effectiveness.
The bill will also ensure that documented training will be provided by the district to staff who work with culturally and linguistically diverse student populations.
“There is a huge range of such students that range from young children of highly educated foreign graduate students to older students who are coming in increasingly large numbers from countries where they have little formal education and at the high school level are not literate in their own language. The same program does not work for all of these students,” Education Committee chair, Alice Peisch said on the House floor Wednesday afternoon. “Our rapidly changing demographics and the persistent achievement gaps are clear indicators that the approach has not been effective.”
The bill will also establish English learner parent advisory councils in any school district operating a language acquisition program for ELLs serving more than ELL’s, or where ELL’s are over 5% of the district’s student population. The councils will be composed of volunteer parents or guardians of ELLs and will advise the district on matters pertaining to ELLs. They will also meet with school officials to help design programs for ELLs.
Other matters to diversify how ELLs are taught were passed within the bill, which ban be viewed here.