FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772
House Passes “An Act for Language Opportunity for Our Kids”
Provides school districts across the Commonwealth with flexibility regarding English learner programs
(BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins joined her 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 language learners are the fastest growing student population in the state and we need to do more to support these students,” said Higgins. While academic achievement has improved for other minority populations, significant achievement gaps persist for ELL students. This legislation seeks to remedy that discrepancy.
“Every student has unique needs, and it is our obligation to foster an environment where they are afforded an education tailored to them,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “Massachusetts education system is the best in the nation, and I believe that this legislation will enhance our standing while ensuring that education is indeed, the great equalizer.”
“This bill, at its core, is about allowing districts to exercise the flexibility in programming necessary to best serve their English learner populations – a student group that is not only increasing in numbers but is also very dynamic with a wide range of needs,” said Representative Peisch (D-Wellesley), Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I am grateful to Speaker DeLeo and Chairman Dempsey for their leadership on this critical issue and applaud the House for passing this bill.”
“Every student learns differently and it is impossible for the ELL students of the Commonwealth to succeed with a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Representative Jeffrey Sánchez (D-Jamaica Plain), sponsor of the bill. “Through flexibility and accountability measures, the LOOK bill creates a system where students are equipped with the tools necessary to not only learn English, but succeed academically and positively contribute to our growing economy.”
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.