FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Natalie Higgins, firstname.lastname@example.org, 978-602-3772
November 17, 2017
Legislature Passes Bill to Expand Language Opportunities for Students
BOSTON – Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her 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).
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.
“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.”
“I would like to thank the primary sponsors of the legislation, Chairman Sánchez and Senator DiDomenico, for insisting that we address the needs of the growing English language learner population in the Commonwealth and my fellow conferees for their hard work on reconciling the two versions of the legislation,” said Representative Alice Peisch, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education (D-Wellesley). “The legislation permits districts to choose English Learner programs that best fit the needs of their students, while ensuring those programs will be of the highest quality. This combination of flexibility and high-standards will allow all students to achieve a level of English proficiency so that they can access the academic success for which Massachusetts students are known.”
“The state’s one-size-fits-all approach has failed our English language learners,” said Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “Through flexibility and accountability, the LOOK bill creates a system where students are able to learn English and succeed academically throughout the Commonwealth.”
“I’m pleased that at the conclusion of this conference committee we’ve arrived at a bill that we believe will better serve the English language learners across the Commonwealth,” said Representative Frank Moran (D-Lawrence). “This bill works to rectify a situation that has seen our public schools fall short in educating these particular students. I want to thank my colleagues on this committee for their hard work to find a solution for these students.”
“This is a much needed piece of legislation which will provide our English learners, their families and our schools with options, not a one size fits all approach,” said Representative Kimberly Ferguson (R-Holden). “We often speak of the need for flexibility and local control, and this bill provides that all while keeping much of the framework set forth in Chapter 71A in place.”
“I am proud to stand with my colleagues to give parents and local schools districts more flexibility to help their students be more successful by utilizing the programming most effective for their individual needs,” said Representative Higgins.
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 21stcentury 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.
This bill will now move to the Governor for his signature.