ELL Services in Massachusetts

Instructor: Jessica Keys
The ELL (English language learning) population in Massachusetts is a rapidly growing one, containing students of all ages and skill levels. To learn more about the different services Massachusetts offers to its ELL students, check out this article.

ELL in Massachusetts: Curriculum and Programs

Currently, Massachusetts law requires all classes to be taught in English. Therefore, ELL instruction uses a sheltered English immersion (SEI) approach. This means that the course content is modified in a way to be accessible for all learners, while still being taught at grade-level standards.

In the earlier grades, ELL students are placed in the same age-appropriate classes as native speakers and learn English while they learn the same material as their peers (with additional English assistance provided by an ELL teacher within the class, if needed). Students entering the school system in middle school or high school will have the option to attend separate ELL classes in addition to receiving support from ELL instructors in their core subject classes.

Note: Parents and guardians reserve the right to waive a student out of state ELL instruction and services.

SLIFE Program

If a student has experienced significant interruption to their education and has fallen behind their peers, they may participate in Massachusetts' HILT (High-Intensity Literacy Training) for SLIFE (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education) program.

Students receive literacy and core content instruction in their native language. Tutoring services before and after school as well as ELL instruction during the summer might also be available to these students. Upon successful completion of the program, students will be ready to enter a classroom SEI program.

Dual Language Programs

Dual language programs are available in certain districts and schools. These classes are taught in two languages (e.g. English and Spanish) and contain native speakers of both languages. The goal of a dual language program is to ensure that all students reach proficiency in both English and another language, while also providing instruction in the content areas. For example:

  • The Nathaniel Bowditch School (Salem Public Schools) has designed a K-8 bilingual program for English- and Spanish-speaking students.
  • Mattapan Early Elementary School (Boston Public Schools) is piloting a K-1 Haitian Creole/English immersion program for the 2017-2018 school year.

Extracurricular Services

Some school districts offer extracurricular programs for ELL students as well. For example:

  • Somerville Public Schools run many ELL workshops, playgroups and other programs as part of the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative (SFLC).
  • Brockton Public Schools also offer many bilingual events and activities for the entire family, such as family game nights and cultural celebrations.

Other services for ELL students and parents include translators and interpreters, English classes for adults, summer and after-school programs and counselling. Access to these services will vary by district.

Student Assessments

Upon any student's registration in Massachusetts public schools, their parent or guardian will be surveyed on home and family language usage, as well as any languages known by the child. The Home Language Survey (HLS) will help educators determine if more English proficiency screening is needed.

This screening is often conducted via a WIDA ACCESS or APT exam, which measures students' reading, writing, speaking and listening skills and is aligned with the ELL learning standards adopted by the state.

Additional Resources for ELL Instructors

Study.com offers a variety of courses to suit your classroom needs!

If you're looking to add a little fun to your lesson plans, our Activities for Teaching English Language Learners is full of sample lesson plans, games, book suggestions, flashcards and more, for young learners to adults.

You can also find instructional strategies and tools for building your students' vocabulary and reading comprehension skills with this course on Teaching Reading to English Language Learners.

Or, check out these Grammar Resources for ELL Students to find video lessons designed to help improve their pronunciation and speaking skills.