English Language Acquisition

  • Description
  • Funding History
  • Proposals

English Language Acquisition funds professional development for teachers of English Language Learners (ELL) and school administrators. Professional development under this program is designed to improve academic achievement of ELL students through improved educator practice of Sheltered English Immersion (SEI), the main method of teaching ELL students in Massachusetts. Using SEI means that teachers must adjust their practices to fit the needs of students who are not yet proficient in English. Support for ELL students also includes the teaching of English as a Second Language (ESL) to build language proficiency.

Until 2002, schools could teach subjects like math and science to ELL students in their native languages before transitioning them to English instruction. A ballot initiative that voters approved in 2002 now requires that most ELL students learn content solely through English instruction. This change to Sheltered English Immersion can pose challenges for content teachers who must make their instruction understandable to students with limited English skills.

Professional development funded through the English Language Acquisition program helps educators across the state meet the challenge of effectively serving ELL students. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has focused on training in four categories: ESL teaching and learning, sheltering content instruction, assessing speaking and listening, and reading and writing in the sheltered classroom. DESE has also facilitated workshops that bring together educators across many districts to plan ESL curriculum and instruction. These trainings can also help educators train others in their districts to effectively serve ELL students.

According to a 2010 DESE report, Massachusetts had a critical shortage of licensed English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers. Recent data from DESE suggests there were 85,762 ELL students in Massachusetts schools in FY 2016, up 45 percent, from 59,158 in FY 2010. Additionally, 93 districts have more than 100 ELL students enrolled, up from 59 in FY 2010. Two-thirds of the state’s ELL population attend 15 urban districts including Boston and Gateway Cities that each have over 1000 ELL students.

Updated October 2016

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