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The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 4: English language education

Section 4. English language education

All children in Massachusetts public schools who are not proficient in English shall be taught English. Subject to the exceptions in section 12, children who are English learners shall be educated through sheltered English immersion or an alternative instructional program that meets the requirements of federal and state law, during a temporary transition period not normally intended to exceed the timelines established by the department in benchmarks established pursuant to section 11. Alternative instructional programs shall include, but shall not be limited to transitional bilingual education and dual language education. Programs shall be research-based and include subject matter content and an English language acquisition component. Programs shall be based on best practices in the field and the linguistic and educational needs and the demographic characteristics of English learners in the school district. A school district may join with other school districts to provide an English learner program pursuant to this chapter. Local schools shall be permitted but not required to place in the same classroom English learners of different ages but whose degree of English proficiency is similar. Local schools shall be encouraged to mix together in the same classroom English learners from different native-language groups but with the same degree of English fluency. Once English learners acquire English proficiency and are able to do regular school work in English, they shall no longer be classified as English learners and shall be transferred to English language mainstream classrooms. Foreign language classes for children who already know English, 2–way bilingual programs for students in kindergarten through grade 12 and special education programs for physically or mentally impaired students shall be unaffected.

A district that intends to offer a new sheltered English immersion or alternative instructional English learner program in the next academic year shall submit, not later than January 1 of the current academic year, to the department and the district's parent advisory council, on a form prescribed by the department, a description of: (i) the new instructional program selected; (ii) how the new sheltered English immersion or alternative instructional program meets the needs of the population to be served; (iii) the number and expected qualifications of the program's educators; and (iv) the number, native language and English proficiency levels of students expected to be enrolled in the program. The district shall also submit such description for any English learner programs it currently operates. If the department finds that a proposed or current program fails to meet the requirements of federal or state law, it shall notify the district in writing within 90 days of receiving the description. The notice shall cite the legal requirements with which the program would not comply and include corrective steps that shall be taken to bring the program into compliance and the district shall have 30 days to adopt such steps. A district shall not commence a program that the department has determined does not meet federal standards or the standards in this chapter, unless the district has implemented the corrective steps laid out by the department; provided, however, that in a district whose existing English learner programming is not found to be in compliance, the proposed program may operate for a period of 1 year, with a corrective action plan established to ensure compliance and may continue to operate after that year if the corrective action plan was implemented. Nothing in this section shall prevent the department from conducting an evaluation of a language acquisition program at any time. The district shall submit to the department a list of the program's educators and their qualifications, as well as the number, native language and English proficiency level of the students enrolled in the new English learner program not later than September 1 of the first year of the program. Thereafter, the program shall be subject to the requirements of this chapter.