Senator Friedman Votes to Pass Bill to Expand Language Opportunities for Students

BOSTON – Last night, Senator Friedman joined legislative colleagues 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.

“Our current one-size-fits all mandate has become a barrier to educational success for many English language learners in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman (D-Arlington). “The LOOK bill eliminates this mandate and gives parents and teachers greater flexibility to use the most effective educational programs that meet the individual needs of students in our state. We must continue to look for more ways to adapt to the changing needs of our students so that they have the tools they need to succeed in school and in their future careers.”

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 21st century 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’s desk for approval.