Public Comment on the LOOK Act

The public comment period on the LOOK Act is open until May 18. The proposed changes include the proposal requirement for establishing an alternative EL program, EL Parent Advisory Councils, criteria for the Seal of Biliteracy, requirements for the Bilingual Education Endorsement, and SEI Endorsement for Vocational Technical teachers and changes to voc-tech licensure requirements.
We urge all stakeholders to review the proposed regulations and comment!

What’s in the new English Learner education law?

legislation-bannerBill H.4032 An Act relative to language opportunity for our kids (LOOK) passed in the legislature on November 15, and was signed into law by Governor Baker on November 22, 2017. Given the intense interest in the new law we are providing this quick overview to our members.

Note: This is not intended to be a complete or formal legal statutory analysis. Provisions of the law are subject to regulations and guidance created by Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Summary: View summary of the LOOK Bill

You can also read the bill online:

Coalition celebrates a victory for students across Mass.

November 15, 2017

Massachusetts State HouseBOSTON – The Massachusetts Legislature tonight approved the Language Opportunity for Our Kids (LOOK) bill, greatly expanding options for English learners in the Commonwealth’s public schools and creating a new Seal of Biliteracy that will help students compete in the global economy. The bill goes next to the Governor for signature.

English learners are the fastest-growing population in Massachusetts schools, doubling since 2000 to more than 90,000 students, or about 9.5% of total enrollment. Some are immigrants, but 82% of them are U.S. citizens, and they live throughout the state: 90% of school districts have at least one English learner.

For 15 years, Massachusetts schools have been required to teach all these students the same way: in “sheltered English immersion” programs, which provide language support, but teach all the content strictly in English. There are exceptions, but they are very limited, benefiting only a small fraction of students.

Although the goal of this “one size fits all” approach was to benefit all students, it didn’t actually meet the needs of the state’s diverse English learner population. Since 2003, the gap between native speakers and English learners in fourth-grade reading scores has widened, for example, and less than half of English learners scored Proficient or Advanced in tenth-grade English and math MCAS assessments – a high school graduation requirement.

English learners also have the highest dropout rate of any subgroup, 6.6%, three times higher than the rate for all students (1.9%). Only 64% graduate from high school, compared with 87% of all students.

Recognizing these problems, the Massachusetts Language Opportunity Coalition, which brings together education and advocacy groups, worked with legislators to change the law. The result was the LOOK bill, which passed in both chambers of the Legislature last year. However, the House and Senate bills could not be reconciled before the end of the session. New bills introduced this year passed the House in June, by a 152–2 vote, and the Senate in July, unanimously, and were sent to a conference committee.

The resulting bill, passed tonight, allows districts to establish the English learner programs they deem to best meet the needs of their students, which may include the current sheltered English immersion, and/or two-way immersion, transitional bilingual, or other options. All programs must be research-based, drawing on best practices in the field, and include components to teach both subject matter (e.g. math) and English language.

“We are very excited about this change for our students and their families,” said Helen Solorzano, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages (MATSOL). “Teachers have long recognized that many English learners were falling through the cracks under the current system. With the passage of the LOOK bill, we will be able to tailor programs to help all our students succeed academically.”

“On behalf of the entire Coalition, I would like to express our deep appreciation to the Speaker of the House, the Senate President, Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez, Senator Sal DiDomenico, and the Chairs of the Education Committee for their unwavering commitment to this legislation,” Solorzano added.

The bill also empowers parents, requiring districts to inform families of their options and allowing them to request any available English learner program for their child. Any group of 20 or more parents can also request a new program (e.g. dual-language or bilingual transitional education). In addition, districts with more than 100 English learners (or over 5%) will now have an English learner parent advisory council.

To ensure the all students make progress towards English language proficiency, the bill requires the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education to develop benchmarks for language acquisition and guidelines to help districts identify students who are falling behind, as well as a “success template” to assist them.

Finally, the bill establishes a state “Seal of Biliteracy” for students who achieve proficiency in English and an additional language. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia already have such programs. The Seal of Biliteracy can be earned by students of all language backgrounds, as long as they master both English and a second world language. A successful pilot project is now in its third year in Massachusetts.

“One of Massachusetts’ greatest strengths is the rich diversity of our people,” said Eva A. Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “Students in our schools speak over 150 languages and navigate between cultures every day. That is a huge advantage on the global stage, and we need to build on it. Young people deserve to make the most of all their assets.”

The full text of the bill, An Act Relative to Language Opportunity for Our Kids, is available here. For background, see the Coalition’s detailed factsheet on English learners in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Language Opportunity Coalition includes the Massachusetts Association for Bilingual Education (MABE), the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA), the Massachusetts Educators of English Language Learners (MATSOL), and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). To learn more about the Coalition, go to

Origins of the Seal of Biliteracy

Curious about the history and origins of the Seal of Biliteracy? This podcast describes the development of the Seal of Biliteracy in California and how the initiative spread across the country (including Massachusetts).

America the Bilingual Podcast – Episode 15: Sealed con un Beso

Seal-of-Biliteracy-LogoHe was rich, persuasive — and wrong. But Ron Unz succeeded in leading our most populous state down a dark path in the history of language education. Fortunately, his very success planted the seeds of change that are yielding a harvest of good in the nation today. Hear the origin story of the Seal of Biliteracy, which began in California and is now transforming America.

Something new in America: honoring bilingualism

The Seal of Biliteracy is a seal that high school seniors can earn on their diplomas and transcripts after demonstrating written and oral proficiency in English plus another language. In the five years since its creation in California, the Seal of Biliteracy has been adopted by a majority of US states.

The organization behind the innovation is Californians Together. Says Executive Director Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, “This is a not-very-labor-intensive reform movement that has captured the imagination and spread in a way that other education reform initiatives have not.”

Source: America the Bilingual: Episode 15: Sealed con un Beso

Hear the Story: Listen on iTunes by clicking here: America the Bilingual by Steve Leveen on iTunes or on SoundCloud here.

America the Bilingual is a storytelling podcast for people who think bilingualism is good for themselves, for their families, and for their country.  It is part of the Lead with Languages campaign of ACTFL — The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.


Updated Seal of Biliteracy Toolkit

Seal-of-Biliteracy-LogoThe revised Seal of Biliteracy Toolkit is now available for download!

The toolkit was revised and updated with input from schools that participated in the Seal of Biliteracy Pilot Project during the 2016-17 school year. The revised toolkit includes new resources for use in implementing the Seal of Biliteracy:

  • Additional models and examples of rubrics, portfolios and more
  • Updated table to elaborate on testing instruments for levels of award
  • Options for determining Seal award using testing in first years of implementation
  • Expanded FAQ section
  • List of Workgroup participants in the three years of the pilot

Link to download: Seal of Biliteracy Toolkit – Sep 2017 Revision




Webinar: The Seal of Biliteracy in Massachusetts

seal20medallions20final1Please join us for a complimentary Webinar on the Seal of Biliteracy Pilot implementation in Massachusetts (now in its third year). The webinar will discuss the creation of resources and supports for use by school districts, and an update on the legislative status of the state Seal of Biliteracy bill. The webinar is presented by MaFLA, MABE, MATSOL and the Language Opportunity Coalition.

The Seal of Biliteracy is a national movement to document and reward students for attaining biliteracy in two or more languages. Twenty seven states currently have enacted Seal of Biliteracy legislation and we hope MA will be next!

When?  October 10, 2018, from 6PM to 7PM

What?  The webinar will give an introduction of the national Seal of Biliteracy movement; an overview of the implementation in Massachusetts, including all the resources and experience gained from the third year of the pilot; and an update on the legislative status of the state Seal of Biliteracy bill.

How?  Register for Seal of Biliteracy Webinar on Oct 10, 2017 6:00 PM EDT at:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Who?  Anyone who is interested is welcome to join us!

Presented by the Language Opportunity Coalition.