English Language Learners in Massachusetts

English Language Learners are the fastest growing student population in Massachusetts.
While total student enrollment has dropped since 2000, the number of ELL students has almost doubled to over 90,204 students, or 9.5% of the student population. 90% of school districts have at least one ELL student, 19% of districts have 100 or more ELLs.

ELL_Graduation_2014Current ELL education policies are not working.
English Language Learners continue to lag behind their peers in high school graduation rate, college readiness (MassCore completion), and college attendance. The achievement gap persists between ELLs and their peers in performance indicators including MCAS, SAT, and NAEP tests.

Top_Ten_LanguagesOur students’ existing  language skills are being ignored and squandered.
18.5% of Massachusetts students already speak a first language other than English, yet little is done to support or develop this asset in our schools. Only 14 districts (3%) offer dual language programs that allow ELLs and native English speakers to develop bilingualism and biliteracy.

Schools need the flexibility to choose ELL programs based on the educational needs of students, not a state mandate.
Current law mandates one default program type for English Language Learners in Massachusetts:  Sheltered English Immersion (SEI). This “one-size-fits-all” model is not the best choice for all students.

Massachusetts must expand opportunities for ELLs to participate in alternative language acquisition programs.
Currently, only 3% of ELL students participate in bilingual or dual language programs, although dual language programs show high achievement for all students, regardless of race/ethnicity, socio-economic, ELL, or special education status. Students also reap the cognitive and economic benefits associated with developing bilingualism.


  • The LOOK Bill gives schools the flexibility to choose high-quality, research-based programs that meet the needs of English Language Learners (ELLs).
  • The LOOK Bill and the Seal of Biliteracy encourage programs that help all students — both English Language Learners and native English speakers — to build their language skills, a valuable asset in the 21st century global economy.

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