In the Commonwealth today there persists an unconscionable achievement gap in primary and secondary education between our native and non-native English speakers. The number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in Massachusetts’ schools has grown by 67 percent in the past 12 years (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education). This number is increasing and will continue to increase, along with the need for reform.
Under our current system, our ELLs are not enrolled in language-instruction programs that develop their language proficiency to a level that will ensure academic and career success. Consequently, many fall behind and are not prepared for college or careers. Across a breadth of academic indexes, ELLs fare quite poorly as compared to their English-Proficient (EP) counterparts: ELLs are more likely to be enrolled in special-education programs. They are nearly 25 percent less likely to graduate high school and almost 3 times more likely to drop out. When they do graduate high school, they are about 17 percent less likely to move on to higher education (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education). These gross disparities in educational achievement are unacceptable.
Accordingly, we recognize the necessity of reform and urge the adoption of Bill S.225 in the Senate and H.479 in the House of Representatives, otherwise known as “An Act Relative to Enhancing English Opportunities for All Students in the Commonwealth.” This Bill will help to close the achievement gap between native and non-native English speakers in our State by
·Allowing for ELL language instruction program flexibility that encourages districts to consider research-based educational programming that builds on the home languages and cultures of their unique student populations and recognizes their first languages as assets to the students themselves and to the whole community.
·Ensuring ELL program quality and accountability to determine whether school districts are meeting their obligations toward ELLs, including certifying and training all teachers who are in contact with ELLs.
·Encouraging and valuing parental involvement through ELL parent advisory councils.
In light of these hopeful prospects, the jarring inequalities generated by our current system, and the continued and growing presence of ELLs in our education system and community, we, the undersigned, are decidedly in favor of education reform in our Commonwealth, and we hereby declare our support for this Bill and petition you to make it law.