What is SEI/ELL?

English Language Learning and Support

 The Boston Public Schools (BPS) has made high quality instruction for English language learners a top priority.  The BPS provides many choices and services to help these students learn English quickly as they study literature, writing, math, science, history/social studies, and the arts.

 Who is an English language learner?

 English language learners (ELLs) are students who do not speak English or whose native language is not English, and who are not yet able to do ordinary schoolwork in English.  These students also may be called “limited English proficient” (LEP).  About 10,000 students in the BPS (17% of all BPS students) are in programs for English language learners.

What is a Sheltered English Instruction classroom?

 With few exceptions, every classroom that has at least one English language learner is a Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) classroom.  Each SEI classroom will have a Highly Qualified Teacher of English Language Learners, which means the teacher has an ELL license or has participated in professional training on teaching ELL students.

 What formal programs does the Boston Public Schools offer for English language learners?

 The BPS has four programs:

  •  Sheltered English Instruction, where nearly all classroom instruction is in English, but it is specially designed for children who are learning English.  Textbooks and materials are all in English.  The teacher may use the students’ native language when necessary.

  • Transitional Bilingual Education, where much of the instruction, textbooks, and teaching materials are in the child’s native language.  The goal is to improve students’ English language skills as quickly as possible.  Waiver required; see below.
  • Two-Way Bilingual programs, where students whose first language is either English or Spanish learn together in both languages. Classes must be about half native English speakers and about half native Spanish speakers.  Three schools offer Two-Way Bilingual programs: Hernandez K-8 (Roxbury), Hurley Elementary (South End), and Sarah Greenwood K-8 (Dorchester).  No waiver required.
  • Native Language Literacy, for eligible students in grade 4 through high school entering the BPS with little or no literacy in their native language because they were not able to go to school in their native country, or because their schooling was interrupted.

 How are students placed in ELL programs?

 Massachusetts law says that children under age 10 who are English language learners must be taught in Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) or Two-Way Bilingual programs.  The law allows a choice of programs for children ages 10 and older.

 All families complete a Home Language Survey when they register their child for school. If the parent says on the survey that the student’s home language is not English, the student must take a short test for English language skills.  The school department uses the test to place the student in the most suitable program.  The test is given at the Family Resource Centers by testers who speak the language of the student. It tests English listening and speaking skills.  Students who change to a different ELL program—such as from an SEI program to a Transitional Bilingual program—may have to transfer to a different school if the program is not available in the school they currently attend.

 Do children under age 10 have any options besides Sheltered English Instruction?

 Yes. Parents may apply for a “waiver” if they think their child would make better progress and learn English more quickly in another program.

 What is the process for getting a waiver for children under age 10?

  1.  The student must be in a Sheltered English Instruction class  for at least 30 days before the parent can apply.
  2. The parent must visit the school to request the waiver.  At that time, the principal gives the parent full information on  ELL    programs.  Information should be in a language the parent understands.
  3. If the principal agrees that the student should have a waiver, the principal must state in writing his or her reasons for recommending the waiver.
  4. Both the principal and the school superintendent must authorize the waiver.

Is there a waiver process for older students?

 Yes. For students ages 10 and older, the law allows waivers from Sheltered English Instruction when the principal and teachers believe that another program would help the student make better academic progress and learn English more quickly. The student does not have to be in an SEI class for 30 days, and the superintendent does not need to approve the waiver request. The principal will give the parent a waiver form to sign.