By Bob Katzen

Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that gives public school districts the power and flexibility to offer other English Language Learner (ELL) programs in addition to or instead of the current sheltered English immersion program.

The current immersion program, approved by Massachusetts voters on a ballot question in 2002, requires all students, including those not yet fluent in English, to be taught English by being taught all subjects in English and to be placed in English language classrooms.

Supporters say that since the year 2000, the number of ELL students in Massachusetts has doubled to more than 90,000 students or 9.5 percent of the entire student population. They argue that schools need the flexibility to implement a program that will fit the needs of their students rather than the “one size fits all” current law.

They say that the English immersion mandate is not working and noted that these students continue to lag behind their peers in high school graduation rates and going to college.

“While the bill provides districts with new flexibilities, we will ensure programs for English language learners remain rigorous, properly staffed, and regularly evaluated,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said.

“Parents in several communities will have opportunities to participate on local advisory committees and have more direct input into the education of their children.”

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