English Language Learners
Boston is a city of immigrants. More than 40% of our students speak a language other than English at home. We welcome these students in our schools and offer several programs and services to help them learn English while they also advance in their study of literature, math, science, technology, and social studies. 
With the assistance of an English Language Learners (ELL) Task Force, BPS has revolutionized our approach to supporting ELL students and their families. We have invested more than $10 million to expand ELL services and more than 2,000 students completed a four-week ELL Summer Enrichment Academy. We have identified 5,000 additional students as Limited English Proficient, bringing the total number of ELL students to approximately 17,000.

The reforms are already getting results. In 2013 the ELL graduation rate jumped by seven points. ELL students are showing gains in proficiency rates across all grades in ELA MCAS scores. Third-grade and eighth-grade ELL students have seen double-digit gains in the proficiency rate, and BPS has dramatically improved identification of English-language proficiency for students who had been incorrectly tested in the past. We will continue to help English Language Learners acquire language mastery and fluency. 

The Boston Public Schools is committed to ensuring that all of our students — including those who are not yet fluent in English — receive the best education possible. By law, all school-aged English language learners (ELLs) are eligible for English as a Second Language (ESL) support to help them become fluent English speakers. Programs that serve limited English proficient students must be based on sound educational theory, must be carried out with adequate, qualified staff and materials, and must be effective in helping students learn English. To better meet these requirements and provide an excellent education for all of our students who are learning English, the Office of English Language Learners is making immediate, major improvements to Boston Public Schools programs for English language learners.

How are we strengthening programs for English language learners?
  • We have increased the capacity of programs just for English language learners (ELLs).
  • We are working toward establishing Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) programs in schools that are closer to the communities where students live.
  • We have changed student assignment rules for ELLs. All English language learners are offered SEI programming and guaranteed language development services.
  • We are preparing more teachers to effectively teach our English language learners.
  • We are identifying and purchasing appropriate materials to better serve English language learners.
  • We have opened Newcomers’ Academy to serve newly arrived, high school age English language learners, and expanded language testing and counseling about school choices at the Newcomers Assessment and Counseling Center.
  • We are working to create and maintain a welcoming school climate for English language learners. 
What options are available for English Language Learners?
  • Sheltered English Instruction (SEI). Most English learners will be placed in Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) classes with specially trained teachers. Once students are able to do regular schoolwork in English, they will transfer to English language classrooms.
  • Transitional Bilingual Education. Students who do not benefit from an English-only program may obtain a waiver and receive transitional bilingual education or other language support. If you think your child is not ready for an English-only program, schedule a meeting with the teacher and ask how to apply for a waiver, or call the Office of English Language Learners, 617-635-9435.
  • Dual Language Programs. Five schools— S. Greenwood K-8, Hernández K-8, Hurley K-8, Umana Academy K-8 and Margarita Muñiz High School—offer dual language programs, where qualified students whose first language is either English or Spanish learn all subjects together in both languages.
  • Native Language Literacy. This program is specially designed for students in grade 3 or higher who have had interruptions in their formal education. They receive intensive instruction in native literacy and ESL. These students may need more than four years of high school to graduate.
What is Sheltered English Instruction?
Sheltered English Instruction provides the strongest supports for English language learners. Students identified as English language learners should strongly consider a Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) program.
In all SEI classroom, students study English as a Second Language (ESL) as well as mathematics, science, history/social studies, reading and writing. The courses, books and materials are designed specifically for English language learners to meet state curriculum standards. 
There are two types of SEI language programs:
1. SEI Language-Specific Programs for students whose home language is Spanish, Haitian, Cape Verdean, Chinese or Vietnamese
  • All students in these programs speak the same language.
  • Bilingual/bicultural staff are available to students and their families in these Language-Specific programs.
  • Classes are provided in English as a Second Language (ESL).
  • Courses are specifically designed and delivered for learning content and English based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.
  • Additional instructional materials are used to support the English language and content development of ELLs.
2. SEI Programs for students from various linguistic backgrounds.
  • All students in these programs are from various linguistic backgrounds.
  • Classes are provided in English as a Second Language (ESL).
  • Courses are specifically designed and delivered for learning content and English based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.
  • Additional instructional materials are used to support the English language and content development of ELLs. 
What happens if I don’t choose a program for English language learners for my child?
We believe that a Sheltered English Instruction program is the best option for English language learners to learn English and move successfully into general education (English only) classes when they are ready. ELL students who choose a general education program will still receive English language development services. The Office of English Language Learners will continue to recommend language programming to families of ELLs who do not show progress in general education.
Where can English language learners and their families go for help?

Newcomers Assessment and Counseling Center
(testing and placement) 
Madison Park Complex
55-75 Malcolm X Blvd.
(617) 635-1565
BPS Welcome Centers
(617) 635-8015
(617) 635-9010
(617) 635-8040 
Office of English Language Learners
(617) 635-9435