English Learners

  • The Boston Public Schools (BPS) has made high-quality instruction for English Learners a top priority. The BPS provides various choices and services to help these students learn academic English as they study literature, writing, math, science, history/social studies, the arts, physical education, and other subjects. Our vision is to provide a culturally and linguistically responsive education with the supports needed to ensure that all our English learners have equal access to opportunities that promote language acquisition, bilingualism, biliteracy, and lifelong learning.

    Who is an English Learner?

    English learners (ELs) are students who are native speakers of languages other than English, and who are not yet proficient enough in academic English to perform academic classwork in English without language support. About 17,000 students in the BPS (32% of all BPS students) are classified as English learners. 

    How are students placed in EL services?

    The parent/guardian of every child entering BPS for the first time must complete a home language survey at the time of registration. If the survey indicates that the child might qualify for EL services, the district must assess the child’s academic English proficiency in four areas: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Parents and guardians of children who qualify for EL services have the legal right to be informed of the options and benefits of EL services available in a way they can understand (in terms of medium and language) and then choose the option they (parent or guardian) believe best fits their child’s needs. No matter which schools your child is enrolled, s/he has the right to receive services. Parents of English learners also have the right to “opt-out” of EL services for their child and have the child assigned to an English-only, general education classroom.

    What program options are available for English learners in the Boston Public Schools?

    Under state law, all ELs have access to receiving English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction, which is designed to teach English to ELs. All teachers of ELs who teach the core academic subjects (such as math, social studies, and science) must have special training and hold an SEI (Sheltered English Instruction) Endorsement in addition to their teaching license. 

    BPS offers the following programs to support English learners:

    • ESL in General Education or Special Education. In this program, any student with an ELD 1-5 who is assigned to a school without a formal SEI program will receive explicit ESL instruction. For some students who are ELD 4-5, they can also receive ESL integrated into their English/Literacy course.  All students ELD 1-5 in General Education or Special Education programs receive content instruction by a teacher who is SEI endorsed. 
    • Language-Specific Sheltered English Instruction (SEI). In this program, English language development is incorporated throughout the day with strategies to make core academic content instruction more comprehensible to ELs who are ELD 1-3. Instruction is conducted in English, with native language support for students. Students in this classroom speak the same native language and have English Language Development (ELD) Levels 1 to 3. Sheltered instruction is intended to make instruction in grade-level academic content areas more accessible to EL students. BPS has SEI programs in Spanish, Haitian Creole, Cape Verdean Creole, Vietnamese, Chinese, and multilingual settings. 
    • Dual Language Education. In implementing the LOOK Act (2018), BPS seeks to increase more dual-language opportunities such as two-way immersion programs, heritage language programs, and ethnic studies courses in students’ native language. Programs are currently offered in Spanish, Haitian Creole, ASL, Vietnamese, and Cape Verdean Creole. The classroom is made up of both native language and English dominant students. All students learn to read, write, speak, and understand both languages either through core academic content instruction or explicit language instruction, taught by qualified teachers in the two languages. The goal of these programs is for students to become bilingual and bi-literate.
    • High-Intensity Language Training (HILT) for Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE). BPS recommends this program for students ages 8 or older who are newcomers to the United States, who have little or no literacy in their native language, or whose formal schooling was limited or interrupted in their native country.
      • In HILT programs, students receive:
        • Intensive academic English language and literacy development
        • Native language instruction designed to help them learn reading, writing, math, science, and history/social studies, when available
        • Additional classes such as technology, arts, and physical education.
    • In schools without formal EL programs, any student with an ELD 1-5 will receive explicit ESL instruction from a qualified teacher as well as sheltered instruction to make core academic instruction to make grade-level academic content easier to understand. If you would like to decline any of these English Learner programs or services please schedule a time to meet with your child’s school principal who will explain your options and rights. After this meeting, if you would still like to decline services, your request will be formally submitted and approved by the Office of English Learners.

    The new state law called the LOOK Act allows the district flexibility to implement new language programs for English Learner students and affirms the importance of students’ native language. The LOOK Act also allows for the parents of 20 or more students to request that the district implement a specific language instruction program. The district shall respond to this request within 90 school days. Please contact the Office of English Learners for more information about these new options.  

    Learn more here:

Newcomers Assessment & Counseling Center

  • 617-635-1565
    Bolling Building, 2300 Washington St., Roxbury

    Language testing for students registering for Boston Public Schools in grades K2–12 to determine whether they would benefit from English Learner services.  NACC provides the following services to families and students:

    • Testing in the native language and English
    • Education and career counseling
    • Orientation to the Boston Public Schools and city services
    • Information and resources for families

Translation & Interpretation