BOSTON- Senator Sal DiDomenico was recently appointed by Senate President Stan Rosenberg to serve on a six member conference committee charged with working out the differences between the House and Senate versions of An Act for language opportunities for our kids, also known as the LOOK bill. Senator DiDomenico is the lead sponsor of the Senate version of this legislation that updates the existing statute relative to English language education in public schools to encompass the latest and best practices serving English language learners (ELLs) and to recognize the value of bilingualism as a skill essential to improving career and college readiness and competiveness in the global economy.
The Conference Committee recently held its first meeting to begin negotiations on legislation to allow Massachusetts schools more flexibility in teaching English language learners. "We all know that the intent of all the work that we have here is to put our students in a position to match their peers, to move ahead with their peers and succeed at the same rate. However, we are not there yet," said Senator Sal DiDomenico. "We understand that the last 15 years plus, there's been a tremendous gap that has not closed in that time, and I am confident that the bill this conference committee will release will address a lot of these issues and put our kids on a path to success going forward."
For some children, the current Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) model is working. However, for others, moving into an English-only program too soon has proven to stunt academic growth and have major implications on future educational success. This has become a growing problem as the number of ELL students in Massachusetts continues to rise.
While overall graduation rates for students have risen in the past 10 years, the achievement gap between ELL students and their peers has not significantly changed. In 2016, the dropout rate for ELL students was 6.6 percent, the highest rate of any subgroup of students and three times higher than the rate for all students. Additionally, only 64% of ELL students graduated from high school, as compared to 87% of all Massachusetts students.
In an effort to reverse these trends, both the House and Senate versions of the LOOK bill allow for greater flexibility for schools and districts to choose programming that works best for their students’ unique needs. The conference committee plans to meet over the coming weeks to continue their progress in working out the differences between the two pieces of legislation.
Joining Senator DiDomenico on the conference committee are Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain), Senate Chair of the Education Committee, Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), House Chair of the Education Committee, Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth), Representative Frank Moran (D-Lawrence) and Representative Kimberly Ferguson (R-Holden).