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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Amendments to Regulations for Education of English Learners, Educator Licensure and Preparation Programs, and Recertification (RETELL Initiative)

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
June 15, 2012

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On February 28th, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to release proposed amendments to regulations governing the instruction of English language learners (ELLs), educator licensure and preparation, and recertification, for public comment. At our June 26th meeting, I will ask the Board to approve the final regulations, which are designed to strengthen instruction and better support the academic achievement of ELLs.

These regulations are one essential component of RETELL (Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners), the Department's comprehensive initiative to close the proficiency gap for ELLs. As we discussed at the May Board meeting, RETELL is a multifaceted approach designed to provide ELLs access to effective instruction. In addition to preparation and professional development that will be required of sheltered English instruction educators, RETELL includes such activities as building peer support and coaching for SEI staff, implementing robust standards and assessment, use of school and district accountability tools, data systems to inform instruction, and additional resources for teaching and student support. I have attached a copy of the memo you received at the May meeting, describing the RETELL initiative.

Since February, the Department has engaged in extensive outreach and received many thoughtful comments and recommendations on the proposed regulations through the public comment process. We also have continued discussions with representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Last year, we accelerated our schedule to address the ELL proficiency gap when DOJ notified us that we must mandate professional standards for educators who provide sheltered English instruction (SEI) to ELLs and require incumbent SEI teachers to participate in updated SEI training to obtain the essential knowledge and skills needed to provide that instruction.

The remainder of this memorandum and the supporting documents highlight the proposed final regulations, detail the comments we received, and set out the rationale for revisions.

Overview of the Proposed Final Regulations

A bulleted summary of the proposed final regulations is attached. The centerpiece of the final regulations, as in the amendments proposed in February, is the Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Teacher Endorsement, the credential that evidences a teacher's training to provide subject matter content instruction in English to a student who is learning English. All core academic teachers of ELLs will be required to hold an SEI Teacher Endorsement as of July 1, 2016. Similarly, the Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Administrator Endorsement establishes that a principal, assistant principal, or supervisor/director is trained to supervise or evaluate core academic teachers who provide SEI. These building administrators will be required to have their SEI Administrator Endorsement by July 1, 2016.

Through revisions to regulations governing the Education of English Learners, 603 CMR 14.00, the Department commits to training approximately 26,000 incumbent core academic teachers of ELLs and their building administrators over the next four years (referred to in this memorandum as "cohort training"), starting with educators in districts that have a high incidence of ELLs and low student performance. The cohort training will consist of a newly designed and updated research-based SEI course that the Department will pilot this summer. It will replace the Category Training that the Department also developed and which hundreds of educators have taken over the last several years. (The Department strongly recommended, but did not mandate, Category Training for teachers and districts.) We heard from a significant number of educators during the public comment period asking whether the Department would credit the Category Training under the new requirements. The answer is yes; educators who have taken the Category Training in whole or in part will be credited for that training towards earning the SEI endorsement.

As explained in the next section, we have revised and added new language to each set of regulations to clarify that all SEI teachers and administrators are required to participate in SEI cohort training and earn the SEI endorsement in a timely manner. The school district's obligation to assign properly trained core academic teachers to classrooms with ELLs is likewise clarified.

We have laid the foundation for an SEI- trained educator workforce by requiring approved educator preparation programs, beginning with the 2013-2014 academic year, to offer a Department-approved course of study through which participants will be able to earn the SEI endorsement. The SEI Teacher Endorsement will be required for an initial license as a core academic teacher as of July 1, 2014.

Our framework for strengthening instruction reaches incumbent educators who are not subject to the SEI endorsement requirement, as well as educators who are subject to it. Under the new regulations, as of July 1, 2016, all educators who seek to renew their educator licenses must earn at least 15 Professional Development Points (PDPs) related to SEI or English as a Second Language and at least 15 PDPs related to training in strategies for effective schooling for students with disabilities and instruction of students with diverse learning styles - on the theory that every educator needs basic knowledge to work effectively with these student populations.

We believe these regulations will result in stronger teaching and learning for ELLs. We are committed to monitoring our progress under the revised regulations. Over the next four years we will collect and review workforce data regarding educators with SEI endorsements and ESL licenses, as well as demographic and other ELL student data. Among other things, we will be looking at the trends in ELL enrollment in school districts and how these numbers align with the number of SEI-endorsed educators in the same districts. We will publish the data and use it to determine whether, where, and how the system can be improved to strengthen teaching and learning, including revisiting the regulations if adjustments are needed.

SEI Endorsement and Licensure Requirements - Revisions from Proposed Regulations

The major change from the proposed regulations that went out for public comment relates to the requirements for incumbent core academic teachers. The proposed regulations would have required all core academic teachers and building administrators to hold an SEI Teacher Endorsement and SEI Administrator Endorsement, respectively, in order to advance (for example, initial to professional license), renew or add a new license. The final regulations focus on core academic teachers and building administrators who work with ELL students.

We sharpened the focus in the regulations for two reasons. First, the preparation and training required for educators of ELLs is the goal of this effort. Second, the MTA, AFT-MA and others expressed concern that educators who do not teach ELLs would not have timely access to the new SEI course/training, through which they would earn the SEI endorsement, by the time they have to renew their licenses.

While we received some comments in support of requiring the SEI endorsement for all incumbent core academic teachers, we are convinced that the better policy choice is to focus on the SEI endorsement as a requirement for incumbent core academic teachers who teach ELLs. The approximately 26,000 incumbent core academic educators who provide SEI are in a position to apply the knowledge and skills they acquire from the training immediately and directly to improve instruction for ELLs; the same is not true of teachers who do not currently and may never teach, an ELL in their classroom. Likewise, by training building administrators who actually supervise or evaluate SEI teachers, we can better support the professional development of these teachers. In short, while all incumbent educators are encouraged to earn the SEI endorsement, those who will be required to do so are those who teach ELL students.

In support of this approach, we have refined the language in 603 CMR §14.07 and in 603 CMR §7.15 by revising and adding new language to ensure that all SEI teachers and administrators assigned to cohorts participate in cohort training. For example, newly revised § 7.15 (9)(b)(3) states that no SEI teacher who has been placed in a cohort may renew or advance a license if the teacher fails to complete the training by the time designated for the cohort.

With respect to license renewals generally, in response to concerns expressed concerning the reasonableness of timelines, the effective date of new PDP provisions is moved from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2016, which (except for those designated for 2012-2016 SEI cohort training) aligns with the effective date of the primary requirement that all SEI teachers hold the SEI Teacher Endorsement and all building administrators who supervise or evaluate such teachers hold the SEI Administrator Endorsement.

In addition to minor edits and clarifications, the final regulations also include these revisions:

  • Revision of the definition of "endorsement" to make clear that an endorsement may be issued to an individual who is not licensed under 603 CMR 7.00 but is required by other law or regulation to obtain the endorsement. For example, SEI teachers in charter schools may not be required to hold an educator license, per G.L. c. 71, s. 89, but would be required to earn the SEI endorsement. (603 CMR 7.02; 603 CMR 44.02)
  • Clarification that an educator who holds an English as a Second Language license or an English Language Learners license would qualify for an SEI endorsement. (603 CMR 7.14(1)(a)4)
  • Enclosed with this memo are a three-page summary of the proposed changes to the regulations, a chart summarizing the public comment and our responses, the three sets of regulations being amended (Education of English Learners, Educator Licensure and Preparation Programs, and Recertification), and a motion for adoption of the regulations. Senior Associate Commissioner Bob Bickerton, Associate Commissioner Julia Phelps, Esta Montano, Director of English Language Acquisition and Academic Achievement, and Attorney Dianne Curran of our legal staff will be present at the Board meeting on June 26th to present the regulations and respond to your questions.

Revisions to Regulations Governing the English as a Second Language License

At the June 2012 meeting, I will also ask the Board to vote on revisions to regulations governing the licensure requirements for English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers. These requirements are separate from the requirements that SEI teachers must meet, but are part of our broader RETELL initiative to improve teaching and learning for English language learners. SEI teachers provide subject matter content instruction to ELLs; ESL teachers work with these students specifically on English language development. Our review of the SEI requirements spurred the reconsideration of the ESL licensure regulations to reinforce the work that both SEI and ESL teachers contribute to the education of ELLs. Documents concerning the ESL regulations, which are included in other changes to 603 CMR 7.00, will be forwarded separately.

Conclusion

When we launched RETELL in September 2011, I established three touchstones for this initiative:

  • it must benefit ELL students by strengthening their instructional programs,
  • it must be grounded in sound research on educational practice, and
  • it must be feasible to implement on a large scale.

I believe the final proposed amendments to the regulations and our plan for implementation meet these three criteria. I ask the Board to vote to adopt these regulations so we can move forward through the summer and fall to launch this and other components of the RETELL initiative to improve teaching and learning for ELLs.

Enclosures:

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Attachment 1: English Language Learners: Education Preparation and Training/Professional Development Required for Sheltered English Immersion (RETELL) - May 16, 2012
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Attachment 2: Summary of proposed changes to regulations on Educator Licensure and Preparation Program Approval, Education of English Learners, and Recertification
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Attachment 3: Proposed amendments to 603 CMR 7.00, Educator Licensure and Preparation Program Approval - Clean Version
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Attachment 3: Proposed amendments to 603 CMR 7.00, Educator Licensure and Preparation Program Approval - Tracked Version
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Attachment 4: Proposed amendments to 603 CMR 14.00, Education of English Learners - Clean Version
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Attachment 4: Proposed amendments to 603 CMR 14.00, Education of English Learnersl - Tracked Version
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Attachment 5: Proposed amendments to 603 CMR 44.00, Recertification - Clean Version
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Attachment 5: Proposed amendments to 603 CMR 44.00, Recertification - Tracked Version
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Attachment 6: Analysis of public comments on proposed amendments
  
Attachment 7: Motion


Last Updated: June 22, 2012
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