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English Learner Education

Sheltered English Immersion Programs

Massachusetts law defines SEI as "an English language acquisition process for young children in which nearly all classroom instruction is in English but with the curriculum and presentation designed for children who are learning the language. Books and instruction materials are in English and all reading, writing, and subject matter are taught in English. Although teachers may use a minimal amount of the child's native language when necessary, no subject matter shall be taught in any language other than English, and children in this program learn to read and write solely in English."

SEI programs in Massachusetts should comply with the Guidance on Identification, Assessment, Placement, and Reclassification of English Language Learners, and must undergo periodic reviews through the state's ELE Tiered Focused Monitoring System. The same document also contains licensure and endorsement requirements for educators and administrators working in an SEI program. G.L. c. 71A, §2.

Below are some questions and answers regarding SEI programs:

  • What are the SEI program's language goals?

    Proficiency and literacy in English, and content achievement.

  • How often are students' other languages used in an SEI program?

    Students' other languages may be used informally, but not routinely.1

  • When does a student start an SEI program, and how long does it last?

    The SEI program may start at any age or grade, and lasts as long as necessary, until the English language is no longer a barrier for academic engagement and achievement in English-language classrooms and the student is exited from the program.

  • Are ELs integrated with non-ELs?

    ELs and non-ELs are integrated to varying degrees. For example, a newcomer portion of an SEI program may be relatively self-contained for a transitional time, or in another instance, an EL may be with English-proficient peers all day while still receiving support for both access to grade-level content and dedicated English language development. Be careful not to segregate ELs unnecessarily. For more on this, please visit Creating an Inclusive Environment and Avoiding Unnecessary Segregation from the federal EL Tool Kit.

  • What are SEI classrooms?

    In an SEI program, they are content classrooms with at least one EL, where SEI-endorsed, content-licensed educators shelter instruction so that ELs can meaningfully engage with grade-level content, and develop discipline-specific academic language. This type of instruction within the SEI program is called Sheltered Content Instruction (SCI).

  • What is English as a Second Language (ESL)?2 3

    The structure of SEI programs highlights that SCI and content accessibility alone do not provide enough dedicated focus, support, or assistance toward developing the language and literacy instruction ELs need to reach the kind of linguistic complexity demanded by the Curriculum Frameworks. This is especially true of ELs at foundational levels, whose additional language needs are different from those of proficient English speakers.

    ESL offers systematic, explicit, and sustained language instruction in the context of the Frameworks. Thus, the SEI program in Massachusetts includes both language and content as important instructional considerations for planning ESL and SCI. Although each component of the program has a different driving instructional focus, both must incorporate language and content (in different ways, informed by the different levels of expertise and qualifications of corresponding educators, such as expertise in language acquisition or in a particular discipline). As a result, both components of SEI programs in Massachusetts (ESL and SCI) contribute to ELs' academic success despite having different primary purposes.

  • What is the relationship between ESL and SCI?

    Visit our Spotlight on Collaboration and Co-Teaching

    Shared responsibility, expertise, and collaboration lead to EL achievement. To provide an effective and coherent SEI program, content and language educators need common planning time (CPT), regular opportunities to interact in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for shared planning of curriculum, instruction, and assessment for ELs. This type of co-planning and collaboration between content and language is a priority for an SEI program. Educators working in isolation cannot meet all of the challenges involved with giving ELs access to high-quality curricula.

    This is because several educators are often responsible for the different instructional components of the SEI program that addresses ELs' linguistic and academic needs, yet they are collectively responsible for the success and outcomes of the whole, comprehensive instructional program. In order for different teachers-of-record (content or ESL) to effectively, intentionally, and coherently plan instruction for ELs, schools should support systematic and dedicated collaboration and co-planning time. By coordinating and collaborating in planning ESL and content curricula, educators support one another, share unique fields of expertise, and take collective responsibility for EL achievement.4

Professional Development for SEI

1 It is important to note here that research indicates that students' languages and cultures are valuable resources, and that incorporating these resources into classroom instruction provides a rich curriculum and positive, affirming school environment for ELs. WIDA's Guiding Principles of Language Development also state that "Students' academic language development in their native language facilitates their academic language development in English. Conversely, students' academic language development in English informs their academic language development in their native language."

2 For comprehensive guidance on ESL in Massachusetts, please visit the Next Generation ESL Curriculum Resource Guide.

3 Please see G.L. c. 71A, section 2 for the definition of ESL in the LOOK Act.

4 WIDA Essential Actions 14 and 15 (Gottlieb, 2013, pp. 58-66).

Last Updated: November 25, 2020

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