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RETELL Update, Overview, and Next Steps

To:Superintendents and Charter School Leaders
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:August 27, 2012

Improving teaching and learning of English language learner (ELL) students is fundamental to meeting our goal to close proficiency gaps. Newly adopted regulations require that all core academic teachers of ELLs, and building administrators who supervise such teachers, must earn a Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Teacher or Administrator Endorsement by July 1, 2016. Training for the endorsement is starting this year. The regulations and the required SEI endorsements are a key piece of the initiative called Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners (RETELL), to close proficiency gaps for ELL students.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) has identified nearly 26,000 core academic teachers who are responsible for teaching one or more ELL students and must meet this new requirement. The training will consist of a newly designed and updated research-based SEI course that will replace the Category Training that hundreds of educators have already completed over the past several years. The Department expects to be able to provide prequalified course instructors for approximately 3,000 educators in year one (i.e., the 2012-2013 school year). High ELL incidence and low performance districts will have priority to receive this new training first. To assist in your planning, please find attached a list of school districts and the cohort to which they have been assigned.

In the following sections, you will find additional information, including an overview of the new SEI endorsement and next steps.

Overview of the Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) Endorsement

In June 2012, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted regulations for the SEI endorsement that core academic teachers1 of English language learners (ELLs), and building administrators who supervise such teachers, must earn over the coming four school years. The new requirements are designed to strengthen instruction and better support the academic achievement of ELLs. Our work to address the ELL proficiency gap was accelerated in 2011 when the U.S. Department of Justice notified us that we must mandate professional standards for educators who provide sheltered English instruction to ELL students and must require incumbent SEI teachers to participate in updated SEI training to obtain the essential knowledge and skills needed to provide that instruction.

The centerpiece of the approved regulations is the SEI Teacher Endorsement, the credential that documents a teacher's preparation to provide subject matter content instruction in English to students who are learning English. The new regulations require that all core academic teachers responsible for the education of one or more ELLs hold an SEI Teacher Endorsement by July 1, 2016. In addition, the SEI Administrator Endorsement establishes that a principal, assistant principal, or supervisor/director is trained to supervise or evaluate core academic teachers who provide SEI. The building administrators will be required to have their SEI Administrator Endorsement by July 1, 2016.

There are four options for incumbent SEI teachers and administrators to qualify for the endorsement:

  • Successfully complete a Department-approved course of study;
  • Pass a Department-approved test;
  • Hold a bachelor's degree in a major approved by the Department (e.g., applied linguistics) or have other graduate level training approved by the Department that embodies the required standards; or
  • Hold an English as a Second Language or English Language Learners educator license.

To obtain the SEI Teacher Endorsement, most incumbent core academic teachers will be required to take and pass a newly developed SEI endorsement course between January 15, 2013 and July 1, 2016. The course is equivalent to a 3-credit graduate course and includes 16 sessions, 6 of which are online, for a total of 45 hours. Teachers will be expected to master subject matter knowledge and related practices grounded in SEI research. The three overarching goals of the SEI endorsement course, listed below, reflect the contributions of stakeholders and experts representing a wide array of perspectives and experiences:

  1. To help teachers understand and embrace their responsibility for the teaching and learning of ELLs as well as to acknowledge the social and cultural issues that affect the schooling of ELLs (Module A).
  2. To expand teachers' knowledge of how language functions and how children and adolescents acquire a second language with an introduction to the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) English language development standards (Module B).
  3. To increase teachers' knowledge of how they can support ELL students' attainment of the Common Core State standards included in the 2011 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy and Mathematics2 (Module C).

The SEI endorsement courses, piloted in the summer and fall of 2012, will be delivered to the first district cohorts by mid-winter of this school year. Teachers who have taken Category Training (all three or at least two of the three relevant categories, 1, 2 or 4) will be able to enroll in an abbreviated version of the SEI endorsement course, which will be available in 2013. Upon successful completion of the SEI endorsement course, participating teachers will receive an SEI Teacher endorsement to their educator license. The SEI Teacher Endorsement also satisfies the SEI Administrator Endorsement requirement.

The Department is developing a new SEI Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure that incumbent educators could take in lieu of completing the SEI endorsement course; a passing score will qualify the educator for the SEI Teacher Endorsement or the SEI Administrator Endorsement. It takes 18+ months to develop a new MTEL exam; hence, the Department is evaluating existing SEI tests used in other states that could be used for this purpose. We will provide an update regarding SEI testing options this fall, 2012.

For aspiring educators, the regulations require applicants for an initial license as a core academic teacher or principal/assistant principal or supervisor/director to meet requirements for the SEI Teacher and SEI Administrator Endorsement, respectively, as of July 1, 2014. As of June 1, 2013, approved educator preparation programs must align their programs with the new knowledge and professional practice standards.

Next Steps

Using educator (EPIMS), student (SIMS), and Spring 2011 course scheduling data provided by districts, the Department identified approximately 26,000 core academic teachers who were responsible for teaching one or more ELLs. We are using these data to identify the number of such teachers in each district who must qualify for the SEI Teacher Endorsement in each of the coming four school years, 2012-13 through 2015-16. The Department refers to the group of educators who must qualify for the endorsement in each school year as a "cohort." Districts with high and moderate incidence of ELLs will assign these educators and the administrators who supervise and evaluate them to cohorts in a year period, either years 1 through 3, or 2 through 4. Low incidence districts will assign educators to cohorts in years 3 and 4.

The Department has organized districts into the following groups based upon Spring 2011 data:

  • High incidence (>200 ELLs) and below state average ELL performance3
  • High incidence and above state average ELL performance
  • Moderate incidence (<200 and >20 ELLs) and below ELL performance
  • Moderate incidence and above state average ELL performance
  • Low incidence (<20 ELLs)
  • No ELLs enrolled in district

Note: An updated version of the cohorts that we distributed in early 2012 is attached; we have listed charter schools in the same group as the community school district where they are located to facilitate discussions about possible interest in coordinating educator enrollments in SEI endorsement course sections. The Department will have capacity to provide prequalified course instructors for approximately 3,000 educators in year one, i.e., beginning mid-winter in the 2012-13 school year.

Districts will be responsible for:
  1. Identifying which core academic teachers and the administrators who supervise and evaluate them are responsible for educating ELLs,
  2. Identifying which of these educators will participate in each cohort assigned to the district,
  3. Identifying which members of a cohort will be assigned to a specific class section of not less than 25 and not more than 30 educators,
  4. Determining the locations and schedule for each course section, and
  5. Transmitting this information to the Department electronically, in a format that will be provided in October 2012.
Department will be responsible for:
  1. Determining the number of core academic teachers that must qualify for the SEI endorsement in each cohort year assigned to each district,
  2. Providing guidance to districts and educator preparation programs related to these new requirements and how to meet them,
  3. Prequalifying SEI endorsement course instructors and matching them with the locations and schedules of course sections determined by districts,
  4. Pursuing funding to pay course instructors throughout the four-year implementation period; funding has already been secured for year one, i.e., the 2012-13 school year,
  5. Establishing data collection and processing systems that will enable
    • systematic creation of course section rosters of enrolled educators
    • course instructors to record which educators successfully complete the SEI Endorsement course
    • the updating of individual educator records in ELAR (the Department's educator licensure system) when requirements have been met to qualify for the SEI Teacher or Administrator Endorsement
    • mailing the SEI Endorsement to the qualifying educator and a roster of qualifying educators to their employer / district
  6. Conducting evaluations of every RETELL component, making improvements where indicated, and sharing what is being learned regarding what is and is not working well, particularly with respect to the affect on the academic success of ELLs.

We will provide detailed, district-specific information via a letter to each district (including charter schools) that will be assigned educator cohorts for year one (2012-13) by mid-September 20124. That letter will include the targeted numbers of educators for the year one cohort and the "Guidelines for Qualifying Educators for the Sheltered English Immersion Teacher or Administrator Endorsement."

Thank you once again for all of the contributions you, your staff, and the professional associations have made to the new SEI requirements and for your continued efforts and support as we work together to implement them. My hope and expectation is that by continuing to work together to make each RETELL component successful, we will see a marked increase in the achievement and academic success of our English language learners.

Att: RETELL Chart for SEI Endorsement District Cohorts

1 Core academic teachers are defined by 603 CMR 7.02 for purposes of sheltered English immersion instruction as early childhood and elementary teachers, teachers of students with moderate disabilities, teachers of students with severe disabilities, and teachers of the following academic subjects: English, reading and language arts, mathematics, science, civics and government, economics, history, and geography.

2 These standards include all Common Core State Standards for ELA and mathematics as well as a limited number of additional standards.

3 For RETELL, "low performance" indicates that that the average MCAS scores of ELLs in a district are below the state average MCAS scores for ELLs.

4 First year districts are listed in the attached chart.

Last Updated: September 13, 2012

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