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ELL Group Urges Enforcement of Mass. Charter Provisions

An ELL advocacy group that had a hand in getting requirements written into Massachusetts law aimed to spur new charter schools to serve English-language learners contends that the requirements are being largely ignored. The Somerville, Mass.-based advocacy group—Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy—is asking members of the state board of education to enforce the new mandates, which require that charter operators set to open new schools show plans to recruit English-language learners and demonstrate they have a track record in serving such students if they operate in a district where ELLs are present. The new schools are expected to serve the same proportion of ELLs as are present in the area in which they are located.

In a Feb. 24 letter, Roger Rice, the executive director of META, asked the members of the state board of education not to follow the recommendation of the state's commissioner of education, Mitchell Chester, to put a stamp of approval on the applications for 17 new charter schools that the commissioner sees fit for approval. Rice asserts that most of those schools have not adhered to the new provisions in Massachusetts law for how charters must meet the needs of ELLs.

The board is scheduled to vote on the 17 charter school applications on Monday.

As Rice sees it, the board has three choices: to ignore the statutory protections for ELL students enacted in January 2010 and approve all of the 17 charter schools, to not approve any of the applications that show "glaring weaknesses" in how the needs of ELLs would be met, or to offer provisional approvals for only one year, with a stipulation that the schools would report progress on addressing concerns raised by META about ELLs.

Rice notes that all of the schools should have to show they've formed a working relationship with at least one expert on ELLs, something that one of the applicants has already done.

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