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Federal Officials Reach Final Agreement on Services for ELLs in Boston

The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education today announced a new, long-term agreement with Boston's public school system that is meant to provide a permanent fix to violations of the civil rights of the city's English-language learners.

The agreement replaces an interim pact from 2010 that focused on short-term remedies to the school district's services for English-learners, including accurate identification and placement of ELLs. The city has been under scrutiny from federal civil rights officials for nearly a decade for widespread shortcomings in providing appropriate services for students in need of English-language instruction.

One of the main violations centered around the school district's inappropriate determination that many ELLs had "opted out" of receiving language services. There were also schools that were providing no language services at all, simply because the population of ELLs was small.

Boston Superintendent Carol Johnson, the schools chief since 2007, has made overhauling the city's services for ELLs a top priority. According to a press release from the Boston schools, the district is now assessing all students who "may have been incorrectly identified as not requiring ELL services," and will continue to offer and pay for summer and after-school language services to students who missed out on earlier services because they were misidentified as non-ELLs.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Boston must continue to evaluate the effect of the required changes to the ELL program on student achievement.

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