English Language Learners and Assessments

Cambridge welcomes families from all over the world, and our public schools offer our students several program options for developing English language proficiency.

During the school registration process, all families are required to complete a “Home Language Survey” to identify whether a student may benefit from the support and assistance of our Multilingual Learner Education Department. If a child speaks a language other than English or multiple languages, then the child’s English proficiency will be assessed at the Student Registration Center before a child is assigned to a school.

ell.jpgWhat is a language assessment?

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) requires that we assess students for English language proficiency, if there is any language other than English listed on the Home Language Survey.

Based on the responses to the Home Language Survey, we may assess the English proficiency of your child by administering the WIDA Screener, a state-approved assessment for measuring English language proficiency. The score on this assessment will be used to determine if English Language (EL) support is required and what program option is most appropriate for your child’s level of English proficiency.

Is the registration process different for English Language Learners?

Students who are required to take the WIDA Screener for English language proficiency follow the same registration process as other students. The difference is that the school assignment can only be made after the WIDA Screener has been administered and the score has been used to recommend the most appropriate English Learner program for their language proficiency level.

When is the language assessment scheduled and when will my child be tested?

A completed application must be submitted to the SRC before an English language assessment can be scheduled. If the application is completed in person at the office, assessments generally are not available on the same day as you complete the registration. For families who come to Cambridge from out of state or from other countries, please email [email protected] upon your arrival in Cambridge in order to schedule the language assessment after you have submitted a complete application.

While we will always schedule an English language proficiency assessment as soon as possible, please understand that there are busy times that may require a several-day wait. Assignments to schools will not take place until the language assessment has been administered. While school is in session, children will have their assessment within four days of completing their registration. 

Why does my child need to have a language assessment?

The links on the right hand side of this page under “Highlights” explain the legal requirements of all school districts surrounding English language learners. Your child is legally entitled to an education that takes into account their English language proficiency, and we are required to make sure that we have offered appropriate services to all students who need them.

What kinds of educational placements are provided for students?

There are several options for how these services may be provided, as follows:

  • Sheltered English Immersion (SEI): Upon registration, students at English Language proficiency levels 1-2 are recommended for the SEI program. In this program, multilingual learners receive sheltered content area instruction in English from highly qualified teachers. Teachers use curricula and methodologies specifically designed to promote academic English language skills, at the same time that students are learning grade-level content. The goal of the SEI program is to prepare EL students to acquire the academic English language necessary to successfully participate in general education classes.

  • Two-Way Immersion Programs: In these programs, instruction takes place for all curriculum areas in both English and the target language. These programs include Amigos School/Escuela Amigos (Spanish); the Martin Luther King Mandarin Immersion Program, and the Ola Portuguese Program at King Open School. To enroll in a two-way language immersion program, students will be given English and native language assessments to determine their language level in both languages. 

  • ELL Support: Students at English Language proficiency levels 1-4 qualify for English language learner services (ESL). In this model, students receive ESL instruction in a pull-out setting according to Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (DESE) guidelines. Students are taught academic English through a standards-based ESL curriculum according to their language proficiency and grade level.

When will parents and guardians be informed of the Language Assessment Coordinator’s recommendation for the student’s educational placement that will best support the student’s ability to attain proficiency in the English language?

Immediately following the assessment, the Language Assessment Coordinator meets with parents and caregivers to discuss what options are available and the recommendation for English Learner program placement.

We welcome any questions that parents may have and look forward to working with you to meet your child’s learning needs. For more information on Cambridge’s programs for multilingual learners, contact the Department of Multilingual Learner Education at 617.349.6468. 

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