English Language Learners and Assessments

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

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 Bilingual department. If a child speaks a language other than English or multiple languages, including English, then the child’s English proficiency must be assessed at the Family Resource Center before a child is assigned to a school and before a child starts school.

ell.jpgWhat is a language assessment?

During a language assessment, the Language Assessment Coordinator meets with a student to administer the W-APT, which stands for WIDA-ACCESS Placement Test. This assessment is used to determine the academic English language proficiency level of students new to a school or to the U.S. school system, in order to determine appropriate levels and amounts of instructional services. The tester will develop a recommendation for the student’s educational placement that will best support the student’s ability to attain proficiency in the English language. Each student is assessed at their grade level. A language assessment will be scheduled at the time of registration.

Is the registration process different for English Language Learners?

Students requiring the language assessment follow the same registration process as other students; however, school assignments can’t be made until this assessment process has been completed and the Language Assessment Coordinator has developed the plan for a student’s educational placement.

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

A complete application must be submitted to the SRC before a 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 assessment as soon as possible, please understand that sometimes during busy seasons such as the January Kindergarten Lottery and the summer months, assessments may require a several-day wait. Assignments to schools will not take place until the language assessment has been administered. Once 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 language, 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): The Language Assessment Coordinator may recommend that they complete the Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) program prior to enrolling in a mainstream classroom. SEI classrooms feature small teacher-student ratios and teachers with highly specialized training who will work with students to provide all curriculum content while building students’ English proficiency. The goal of the SEI program is to prepare students to be successful when they mainstream to a grade level mainstream classroom.

  • Two-Way Immersion Programs: In these programs, instruction takes place for all curriculum areas in both English and second languages. 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: English Language Learners may also be recommended for a general education classroom, with push-in or pull-out ELL services.

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 guardians to discuss what options are available to provide a student’s educational services and for school 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 bilingual students, contact the Bilingual and English Language Acquisition Department at 617.349.6468.

If what I need assistance in a language other than English? 
The Student Registration Center has two language liaisons who will be able to assist you with school needs:

Diecline Dorvil in Haitian Creole
Office Hours at the SRC: 
Monday: 11AM to 3PM
Wednesday: 9AM to 12PM

Joseph Rivera in Spanish
Office Hours at the FRC: 
Tuesday: 8:30AM to 12:30PM
Thursday: 8:30AM to 12:30PM

For all other languages, the Student Registration Center is able to assist families at our office through a phone interpreter service. 

For further guidance, please contact the Student Registration Center
Hours: Monday - Friday | 8:30AM - 3:30PM
Tel: 617.349.6551 | Fax: 617.349.6552 
Email the SRC

Staff are available to assist you during business hours all year long, except holidays.

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