Where Non-English Speakers Were Left Behind, RETELL Brings Changes

What is RETELL?

RETELL stands for “Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners.”

In 2002, state voters passed a ballot initiative that all but eliminated bilingual education and generally required English-only instruction. From then on, while the Department of Education and Secondary Education (DESE) and school districts had training available for teachers of English Language Learners (ELLs), the training was not mandatory and individual teachers had to opt into taking it.

The RETELL initiative began after the U.S. Department of Justice reported in 2011 that the Commonwealth had violated the civil rights of ELL students.

The Department of Justice investigation revealed there was a serious shortage of qualified teachers and thousands of ELL students without services. This led to an enormous dropout rate for ELL students. In 2004, Boston was ranked among the 35 cities with the highest U.S. dropout rates for ELLs.

The RETELL initiative, implemented by DESE, includes new curriculum standards and assessment, professional development, and licensure requirements for teachers of ELL students and administrators.

What does this mean for teachers?

Core academic teachers, reading teachers, special education teachers, and all administrators who supervise ELL students must receive a Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) endorsement.

That’s a credential documenting that a core academic teacher has met the subject matter and skill requirements necessary to instruct ELLs.

In the SEI course, teachers across subjects are encouraged to teach vocabulary, reading and writing strategies that will enhance ELL students’ understandings.

There are three types of teacher endorsement courses: Full, Long Bridge, and Short Bridge.

Training began in 2013 and will continue through the 2015-16 school year. Beginning July 1, 2016, all core academic teachers who teach ELL students must either hold an SEI endorsement or obtain one with a year.



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What does this mean for administrators?

School administrators who supervise or evaluate teachers of ELL students must earn the SEI Administrator Endorsement. This is achieved through five 3-hour training sessions.

Districts began scheduling district-based training sections of the administrator course in October 2013. Administrators have the same July 1, 2016 deadline to hold an SEI endorsement.


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