EL (English Learner) Program

The North Adams Public Schools utilizes the research-based Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) approach to supporting our students who are English Learners (ELs).

Identification of English Learners

As part of the school enrollment process, a qualified district staff member completes the Primary Home Language Survey (PHLS) with the parents/guardians of ALL new students. (See instructions and forms below.)

If a family member or other caregiver is multilingual, staff follows up. If appropriate, the student will be screened for English language proficiency by one of the district's English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers using the WIDA screener, WIDA Kindergarten screener or Pre-IPT Oral assessment.

Based on the results of that screening, the student may or may not be identified as an English learner (EL).

The Instructional Program for English Learners

The North Adams Public Schools utilizes the research-based sheltered English immersion (SEI) approach to supporting our students who are English Learners.

ELs receive both direct instruction in English as a second language (ESL) from one of our ESL teachers, and sheltered content instruction (SCI) delivered by their regular English, math, science, and social studies teachers.

ESL instruction can happen in the classroom or  in a setting separate from the regular classroom. Our current ESL curriculum documents are available below. We are constantly in the process of revising them to both align with the WIDA English Language Development Standards and focus on developing students’ academic language ability in the four core content areas (English language arts, math, science, and social studies.) Instruction is provided in the four domains of reading, writing, listening and speaking. The hours of service per day can vary depending on the student’s current level of English proficiency and other needs. 

Core subject teachers deliver sheltered content instruction (SCI) to students. This means that they provide appropriate supports and accommodations to enable students to access the subject area content at grade level, while they are still learning English. Such supports may include word banks and sentence frames, the support of a peer, visual supports, and alternative forms of tests and assessments that allow ELs to show their mastery of the content given their current level of English proficiency. Teachers also must regularly include specific language development objectives in their lessons to ensure that EL students continue to develop their English skills in the regular classroom.

Core subject teachers need a special Sheltered English Immersion Endorsement from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to serve EL students. Teachers are continually engaged in certification/re-certification courses, online trainings, work with local professional development providers and courses through colleges and universities.

In addition to their participation in the Sheltered English Immersion programs just described, EL students also participate in all other district programs without restriction, if they meet the eligibility requirements that apply to all students. These include special education and Title I services, honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes at the high school, behavioral support programs, and all after school programs, including athletics and summer programs.

Options and Opportunities for Parents/Guardians

Opting Out

If a family does not wish their child who has been identified as an EL to receive ESL instruction, the family may “opt-out” by completing the form below and submitting it to the building principal. Families are notified of this option as soon as a student is identified as EL. 

However, students who have been “opted out” of ESL instruction are still assigned to classrooms of SEI endorsed teachers and will continue to receive sheltered content instruction. An ESL teacher will continue to monitor the student’s performance and contact the parents/guardians if progress is not satisfactory. ELLs who have been “opted out” still participate in the annual ACCESS test of English language development.


Following the LOOK (Language Opportunities for Our Kids) Act of 2018, we no longer offer waivers to the SEI model. At this time, our district’s number of EL students does not support other models of instruction. We continue to use SEI but with additional language support and flexibility. Students and families are encouraged to use and share any language. Bilingual materials are available for enrichment. Also, qualifying students may receive the Seal of Biliteracy upon graduation. 

For any student not making adequate progress (as determined by state benchmark targets) the ESL team will create an English Learning Success Template. The Success Template outlines the steps that the school will take to help students meet their goals and benchmarks. The school will identify areas in which the EL needs improvement and establish personalized goals for the EL to attain English proficiency. Parents/guardians of ELs who do not meet English proficiency benchmarks are invited to provide input into the Success Template. Support is coordinated with the Special Education Department. 

For more information, this article tells the background of ESL instruction in Massachusetts. 


ELL students all participate in the annual state test of progress in their English language development - the ACCESS test – each January. Parents are notified of their child’s participation and receive a report of their child’s ACCESS results, usually in June, when they are released by the state.

After their first year in a U.S. school, when they have been exempted from participation in the English Language Arts portion of the state MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) tests, EL students take the MCAS tests along with all other students in the spring. Tests of English language arts and mathematics are given in grades 3 through 8 and in grade 10. Tests of science are given in grades 5, 8 and once during high school – usually at the end of grade 9. EL students may receive some special accommodations on these tests because of their EL status. The North Adams Public Schools district follows the testing accommodations guidelines provided by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  

In addition, ESL teachers are constantly assessing students’ developing English skills and providing evidence-based ratings of each student’s current language level in reading, writing, listening and speaking three times per year. Progress is shared with parents through report card comments.

When EL students participate in common district assessments, or in teacher-designed assessments, the assessments will be appropriately administered to allow the student to communicate his/her content knowledge, regardless of his/her level of English language proficiency.


When an EL student’s ACCESS score reaches a certain level, determined by the state, they may be exited from the EL program. At the EL placement meeting in June, grades, state and local test scores are considered, and a decision is made. When ACCESS scores reach level 6, the student must be exited from the program. An ESL teacher will continue to monitor the student’s performance for a period of four years after the students exit the ESL program and contact the parents/guardians if progress is not satisfactory. Students may be reclassified as EL if necessary. Former EL students who have exited the program do not participate in the annual ACCESS test of English language development.


As part of the identification process, when the Home Language Survey is administered, families are asked if they require information from the school in another language. This can be all school materials or by request. Interpreters are available for parent-teacher conferences or other meetings. These services are available for families of FEL or never-EL students. Families can opt-out if they wish.