EL (English Learner) Program

The North Adams Public Schools utilizes the research-based sheltered English immersion (SEI) approach to supporting our students who are also 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 parent/guardians of ALL new students. (See instructions and forms below.)

If a student had been exposed to a language other than English in the home (regardless of whether the child speaks that language), he/she will be screened for English language proficiency by one of the district's English as a Second Language(ESL) teachers using the ACCESS assessment developed by the WIDA consortium.

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


The North Adams Public Schools utilizes the research-based sheltered English immersion (SEI) approach to supporting our students who are also 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 usually happens in a setting separate from the regular classroom. Our current ESL curriculum documents are available below. We are currently 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 vary from 45 minutes to more than 2 hours depending on the student’s current level of English proficiency.

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 SEI (Sheltered English Immersion) Endorsement from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to serve ELs. It is the policy of the North Adams Public Schools to assign ELs ONLY to teachers than having earned this endorsement. Teachers are continually engaged in SEI endorsements, certification/re-certification through courses, online trainings, working with local professional development providers and by taking 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 requirement for any student wishing to participate. These include special education and Title I services, honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes at the high school, and all after school programs, including athletics.


Opting Out

If a family DOES NOT wish their child who has been identified as an ELL to receive ESL instruction, the family may “opt-out” by completing the form below and submitting it to the building principal.

However, students who have been “opted out” of ESL instruction STILL are 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 (passing all classes with a C or better, making adequate annual gains on the ACCESS test, and scoring at least proficient on annual MCAS assessment). ELLs who have been “opted out” still participate in the annual ACCESS test of English language development.


If a family believes their child would be better served by an alternative course of educational study (apart from the ESL/SEI program described above), the parents/guardians may apply to the Director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction for a waiver using the form below.

If the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment has denied an application for an ESL Waiver, the parents or guardian can file a written appeal with the Superintendent. The letter of appeal should explain the basis of the appeal with reference to the ESL Waiver procedures and policies of the North Adams Schools and/or the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Superintendent will convene a meeting or the parents/guardians and the relevant educators (including the ESL teacher, building principal, and Administrator of Teaching and Learning) to gather information regarding the case. The Superintendent will issue a final decision regarding the waiver appeal within five days of the meeting.


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 exempted from participation in the English Language Arts portion of the state MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) tests, ELL 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. ELL students may receive some special accommodations on these tests because of their ELL status. The North Adams Public Schools Testing Accommodations for ELLs are described in detail in the file below.

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 ELL students participate in common district assessment, 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 ELL student’s ACCESS score reaches level 5, they may be exited from the ELL program. At the ELL placement meeting in June, grades, state and local test scores are considered, along with the wishes of the parents 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 five years after the students exit the ESL program and contact the parents/guardians if progress is not satisfactory (passing all classes with a C or better and scoring at least proficient on annual state assessments). Students may be reclassified as ELL if necessary. Former ELL students who have exited the program do not participate in the annual ACCESS test of English language development.