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Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Language Support Services to ELLs: Boston (MA) Public Schools: (01105001)

OCR Case Number 01-10-5001: On March 23, 2010, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) initiated a joint investigation with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (DOJ), into the Boston Public Schools’ (District) compliance with its obligation to take appropriate action to provide language support services to its English Language Learner (ELL) students.  At the time we initiated our review, based on documents generated by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MADESE) and documentation generated by the District for MADESE’s review, we determined that the District had not taken sufficient action to ensure that all of its eligible ELL students receive adequate language support services.  During spring 2010, in order to obtain further detailed information on the concerns identified in the MADESE documents, OCR and DOJ conducted their own school site visits, meetings with District staff, and documentation review, identifying specific actions necessary to ensure ELL students receive adequate language support services. Specifically, we found that the District had violated Title VI (and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act enforced by the DOJ) by failing to: (1) conduct appropriate English language proficiency assessments for 7,000 students who were previously tested in only two language domains (listening and speaking) but not in reading and writing; (2) serve the language needs of students inappropriately designated as “opt outs;” and (3) provide adequate staffing for ELL programs to students district-wide, including the approximately 8,300 students who had previously been inadequately tested or deemed to have opted out of language support services.  Through extensive negotiations, OCR, DOJ and the District entered into an agreement to remedy the compliance concerns on September 30, 2010.  As part of the settlement, the District has agreed to provide all ELL students with Sheltered English Immersion in their core content classes, such as math, social studies and science; deliver English as a Second Language instruction to all ELL students consistent with state guidance; train and hire a sufficient number of teachers to meet the needs of its ELL population; ensure that special education ELL students are properly assessed and served in light of their unique needs; monitor the academic performance of current and former ELL students; offer compensatory services to the ELL students who were recently identified and formerly misidentified as “opt outs;” and give the parents of those students the information they need to make informed decisions regarding the ELL services their children receive.  When fully implemented, the agreement will resolve the three compliance concerns identified above.  This agreement also acknowledges that OCR and DOJ will immediately begin monitoring the implementation of the agreement, while continuing its comprehensive review of the District’s broader compliance with Title VI and the EEOA.  In this comprehensive review, we are examining, among other things, whether the District has developed a language program that is based on a sound educational theory or a legitimate experimental strategy; whether the District has adopted programs and practices reasonably calculated to implement its program effectively; whether the District has evaluated the effectiveness of its ELL program; whether the District has appropriate procedures for identifying and assessing ELL students who may require a language program; and whether notices about school activities are provided to parents or guardians in a language they can understand.  OCR and DOJ are continuing their investigation through further school site visits, meetings with District staff, and review of current documentation. 
Read the Compliance Agreement download files PDF (149K)

Last Modified: 01/15/2020