Core Academic Teachers
Defined in regulations as early
childhood and elementary teachers,
teachers of students with moderate
and severe disabilities and teachers
of the following academic subjects
at all grade levels: English, reading or
language arts, mathematics, science,
civics and government, economics,
history, and geography.
By Laura Barrett
S ome local associations with members who are being assigned to a training course in educating English language learners
are dealing with scheduling issues, unanswered
questions and other implementation concerns.
The MTA is encouraging local associations to
bargain over the impact of the new requirement and
is strongly urging the Department of Elementary
and Secondary Education to communicate more
effectively about it with educators and districts.
The Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English
Language Learners — RETELL — initiative is the
DESE’s response to a U.S. Department of Justice
finding that the state has failed to adequately train
teachers in Sheltered English Immersion instruction.
SEI was mandated for most ELL students after the
passage of an initiative petition by voters in 2002
that outlawed most forms of bilingual education.
“We have heard from many teachers that they
agree they need better training in how to teach ELL
students,” said MTA President Paul Toner. “But we
have also heard concerns about how quickly this
is being implemented and how frequently teachers
are being assigned to courses they aren’t available
to take. This is a very time-consuming obligation.
Districts need to make every effort to make it as easy
and convenient as possible for teachers to fulfill the
The RETELL regulations require a subset of
teachers called “core academic teachers” to receive
an SEI endorsement in order to extend, advance
or renew their licenses after 2016. There are six
possible ways to obtain the endorsement.
The primary option — the DESE-approved
course — is being offered free of charge in certain
districts. Teachers who forgo taking the course in the
hope they will pass the SEI MTEL — Massachusetts
Test for Educator Licensure — or obtain the
endorsement by other means must pay for the
alternate route themselves.
The DESE estimates that anywhere from
25,000 to 40,000 teachers are affected by the new
requirement. Given the large number, the department
is providing trainers to districts on a staggered
basis. Affected districts are placed in one of three
“cohorts.” Training for the first cohort begins this
spring, and all training must be done by the end of
the 2015-2016 school year.
When they have met the requirement, affected
teachers will apply for the SEI endorsement via
their ELAR — Educator Licensure and Recruitment
The following are ways that teachers can obtain
n Complete a DESE-approved SEI endorsement
course. This course will be offered at no cost to
members who take it during their district’s “cohort”
period. Equivalent to a three-credit graduate course,
this training involves 45 hours of instruction and
is worth 67.5 professional development points.
According to DESE guidance, districts must consult
with teachers before assigning them to a specific
course schedule. If teachers cannot take the course
during the assigned period, they should seek a
change of schedule from their administrators. If the
district refuses to accommodate them, they should
seek help from their local associations.
n Have an ESL or ELL license.
n Have completed approved prior training.
Completion of undergraduate- or graduate-level
training in applied linguistics, teaching ESL or other
related subjects, if approved by the DESE.
n Complete certain category trainings plus
an abridged SEI course. Completion of a DESE-
developed “bridge” SEI endorsement course for
those who have taken two or three of the following
category trainings: 1, 2 and 4. The DESE has said
the course will be available in the fall of 2013. It
has informed districts that members eligible for this
“bridge” course do not have to take the full SEI
n Complete an educator preparation
program. The regulations require approved educator
programs to include SEI instruction for students who
will complete the program for an Initial License after
July 1, 2014.
n Pass a DESE-approved assessment. The
DESE intends to offer an SEI MTEL beginning early
in 2014. Earning a passing score will qualify teachers
for the endorsement. Meanwhile, teachers who have
received an SEI or ESL endorsement in another state
may also qualify, but must seek approval from the
Questions remain about what training will be
available for teachers who can’t take the course at
the time it is offered in their districts. There are also
unanswered questions about how the mandate applies
to core academic teachers in districts that have low
numbers of ELL students and who therefore are not
assigned to a cohort. For example, it is unclear what
sanctions, if any, the state or districts will seek to
impose on teachers who have never been offered the
SEI course if an ELL student is assigned to them in
The MTA is continuing to press the DESE for
answers to these and other questions while at the
same time assisting local associations in bargaining
over the impact of the new regulations as they are
More information is available from the MTA
at www.massteacher.org/ell, the Department
of Elementary and Secondary Education at
www.doe.mass.edu/retell/, your local association
and your district administration.
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