Massachusetts Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE) Community of Practice
Massachusetts has long received newcomers from many countries. In recent years, the number of English-learning students who enroll in public schools in the Bay State has increased substantially. Thousands of newcomers enter kindergarten through 12th grade in Massachusetts each year, and roughly 2 percent of those students arrive after having experienced a gap in their education. These students are recognized by Massachusetts as needing additional instructional and social-emotional support.
The term "SLIFE" describes Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education who have come to Massachusetts to start a new life. Within bilingual education, SLIFE is a relatively new subfield and, as such, instructional practices, tools, and policies are still nascent in their development.
I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for this CoP. It's been extremely helpful... having a group of experienced and available educators has been wonderful.
- Educator in a rural district in Western Massachusetts
Determining SLIFE status is a nuanced, multi-step process that takes place within districts. Some students identified as SLIFE are unaccompanied, and some arrive with relatives or friends. Per the Massachusetts definition, all must be English learners of at least second- to twelfth-grade age who have a gap in their education of at least two years.
AIR started a Community of Practice (CoP) in 2022 in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Secondary and Elementary Education's Office of Language Acquisition, and it continues to grow and thrive as a professional gathering of educators that serves students identified as being SLIFE. The CoP appears to be one of a kind in the United States, as districts come together to share ideas, resources, and experiences in a non-evaluative, supportive environment both virtually and in-person.
Originally designed for 20 districts, the CoP now serves 40 entities and continues to grow, presenting thousands of students and families, who speak Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Crioulo, French, Mandarin, Pashto, Dari, Ukrainian, and Bengali, among other languages.