Schools Expand Dual Language Instruction to High School

A suburban Chicago school district with a Spanish-English dual language program has proven so popular that it will now be expanded to the high school level.

The Chicago Tribune reports that North Shore District 112 first began its program, which serves native English and Spanish speakers, in 1996. It has grown to 636 students, or 15 percent of the school district’s enrollment.

Students learn about 80 percent of the time in Spanish at the younger grade levels in kindergarten through second grade, and reach half Spanish and half English by about fifth grade.

The district’s Highland Park High School, which is 18 percent Hispanic, will add dual courses in science, social studies, and math in coming years.

Both native English and Spanish speakers see the benefit of the program.

Marco Ayala, a doctor, was born to immigrant parents but never learned Spanish. He wanted his son to be bilingual, however.

“We love seeing him do his homework in Spanish,” he told the Tribune. “Comparing his experience to mine, it’s been night and day.”

“Dual Language Classes Bring the Best of Both Worlds to District 112,” Chicago Tribune.
North Shore School District Dual Language Program

Researchers Examine Dual Language Early Ed Learners

Researchers from the Center for Early Care and Early Education Research – Dual Language Learners at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, recently reviewed many studies to drawn conclusions about English language learners. The center’s research is funded in part by the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Researchers examined children ages zero to five who are learning two languages.

They found that dual language learners are not hurt by being exposed to two languages as they develop. However, their ability in each of the languages will vary based on when they were exposed to each and how often they are able to use the language.

Additionally, the dual language learners are behind other children in phonological skills as infants, but progress during preschool, and then catch up to other children.

Researchers also noted that while the bilingual childrens’ vocabulary in each separate language was smaller than that of children who spoke only one language, when the vocabularies of both languages are combined they become equal. Evidence also suggested that the dual language children began preschool with fewer literacy skills in English than the monolingual children.

Further research has shown that children who learn literacy at home in their first language are more successful in acquiring a second language. They also concluded that successful children are taught by teachers proficient in the child’s first language.

“Problems with DLLs’ development arise when they are not provided sufficient language learning opportunities and support for both languages,” the study says. “When [early childhood education] classrooms place emphasis solely on English development, DLLs’ development in their first language can decline and their abilities in English continue to fall behind those of their English speaking grade level peers.”

Researchers also concluded that bilingual children have many strengths as well, including an ability to focus more while working on nonverbal tasks such as math problems. They also found that bilingual children gain problem solving and memory skills because they must face the challenge of navigating between two languages.

Related Links:

– “Dual Language in Early Education Best for Youngest ELLs, Report Says,” Learning the Language Blog. Education Week.

– “Dual Language Learners: Research Informing Policy” Report, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

– Center for Early Care and Education Research – Dual Language Learners

Catholic Schools Add Dual-Language Classes

While many public schools offer bilingual classes, not much is written about what Catholic schools are doing. Some are beginning to implement programs that reflect their substantial Latino student populations.

The News Tribune reports that Holy Rosary School in Tacoma, Wash., recently launched a new two-way language program known as Academia Juan Diego. The school began with preschool and kindergarten students, and will expand to older grades in the coming years. The students are a mix of native English and native Spanish speakers.

Three days a week students learn in Spanish, and two days in English.  They even pray in both English and Spanish at the beginning of the school day.

“We wanted to serve Hispanic students, and we wanted to increase our ministry and reach out to Hispanic Catholics,” principal Tim Uhl told the newspaper. “This is the future of the church.”

Last fall, St. Mary Star of the Sea School in Connecticut became the first Catholic school in the state to offer dual-language classes in English and Spanish. St. Procopius School in Chicago has had a dual-language program for more than 15 years.

Catholic schools have had an interesting relationship with bilingualism. Many churches now hold Spanish-language masses. When my mother was a child attending Catholic schools in San Antonio as a child, she wasn’t allowed to speak Spanish.

But in the book the Strange Career of BIlingual Education in Texas, 1836-1981, author Carlos Kevin Blanton describes how Catholic schools along the Texas-Mexico border in cities such as Brownsville and El Paso, and historically offered bilingual classes in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

How are Catholic schools instructing limited English proficient students in your area? Do they offer bilingual programs or instruction all in English? What are the outcomes for the children?

Related Links:

– “Tacoma’s Holy Rosary School takes bilingual path.” The News Tribune. 

– “Catholic education about to go bilingual.” The Day (Connecticut). 

– “Improving Bilingual Service Delivery in Catholic Schools Through Two-Way Immersion.” Marquette University (2010). 

– “The Strange Career of Bilingual Education in Texas.” (Excerpt). 

NCLR Spotlights Four Pre-K Programs Successful With Latino Children

The National Council of La Raza has released a new report listing best practices for use by early education programs seeking to improve their services for Hispanic children and English language learners.

The civil rights group profiled four programs from around the country that are making progress and made policy recommendations for replicating those models elsewhere. According to NCLR, the programs highlighted exemplify the key areas of professional development, student assessments, language instruction and family engagement:

  • Youth Development, Inc., of New Mexico.  The program provides Head Start to 1,600 children, of whom about 76 percent are Latino. The organization’s professional development goes beyond federal training requirements by providing ongoing lessons throughout the year on topics such as dual-language instruction. Community college professors also lead sessions. Other supports include mentor-coaches who develop goals with beginning teachers and observe classroom instruction.
  • The Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. The LAMB charter school offers dual-language classes from pre-K through fifth grade. The school has three ways of assessing children: only in their home language; in a language that the children are proficient in, even if it isn’t the home language; or both languages the children know. The school uses formal assessments such as DIBELS and informal assessments including student portfolios and weekly plans.
  • East Coast Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program in southern Florida. This program with 60 sites serves primarily Mexican migrant farm worker families and focuses on providing dual-language instruction. The group developed a curriculum for toddlers and pre-K students that gradually increases the amount of English used. Learning benchmarks are used, classrooms  are labeled in both English and Spanish, and home visits are conducted.
  • The Concilio in Dallas. This group formed in 1981 works closely with the Dallas Independent School District to increase Hispanic parent involvement . The organization operates the Parents Advocating for Student Excellence program at 29 schools and four prekindergarten sites in the district. Past graduates of PASE recruit parents of preschool students to attend a series of 30 meetings during the school year focused around lessons and activities. Parents who participate must complete homework assignments tied to the sessions.

Related Links:

– “Best Practices in Professional Development.” NCLR.

– “Best Practices in Assessments.” NCLR.

– “Best Practices in Language Instruction.” NCLR.

– “Best Practices in Family Engagement.” NCLR.

– “Expanding early education for Latino children imperative, group says.” Early Years blog, Education Week.

Dual-Language Programs Grow in Popularity Nationally

Dual-language immersion programs are continuing to expand in schools across the country, Education Week’s Lesli A. Maxwell reports in a recent story. California, Texas, Utah and North Carolina are just a few of the states with popular programs. Maxwell reports that experts estimate that more than 2,000 programs exist nationwide.

Such programs give equal weight and time to English and Spanish. Instruction in each language is alternated, often by half-day or every other day. The classes can be comprised of all English language learners or “two-way” programs that mix ELLs with children who are fluent in English.

I find the popularity of such programs in California particularly interesting. While California voters approved ending bilingual education programs in 1998 and replacing them with English immersion, many districts are implementing dual-language programs. Because of the California law, parents must give permission for their children to take part in the dual programs. Maxwell interviewed Rosa Molina, the executive director of Two-Way CABE, a group that advocates for dual programs, about the positive impact on students.

“They preserve their primary language or their heritage language, they develop a broader worldview that they take into college and the work world, and they gain huge advantages in their cognitive development that translates into flexibility in their thinking and the ability to successfully tackle really rigorous coursework,” Molina said.

The article also mentions an ongoing research study of “two-way” programs in North Carolina conducted by Virginia Collier and Wayne Thomas. So far, the study has found the gaps between English language learners and white native English speakers in reading and math were smaller when the ELLs were enrolled in two-way programs than when they were enrolled in other programs.

Fundamentally, the two-way programs no longer segregate English language learners from native English-speaking children. And ideally, when those two groups come together they both benefit by helping each other become stronger in the second language.

“We are not talking about a remedial, separate program for English-learners or foreign-language programs just for students with picky parents,” Collier  told Education Week. “These are now mainstream programs where we’re seeing a lot of integration of native speakers of the second language with students who are native English-speakers.”

Dual-language Programs Expanding Rapidly in Texas

Schools that offer dual-language programs rather than traditional transitional bilingual programs are increasing rapidly in Texas. Dianne Solís of The Dallas Morning News reports on the growing phenomenon, which includes suburban districts as well as urban ones.

It isn’t surprising that Texas has seen such dramatic growth. Texas law requires that bilingual programs be offered when 20 or more children who are limited English proficient in a grade level share a language. In 2011, about 17 percent of children enrolled in Texas public schools were classified limited English proficient, most of them native Spanish speakers.

In the past, transitional bilingual programs often operated on a model where children entered school and were taught mostly in Spanish then transitioned over the years into mostly English. Dual programs give equal time to learning Spanish and English, across all grades using the program.

Texas schools using dual programs were highlighted during the recent National Association for Bilingual Education conference in Dallas. The article reports that conference speakers said Texas leads the nation with about 700 schools using dual-language programs.

Particularly popular are “two-way” programs, in which native English and native Spanish speakers are enrolled together.

As the children age, programs are being expanded through middle school and even high school. The paper reports that in the suburban Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, parents of children in one elementary school’s two-way dual program have asked that it be extended. “My opinion: It will only grow as people understand the value of it,” says Bobby Burns, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD superintendent. “By far, it is the right thing to do for students. For Texas, we need to be a bilingual state.”

Read the full story here.

If you are reporting on dual-language programs in your own area, be sure to ask about the exact structure of the program:

  • Is the dual program offered one-way or two-way?
  • How are the languages split–by half day, every other day, or every other week?
  • Is every subject taught in English and Spanish, or are some subjects designated as taught in Spanish only and others in English only?
  • Are there two teachers who alternate and specialize in each language, or is there just one teacher who teaches in both languages?

It’s important to note that not every dual-language program is structured the same way.