Twice the education: Dual-language programs are on the rise.
Innovative educational programs, and foreign-language classes, tend to be the first on the chopping block during tough economic times. But several states and districts are bucking that trend—by embracing two-way bilingual immersion, also known as dual-language learning. McHenry County, Illinois, has expanded its dual-language program from elementary to middle-school; in California, Glendale and Pasadena school districts just received a total of more than $3 million in federal grants to expanded their programs. And New Jersey has approved not one but two new dual-language charter schools, which are expected to open in time for the 2010–11 school year.
Dual-language programs are widely seen as a win-win proposition by their participants: ELLs get the time and support they need to master English, while young English speakers are exposed to the benefits of foreign language study. Evidence suggests that these benefits include greater cognitive development, an increase in listening skills, memory, and a greater understanding of one’s own language. Employers are also considering bilingualism a desirable skill.
“It’s the reality,” said Glendale board of education vice president Greg Krikorian. “We’re in a global economy and it’s important to learn multiple languages.”
PreK works for ELL in PA. Is PreK even more essential for foreign language speakers? A new report from Pennsylvania’s PreK Counts says yes. During the 2008–09 school year, 11,800 children took part in the program, of which a major goal was to reach young ELLs early and provide additional early education to help them succeed. According to the report, 99 percent of children—including ELLs—showed age-appropriate or emerging age-appropriate proficiency in literacy and other skills after attending the program. School districts also reported that ELLs who took part in PreK tended to be more prepared for kindergarten than those who didn’t take part.
District-level commitment Key to ELL success. High expectations and strong oversight from the district, training for all teachers in how to work with ELLs, and careful monitoring of data to continually adjust instruction to match student needs—these are the traits common to four urban districts that have showed extended growth in ELL student achievement, according to an investigation by the Council of Great City Schools. The report also found that the successes in San Francisco, Dallas, New York City, and St. Paul, Minnesota, resulted from districts applying these practices as an integrated system, rather than piecemeal policies.
ELL and RTI. Response to Intervention can be an effective tool for providing early assistance to ELL students who are having difficulty making academic progress, according to the Center for Research on the Educational Achievement and Teaching of English-Language Learners. A new brief published by the center explains how to apply RTI to ELL students and lessen the chance of misidentifying them as having a learning disability.
Defining the right to access for ELLs. A California school district’s decision to eliminate the ELL program at one of its high schools is being challenged in federal court. Centinela Valley district officials claim that the decision was driven by budget considerations and that ELL students can be served at another campus. But the suit argues that ELL students have “the right to attend their local school, just as non-ELL students do.” If the court accepts that interpretation, schools could find themselves with fewer options for balancing shrinking budgets.