Dual language programs, which provide instruction in both English and a second language (typically Spanish), are flourishing in elementary schools across the country. It is estimated that almost 2000 programs exist today, a sharp increase from 2000 when there were only 260 programs nationwide.
Why is the dual language movement growing so rapidly? As educators and law makers try to address the growing ELL (English Language Learner) population while simultaneously preparing all students for an increasingly multilingual world, dual language programs have offered a solution for both native English speakers and those learning the language.
Here are 6 reasons Dual Language programs are rising in popularity:
1. Dual Language programs can encourage diversity and curb socioeconomic segregation in our schools by drawing students that otherwise may not attend a particular school.
2. They serve a mission to promote biliteracy and positive cross-cultural attitudes in a world that is all-too-often damaged by hostility to diversity.
3. They can help English Language Learners. (ELLs)
Research suggests that dual language programs are effective in closing the achievement gap between English learners and native English speakers. (See the study here) Although English mastery may take longer than their peers in Immersion programs*, the content mastery and likelihood of staying in school is improved for ELLs because dual Language programs put content learning front and center.
In fact, in some states the primary goal of expanding dual language programs is to increase access to them for English language learners.
4. Students come out of school with a marketable and unique skill set they wouldn’t otherwise have had.
“In an international economy, knowledge, and knowledge of language, is power.” – Richard Riley, former Secretary of Education)
5. Even though Structured English Immersion instruction* and Transitional Bilingual Education Models** are controversial, Dual Language models are exempt from the controversy and political side-effects because they serve both English speakers and those learning English.
6. Dual language programs can be cost-effective, in that some schools are able to address the needs of ELLs within the confines of the regular classroom and without English as a second language (ESL) tutors.
If you are a k-3rd grade teacher in an English-Spanish dual language classroom, we would love to share our Safety Smart® en Español programs with you, available free of charge thanks to the support of UL. To learn about our programs (we have 6 that address a variety of health and safety topics) or to request access to the materials, click here: http://healthworldeducation.org/shop/safety-smart/coming-soon-safety-smart-es.
* Structured English Immersion (SEI). Instruction is focused heavily on English grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, and pronunciation skills. Subjects are taught in English at a student’s level of comprehension. This is now the dominant model in U.S. schools.
** Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE). Students receive instruction in their native language and, increasingly, in English from bilingual teachers.