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District U-46 to expand dual language program


By Seth Hancock
  The dual language program in School District U-46 is expected to expand to five middle schools in the 2016-17 school year as the Board of Education was given an update on Monday, Feb. 1.
  The program started in the 2011-12 school year for pre-kindergarten through second grade students with an additional grade level receiving it each year. Five middle schools are expected to offer the program in 2016-17 for seventh-graders with plans to expand to eighth grade the following year.
  According to the administration, the goal of the program is to promote bilingualism and bi-literacy as opposed to the traditional English as a Second Language (ESL) program which is meant to teach non-English speaking students the predominant language of this country.
  “U-46 has been on this journey to implement dual language for the last several years,” said U-46 CEO Tony Sanders. “We now have students who are in dual language kindergarten through sixth grade. Next year, we roll it into the middle schools.”
  There is a one-way program, only Spanish-dominant speaking students, and a two-way program, a mix of English-dominant and Spanish-dominant speaking students. Instruction in both starts at 80 percent in Spanish and 20 percent in English for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students, and it narrows to 50-50 by third grade according to the presentation.
  U-46’s data shows the number of students enrolled in the program from the initial year to this year has risen from 275 to 8,382 this year, and the district projects 807 seventh-graders to be enrolled next year.
  Annette Acevedo, director of the English Language Learners (ELL) program, said there are federal and state mandates that require districts to provide programs for non-English speaking students to break the language barrier. The dual language program, however, is not required as the ESL program fulfills that mandate.
  Acevedo lauded the program as a state and national model. According to the presentation, 87 percent of dual language students read at or above grade level in their native language by the end of first grade, 52 percent in their second language.
  “Although we know that all programs strive for continued improvement, we are confident that the work that we’ve done and continue to do is at the highest quality,” said Acevedo, who added 52 percent of U-46 students are Latino and 50 percent are Spanish speaking.
  However, the district’s 2014-15 MAP test scores, administered in English to third- through fifth-graders, shows the dual language students are scoring behind the non-dual language program students nearly across the board. The only case where dual language students did better was fourth-graders in reading with dual language at 61 compared to 59.5 for the non-dual language.
  At third grade the MAP score split was 60-51 in both reading and math, 59-53 for fourth grade math, 57-46.5 for fifth grade math and 58-53 for fifth grade reading all in favor of non-dual language students.
  On the 2015 SUPERA test, administered in Spanish to second- through sixth-graders, scores in all three measures (language, math, reading) showed U-46 students scoring above the national average across the board. The data presented did not delineate if that included only dual language students or if it was the entire district’s results.
  Suzanne Johnson, assistant superintendent, said the district proposed Spanish Language Arts curriculum and professional development is estimated to cost $200,000 to $600,000.
  Board member Sue Kerr asked if the curriculum was the same for both one-way and two-way dual language which Acevedo said “one-way, two-way follows the same curriculum.”
  Board member Jeanette Ward asked “what’s being done in seventh grade currently” for Spanish speakers, and Acevedo said there is transitional bilingual instruction meaning “There is native language instruction, but the goal is to transition into English.”
  Ward asked: “Does that continue to be the goal after the implementation of dual language, the transition into English, or the goal is more Spanish and English proficiency together?”
  Acevedo said: “The goal of dual language is both bilingualism and bi-literacy, and so as we go up to seventh grade, so yes that is the goal.”
  In the presentation it was noted that instructions are offered in other languages from Polish to several Asian dialects like Hindi and Lao, and Ward asked: “How are they being accommodated because they can’t be getting a dual language program I would assume?”
  Acevedo said: “The middle school students who have a language other than Spanish will still continue to be served as they are now with ESL instruction.”
  Ward replied “so those students, it would seem, would more quickly transition into English out of necessity, would they not,” which was met with some silence as she elaborated “because they don’t continue to have the dual language supported.”
  That question, which was never specifically answered, appeared to fluster the administration.
  Acevedo said: “At the middle school level, that native language instruction is not necessarily [offered], it depends on the number of students. That’s why we offer it at the elementary, because we have the numbers to support it”
  Patricia Makishima, an ELL coordinator, reiterated the dual language goal of being bilingual and bi-literate “so really they enrich their first language and their second language.”
  “Right, so the goal of the other languages is not to maintain bi-literacy but to move to English,” Ward said which the administration said was correct.
  The presentation also recognized a necessary shift for middle school teachers and Ward asked: “What will happen to the teachers who are not proficient in Spanish?”
  Johnson answered: “Once we’re able to review those staffing numbers and we identify the placement of those students… that will specify the teacher that will be working with those students and whether they need to be bilingual or whether they need to be an ESL endorsed teacher.”
  Johnson said there will be opportunities for the teachers to move to other positions with the implementation of full day kindergarten district-wide as well as with other teachers retiring.

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