Public School Dual Language Programs on the Rise

Public School Dual Language Programs on the Rise

Recent reports in the New York Times and Chalkbeat New York track the rise of dual language programs in public schools. The dual language programs promote biliteracy and positive cross-cultural understanding in our increasingly multicultural and interdependent world.

Chalkbeat New York reported that Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s continued focus on dual language programs and English language learners comes from a personal place for the Chancellor given her Spanish heritage.

“My hope is to double and triple the number of schools involved in bilingualism and biculturalism,” the chancellor said.

As Chalkbeat reports, “One in seven students in the city school system—more than 159,000 students—is an English language learner, and those students tend to struggle on state exams. Only 3.4 percent passed this year’s state English exams, as opposed to 28.4 percent of all city students. Spanish is spoken by the largest share of those students, with two-thirds speaking the language at home.”

The increase in dual-language programs also “comes a shortage of good texts to use, which had been the case for Alida Grafals, an assistant principal at P.S. 75 Emily Dickinson in the Upper East Side. P.S. 75 became the first school in New York State to join the immersion program, known as the International Spanish Academies, in 2012.” Chalkbeat reports that some teachers have to write their own texts.

An article in the Harvard Education Letter (HEL) also notes that dual language programs, which provide instruction in both English and a second language, are thriving in elementary schools across the country “as educators find benefits for both English-language learners (ELLs) and those fluent in English.”

In fifteen years there has been a tremendous growth in dual language programs. In the year 2000, there were 260 programs and today, fifteen years later in 2015, there are more than 2,000 programs operating. 300 of those are in the state of New York alone.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley says, “We need to invest in these kinds of programs. In an international economy, knowledge, and knowledge of language, is power.”

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