The classrooms at the Thomas Edison Language Institute (San Juan USD) are filled with voices of students conversing in both Spanish and English. Many students at the school easily shift their conversations between the two languages because about one-third of them are enrolled in a dual immersion program where they simultaneously learn Spanish and English. The goal is to become biliterate by the time they leave the school.
In the early grades, lessons are taught primarily in Spanish and gradually increase to 50-50 English/Spanish as they progress through the grade levels. The lessons incorporate second language acquisition research showing how the two languages work for students whose primary language is either Spanish or English. Students learn content standards in English and Spanish. Edison administrators and teachers say the program is showing positive academic impact, which correlates with empirical research showing students in dual immersion programs often surpass the academic performance of their English-only peers by the late intermediate grades.
“Learning the academic content increases math and science scores where [students in dual immersion programs are] outperforming their peers in the English-only program by fifth and sixth grade,” says Principal Danielle Story.
Teacher Maggie Parker sees the benefits daily in her classroom. “Every time they are able to connect a lesson either in Spanish or English, their eyes just open up and they just get so excited and happy to share their experiences,” Parker says.
Students continue to learn standards-based content while they become linguistically and academically fluent in English and Spanish. Parents and students report that the programs teach how to properly read and write in Spanish and English, sharpen understanding of other cultures, and help build self-esteem.
“My native language is Spanish,” says Ana, an eighth grader at Edison. “I’ve learned in this school to show my language and to learn the power of English and the power of Spanish, as well.”
Teaching in a Bilingual Setting
To be allowed to teach in a dual immersion program, educators need to add a bilingual authorization to their California teaching credential. To help meet the
growing need for bilingual teachers, the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE)
joined a grant-funded partnership with
California State University, Sacramento and
Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Los Angeles. The goal is to increase the number of K–12 teachers in bilingual and multilingual settings in local districts. Teachers can earn their bilingual authorization through the partnership with CSUS. For those who already hold a bilingual authorization, LMU’s program supports teachers in developing their knowledge about how to most effectively teach in a dual immersion setting, ensuring students become fluent in both languages.
“Through this grant, teachers really boost their academic content knowledge in the target language and also learn highly effective instructional strategies to support biliteracy for students in the classroom,” says Marty Martinez, Ed.D., Director of the
SCOE School of Education Bilingual Program.
There are currently 24 teachers on track to complete their language certificate with Loyola Marymount University this June, plus eight teachers working on their bilingual authorization at CSUS. By end of 2019–20, the partnership will have supported the equivalent of 35 teachers in earning their language certificate and 35 teachers in earning their bilingual authorization.
Local District Partners
Through the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program (BTPDP) grant, SCOE currently partners with Elk Grove USD, Folsom Cordova USD, Galt Joint ESD, Natomas USD, Robla SD, Sacramento City USD, and San Juan USD, but interested teachers from any district in Sacramento County are encouraged to contact program administrators. For more information, call Director Marty Martinez, Ed.D.: (916) 228-2258.