- Rhode Island lawmakers are considering a proposal that would create a position in the state education agency responsible for overseeing and coordinating expanded dual-language programs in the state, the Providence Journal reports.
- Four school districts in the state currently offer dual-language programs, with instruction typically split between Spanish and English. In addition to the state-level position, the bill would authorize $200,000 for small seed funding to grow existing efforts.
- The bill’s sponsors said the plan aligns with the state’s goal to increase students’ proficiency in multiple languages and would help close achievement gaps between native English speakers and English learners (ELs).
As the need for a bilingual workforce increases, views toward ELs in schools are shifting. Instead of being viewed as a weakness, fluency in a language other than English is a strength in a dual-language program because native English speakers need to be able to interact with classmates who are experts in the partner language.
Research is also showing that ELs in dual-language immersion classrooms are more likely than those not in such programs to be classified as English proficient by the 6th grade — especially if they speak the partner language at home. A RAND Corporation study on dual language programs in the Portland Public Schools in Oregon, which offers dual-language programs in multiple languages, also found that students in these programs outperform their peers in reading, but not in math or science.
With more districts across the country creating and expanding dual-language programs, experts say it’s important for school leaders to understand what model works best for their school — a 90-10 format in which children are immersed in the partner language beginning in kindergarten and gradually focus on more English skills, or a 50-50 model in which the instruction is split evenly. It’s also important to regularly communicate with parents to make sure they understand what to expect and to take the time to plan professional development and recruit well-qualified bilingual teachers.