- As the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) considers expanding a popular Spanish-English dual-language program to meet demand, African-American parents are expressing concern that such programs are a sign of increasing gentrification and will push their children out of their home schools, The Washington Post reports.
- The article says that the parents’ concerns are not unfounded, and that dual-language charter schools in D.C. also tend to be disproportionately white. Meanwhile, parents with children in the dual-language programs stress that more families need to be educated about the benefits of dual-language programs, such as higher performance on standardized tests.
- Amanda Alexander, who is serving as the interim schools chancellor for DCPS, has said that the district would like to increase the number of school-wide dual-language programs, but that leaders will consider community feedback.
While numerous studies point to the academic advantages of learning a second language, many English-speaking parents, who may not have studied a second language until high school, might not understand how a language immersion program can benefit their child. Or they might think a Spanish-English immersion program makes more sense in community with a substantial Latino population. Other research suggests that regardless of a student’s home language, he or she can benefit from a dual-language program.
Advocates of dual-language programs point to research by the RAND Corp. showing significant reading gains for students participating in such programs in the Portland Public Schools in Oregon. One challenge in D.C., is that some dual-language programs operate alongside English-only programs, which can make families, and perhaps teachers, feel like the programs are competing against each other for resources.
School leaders have to consider these issues before implementing a dual-language program, and also communicate to families that it takes a long-term commitment in order for students to reap the academic benefits.