Staff members from the English Learner Education Department were present at last week’s school committee meeting, updating committee members on the Dual Language Program. If all goes according to plan, the program will be instituted at Harrington Elementary School in September 2020.
The push for the Dual Language Program kicked off last December, after Lynn Public Schools (LPS) and Salem Public Schools applied for and received a joint grant from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), which serves the monetary purpose of supporting districts interested in opening a Dual Language Program. Since then, the Salem and Lynn school districts have formed a partnership with Boston College, helping guide the next steps of the process.
“Being able to have this partnership with Salem has been amazing,” said Director of LPS English Lerner Education department, Rania Caldwell, who has been attending conferences and visiting other dual language schools throughout the Commonwealth. “We’ve made key programmatic decisions, identified staffing needs, established coursework pathways and a community engagement plan. Boston College had been so helpful and really instrumental in getting course work to our staff members.”
The Department has also applied for other DESE grants designed to fund staffing and bilingual coursework for teachers to complete to guide their instruction of the curriculum.
According to studies conducted by well-known researchers, Thomas and Collier, students enrolled in dual language programs exceed the average performance of their monolingual peers. Unlike a foreign world language program, where the student starts learning a language in a 45-minute class in middle school or high school, a two-way dual language program would require the student to commit to a six-year curriculum, starting in kindergarten. Half of the student’s day would be spent amongst peers who are also learning a new language and they will end the program knowing how to speak, read and write in both English and Spanish.
“These dual language programs are all over the country, and the languages vary depending on the local population,” said Caldwell. “The end result is a higher level of proficiency of the student’s target language.”
Caldwell shared the three pillars that a successful dual language program is built on.
• Bilingualism and Biliteracy-A high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing both English and Spanish.
• Academic Achievement-The primary goal of the program is to graduate students with excellence in all subject areas in the Spanish and English language • Socio-cultural competence-The most important aspect of the program is to provide the opportunity to bring students of different backgrounds together to provide opportunities to collaborate, work together and learn from one another and teach them to understand and value cultures that may be different from their own.