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Dual-language Programs Expanding Rapidly in Texas

Schools that offer dual-language programs rather than traditional transitional bilingual programs are increasing rapidly in Texas.

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Schools that offer dual-language programs rather than traditional transitional bilingual programs are increasing rapidly in Texas. Dianne Solís of The Dallas Morning News reports on the growing phenomenon, which includes suburban districts as well as urban ones.

It isn’t surprising that Texas has seen such dramatic growth. Texas law requires that bilingual programs be offered when 20 or more children who are limited English proficient in a grade level share a language. In 2011, about 17 percent of children enrolled in Texas public schools were classified limited English proficient, most of them native Spanish speakers.

In the past, transitional bilingual programs often operated on a model where children entered school and were taught mostly in Spanish then transitioned over the years into mostly English. Dual programs give equal time to learning Spanish and English, across all grades using the program.

Texas schools using dual programs were highlighted during the recent National Association for Bilingual Education conference in Dallas. The article reports that conference speakers said Texas leads the nation with about 700 schools using dual-language programs.

Particularly popular are “two-way” programs, in which native English and native Spanish speakers are enrolled together.

As the children age, programs are being expanded through middle school and even high school. The paper reports that in the suburban Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, parents of children in one elementary school’s two-way dual program have asked that it be extended. “My opinion: It will only grow as people understand the value of it,” says Bobby Burns, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD superintendent. “By far, it is the right thing to do for students. For Texas, we need to be a bilingual state.”

Read the full story here.

If you are reporting on dual-language programs in your own area, be sure to ask about the exact structure of the program:

  • Is the dual program offered one-way or two-way?
  • How are the languages split–by half day, every other day, or every other week?
  • Is every subject taught in English and Spanish, or are some subjects designated as taught in Spanish only and others in English only?
  • Are there two teachers who alternate and specialize in each language, or is there just one teacher who teaches in both languages?

It’s important to note that not every dual-language program is structured the same way.