Preparing for the Future: Dual Language Immersion

About 20 interested parents and staff members met Wednesday night for an initial meeting to discuss how students from Denair Elementary Charter Academy’s popular Dual Language Immersion program will transition to Denair Middle School in two years.

The first class of students in DECA’s dual language program is currently in fourth grade, but it’s not too early to begin thinking about and planning for a smooth transition for these students when they enter middle school in August 2021.

DECA Principal Kelly Beard and Learning Director Laura Cardenas kicked off the meeting with a short presentation of the three pillars of dual language immersion and how they are addressed at DECA. The three pillars are biliteracy, bilingualism and cross-cultural competence. The pair also described the “90-10” model, in which students start their educational career with 90% in Spanish and 10% in English. The percentages shift each year until fourth grade, when instruction is 50% Spanish and 50% English.

DUSD English Learner Coordinator Maria Olivas described for parents and staff the requirements for the State Seal of Biliteracy, which is awarded to high school seniors upon graduation if they meet the criteria set forth by the State of California.

Superintendent Terry Metzger stated that the district’s goal is for every student enrolled in the dual language program to earn their Seal of Biliteracy. Based on this goal, it’s important that the district carefully plan what a secondary dual language program will look like. Students will need to build and sustain their academic language in Spanish and English in order to show the high level of proficiency required for the Seal.

The audience members heard several ideas about how the dual language program could be implemented at the middle school level. Many participants expressed interest in hearing/seeing how dual language programs are integrated in other local districts. The district already has begun discussions with nearby districts and plans to take a committee of parents and staff to conduct some school visits this year.

District Trustee Kathi Dunham-Filson assured parents that the school board is committed to the vision of providing a dual language program that prepares students to be fully bilingual, biliterate and culturally competent. This includes ensuring that students in the K-5 program have a strong 6-8 program to further build their skills.

Dr. Metzger indicated that there is much work to do over the next two years, including programming, scheduling, examining and ordering materials, and hiring staff. She invited parents to join staff in the process and asked those interested to provide their contact information.

A follow-up meeting to report progress on this transition is planned for the spring.

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