I thought I knew *a lot* about dual immersion schools because I’ve been researching them for both the blog and our book for almost four years now, but now that my daughter has been in one for almost four months I have a whole new understanding of them. I know the topic of bilingual education as a whole is so confusing for parents because there are so many different programs (ELL, ESL, full immersion, partial immersion, etc) and because, depending on where you live, there is so much controversy and misunderstanding as to how it really works.
The fact is that dual immersion programs are proving to be the most effective method to successfully teach children in two languages. The “problem” with the program right now is that it’s still relatively new and it’s sort of an outcast in most public education systems. What I mean by that is that as much as they have been proven to work in the sense that schools with language immersion programs ultimately outperform academically, they are still having to adapt and conform to a public education system that’s not meant for them.
My girl received her first report card ever…in Kindergarten! At age 5, these kids are already being tested on the California Standards. The problem is that kindergarteners in a dual language immersion program are focusing mostly on learning the language and not on the long list of standards set in place for English-only schools. This means that the teachers and principal have to make sure that all parents understand that even though our kids may be performing below the state average at this point, it’s perfectly normal and it won’t be this way once they’ve reached the 4th grade and have already transferred over to English all the concepts they learned in Spanish. The standard tests are just not created for our early language-learning kids.
As I sat there with my husband during our first parent/teacher conference listening to the fantastic teacher my daughter has, it became clear to me that we’re way ahead of the curve, if you may, and it does take a huge leap of faith from parents and administration to believe in the program and know that there’s more to learning than tests.
It’s important to know that the current system is not intended for the gift of bilingualism we’ve all here committed to give our kids. You will search and research schools in your area that offer dual immersion programs and you’ll see the majority of them have a lower than average rating or are considered underperforming schools. But then you take a closer look and read the comments from parents and you’ll see they don’t match the rating. You’ll read success stories and praise for dual immersion classrooms, and that’s where you need to focus. That’s where your leap of faith will be catapulted by other parents that can attest for the growth both academically and socially of their kids.
Yes, our children must pass the tests and teachers must still teach for the tests under our current system. However, if your child is in a dual immersion program, tests will be conducted in Spanish and the teachers will select which standards to test and at what pace. Trust them and trust the model. Talk to other parents. Talk to us. Meet the kids in upper grades. Visit or talk to principals in other schools that have already reached and surpassed their academic goals because they’ve been in this for a longer time. Be inspired and trust that your child will learn and in two languages. How beautiful is that?
Share with us: Is your child in a dual immersion program? What has been the most difficult and rewarding aspect for you? Do you agree it takes a leap of faith?