Texas: Two-language program produces results; Dual Immersion students outperform English-only counterparts

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Nov 4 16:18:39 UTC 2008

Two-language program produces results

  Dual Immersion students outperform English-only counterparts

Express Staff Writer

Test results show that students enrolled in the Blaine County School
District's two-language program outperform their counterparts in
English-only classes. Recently released test results show that both
Hispanic and non-Hispanic students in the district's Dual Immersion
program continue to become more proficient at reading and math the
longer they are enrolled in the program. By the sixth grade, Hispanic
students especially outperform other Hispanic students who do not have
the benefit of a two-language program. In fact, 83.3 percent of the
school district's Dual Immersion sixth-grade Hispanic students read at
proficiency in the spring 2008 Idaho Standard Achievement Tests. That
compared to a state average for sixth-grade Hispanic students of 39.4

Non-Hispanic sixth-grade Dual Immersion students also scored higher on
the spring ISAT reading tests. A perfect 100 percent read at
proficiency compared to a state average of 84 percent. The higher test
scores for the school district's Dual Immersion students were not a
surprise to district administrators; in fact, they were expected.
"We're not surprised at all," said Matt Murray, director of curriculum
and dual language learners. "The research clearly indicates that
students would take several years but eventually would surpass their
counterparts in English-only classes."

In fact, the primary goal of the district's Dual Immersion program has
been to increase student proficiency, Murray said.
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"If we can give them the added gift of being fluent in another
language, so much the better," he said.

The school district's Dual Immersion program is now in its eighth year
and involves 520 students at Wood River Middle School and at Bellevue,
Woodside, Hailey and Hemingway elementary schools.

Dual Immersion students are instructed half in English and half in
Spanish. Classes typically include half Hispanic students and half
non-Hispanic students.

The program is started in kindergarten. Students who have been in the
program for the full eight years are now seventh graders at Wood River
Middle School.

In their first few years of the program, students typically perform at
lower proficiency levels than their counterparts who receive
instruction only in English. However, by about the third grade, Dual
Immersion students start to catch up with their English-only
counterparts and in later grades they surpass them in academic

Murray, in his second year in the Blaine County School District,
previously worked in Dual Immersion programs in Long Beach, Calif.

He said the reasons why Dual Immersion students perform higher
scholastically are not fully understood, but that the phenomenon has
been observed elsewhere.

"My thinking is that the rigor of learning two languages is stretching
their minds to work harder," he said. "This requires them to use more
of their brain power than they would normally."

Murray said that Dual Immersion students are not handpicked.

"Not at all," he said. "We have not put any requirements on students
to start or continue with the program."


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