Dual Language Programs: Paving the Way for Student Success

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As research continues to show, individuals who speak more than one language have higher level executive function skills including problem-solving and abstract thinking.  Having the ability to speak more than one language not only has academic benefits, it is also proving to be a skillset that is highly sought after in the workforce. These immediate and long-term benefits are some of the reasons why dual language learning programs are becoming more common in schools around the country. 

In Arizona, more than 43 percent of children under five are Hispanic, and many of these children come from homes where Spanish is the primary language. However, dual language learning programs are a benefit not only to non-native English speakers, but also to native English speakers. The learning opportunities of exposure to multiple languages supports early literacy and language development, thus ensuring more children are entering kindergarten ready to succeed and reading at grade level by the end of third grade. This helps set the foundation for a students’ future and continued academic success. 

To meet the needs of the rapidly changing student demographics of Arizona, Helios Education Foundation recently invested $720,000 into a dual language learning research and practice to Arizona State University (ASU) who will partner with both Childsplay and the Osborn Elementary School District, to provide two-way immersion (English-Spanish/Spanish-English) early childhood education learning opportunities for children. This investment hopes to create an aligned and coordinated approach to serving children in dual language learning preschool education programs and produce research-based strategies.

Horizon - Arizona PBS, recently highlighted dual language learning programs in the Kyrene and Cave Creek School Districts. Kyrene School District is using a two-way immersion model where students have classes in Spanish for half of the day and English classes for the second half of the day. The district has seen an increase in enrollment, and even waiting lists, since the integration of their dual language learning program. The Cave Creek School District is using a language immersion model where students are learning different subjects in Mandarin-Chinese, Spanish and English. District Superintendent, Jana Miller, believes that language immersion programs are a stepping stone to closing the student achievement gap. Both Kyrene and Cave Creek School Districts have also experienced an increase on their standardized test scores.