The National School District is on its way to developing a dual language program that could be offered at one of its schools by year’s end.
A dual language program provides literacy and content instruction to students through two languages. The program promotes bilingualism and biliteracy, grade level academic achievement, and multicultural competence for all students.
The school board heard a presentation on how to develop such a program during a board workshop this week.
“The goal of bilingualism is for students to be able to speak two languages,” said one of the presenters, Deborah Costa-Hernandez, director of educational services. “Biliteracy, on the other hand, is the ability to be academically fluent in more than one language, not just the ability to speak and understand but the ability to read, write and comprehend.”
Costa-Hernandez said the district currently uses a 90/10 one-way model where Spanish speakers learn English, but not the other way around. The district is looking to implement a 50/50 two-way model in which all students would receive 50 percent of their curriculum in English and 50 percent in Spanish. She said the program will give students the ability to understand people from different cultures on a deeper level.
“It’s not just about costumes or food. … When you learn a different language, you learn a different way of thinking,” Costa-Hernandez said.
Assistant Superintendent Katie Filzenger, who collaborated with Costa-Hernandez for the presentation, said the district is the only elementary school district in the South Bay that has yet to offer a dual language program. She said the district has been considering one for a number of years and is now ready to move ahead.
District officials hope to launch the program before the end of the year.
“We see biliteracy and bilingualism as an essential component for our kids to do really well in the years to come,” Filzenger said. “Students need the ability to adapt as demographics change, and technological advances move communities from local to global.”
The next steps in designing the program include continuing to study the 50/50 model and visiting schools that have implemented similar models successfully, Costa-Hernandez said. The district already has visited the Chula Vista Learning Community Charter, which has “a beautiful 50/50 program from kindergarten all the way through sixth grade,” she said.
Superintendent Chris Oram said while it’s important to start the program with Spanish, the district shouldn’t limit itself to just Spanish. He said the program should eventually include other languages like Mandarin (which is offered in the Lakeside school district) or German.
Board member Elizabeth Vazquez said a dual language program is something she’s been wanting in the district for a long while.
“I’m really excited and I look forward to its development,” she said.