In the 2018-19 academic year, Leander ISD will be adding two more elementary schools to its two-way dual-language program.
Knowles and Bagdad elementaries will join Whitestone and Reed elementaries in offering the program. LISD began offering dual-language services in 2009 for students who qualified for bilingual education services, said Tina Dozier, LISD English Language Learners director.
Up until four years ago, one-way dual language—which works with students who primarily speak Spanish to help them become proficient in English—was the only option for dual-language education. Two-way dual-language differs in that primary Spanish and English speakers learn together, receiving lessons in both languages, according to Dozier.
“Research in bilingual education demonstrates that the most successful bilingual education models are two-way dual-language programs, which include students who are fluent in English and students who are not yet fluent in English,” she said.
Dozier said students in the two-way program learn educational content in both Spanish and English, with social studies in Spanish, math in English, science in Spanish and literacy taught in the student’s primary language until second grade, when language arts is taught in both languages.
David Grogono’s children are enrolled in the program. While the children of family friends from Spain were learning to speak English, Grogono’s daughter became interested in learning to speak Spanish. She attended a prekindergarten Spanish immersion school, and her family initially thought she would not be able to continue learning Spanish in kindergarten.
“We heard about Leander starting a dual-language two-way program and were fortunate to be able to join the program,” Grogono said. “Our experience has been overwhelmingly positive, and our daughters have had great teachers.”
Reed Elementary teacher Lela Dion teaches kindergarten in the dual-language program and said that she integrates multicultural learning into the bilingual classroom by introducing literature that focuses on the similarities and unique traits of different cultures and backgrounds. Students in her classroom also produce a presentation about their family’s traditions and customs and participate in an international potluck, she said.
“We recognize that we have students that come from all different cultures and speak different languages and communicate that all students are experts [in]some area,” Dion said.
Dozier said the district began offering two-way dual-language services for kindergartners at Reed Elementary four years ago. Now, Reed students from kindergarten to third grade and Whitestone students from kindergarten to second grade participate in the program. As the first classes of students progress at each school, all four elementary schools will eventually include students from kindergarten to fifth grade in a two-way dual-language program.
“Each year LISD has not only filled dual-language classrooms to capacity, we have maintained a waitlist to participate in this educational setting,” Dozier said. “Our greatest challenge has been the requests for access to the program have exceeded the number of seats available.”
Now, with Bagdad and Knowles beginning the program, families with students entering kindergarten in the fall may apply for the two-way dual-language services at any of the four campuses, regardless of their home elementary school, Dozier said.
Applications are available online at www.leanderisd.org and must be submitted by May 31. Dozier said families will be notified of their students’ placements in June.