The program, which combines native English speakers and native Spanish speakers in a two-way immersion class for grades K-5, will enter its 10th year at Caldwell in the coming school year, according to a Feb. 21 press release. It is the only program of its kind in McKinney ISD.
A number of community members spoke in support of the program at a Feb. 25 school board meeting after discussions had surfaced about the possibility of the program being discontinued. Some parents offered their time to assist the program, and two students in seventh and ninth grades spoke to the board in Spanish, using skills they learned at Caldwell.
McDaniel spoke following the public comments, mentioning a need to balance opportunities for the district and the district’s budget.
“All along, all we've ever said was that we were going to analyze the program to make sure that we were getting proper return on investment but never stated at any point that it was going away,” McDaniel said. “And I'm proud to say tonight, it is not going away. We will continue with the dual language program.”
Kindergarten applicants for the fall of 2020 will be required to go through a competitive application process, the release said. This process will include an evaluation in the child’s native language. This process is being adopted after a review from other area districts that offer similar programs, according to the release.
“The only thing that we have to analyze the most is: Are the students that are involved in the dual language program falling behind other academics because they're unable to utilize the structure to the enrichment degree that it was designed?” McDaniel said. “That is what we're been studying. We've been studying whether or not we're getting the best return on our investment.”
The board was also presented with the elementary action plan for the 2020-21 school year by the department for bilingual and English as a second language. Part of this plan includes a more detailed look at the selection process used next year for Caldwell's dual language program.
The department will oversee the application and assessment process, according to the plan, and applicants will be screened and placed into a smaller eligibility pool for lottery selection.
The plan also states that student progress will continue to be monitored in areas of listening, speaking, reading, writing and academic achievement. This information will be used to determine the continued eligibility of the dual language program each year, according to the plan.
"[In] five years... If the program is serving us the way it was designed and we’re doing our job, absolutely, it’ll be around for five more years,” McDaniel said. “This support for this program is unique and is encouraging.”
The application for the dual language program will be open until April 3. The online application can be found here.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the grades of the students who spoke at the meeting.