According to Kathy Vergara, director of multilingual services for KISD, the dual language immersion pathway was first piloted at Klenk and Zwink elementary schools in the 2018-19 school year with 85 students.
"The mission of the dual language immersion pathway is to develop bilingual, biliterate, socioculturally competent learners who are challenged with rigorous learning to prepare for their purpose in our global society," Vergara said during the presentation. "Bilingual and biliterate means that students are able to read and write in English and [in] a second language, such as Spanish or Vietnamese. In dual language instruction, students develop academic skills in their native language as well as building skills in their partner language. Often, we can hold the classes with non-native English speakers and native English speakers."
According to Vergara, the pathway includes a two-way English-Spanish immersion program, in which both native Spanish speakers and native English speakers are together in the same class and work collaboratively to sustain and expand linguistic, literate and cultural competency in both English and Spanish.
"This research-based program is known for bridging academic, linguistic and cultural gaps for students and families by creating equitable opportunities to the classroom," Vergara said.
According to the district's dual language program website, Spanish programs are available to kindergarten students at Fox and Northampton elementary schools; kindergarten and first grade students at Brill and Kaiser elementary schools; and kindergarten, first and second grade students at Klenk and Zwink elementary schools. The Spanish program will also open to kindergarten students at Bernshausen Elementary School in the 2021-22 school year.
"The dual language program is another example of the innovative and accelerated learning experiences we provide for our students in KISD," Superintendent Jenny McGown said in a statement. "I love visiting our dual-language classrooms and seeing our native English and Spanish speakers becoming truly bilingual and biliterate at such a young age. What a gift our incredible dual language teachers are giving our children for their future purpose and success."
In addition to Spanish, KISD also offers a Vietnamese program for kindergarten, first and second grade students at Klenk Elementary School. Differing from the Spanish program, Vergara said this program is geared for native Vietnamese speakers who develop and enhance both Vietnamese and English literacy skills in a one-way, or homogeneous class setting. According to Vergara, KISD is one of the few programs statewide and nationwide to offer a Vietnamese program.
Over the past three school years, the program has grown to 675 students in 2021-22 and a projected 920 students are expected to participate in the program in 2021-22, according to district officials.
"We plan to continue growing the program each subsequent year in collaboration with campus teachers, specialists and administration with the latest research by the Center for Applied Linguistics," Vergara said.
According to prepandemic data collection, Vergara said students in KISD's dual language immersion pathway demonstrated a growth in emergent English and partner language literacy skills as measured by the Texas Primary Reading Inventory early reading assessment. They also had the fastest growth in English reading proficiency, putting them on a trajectory to biliteracy—which typically takes five to seven years.
Additionally, students who are enrolled in KISD's dual language immersion pathway continually from kindergarten through fifth grade are eligible to receive high school credit for Language Other Than English, or LOTE.
"This will put them on an accelerated pathway to advanced academics as a biliterate, bilingual learner prior to entering the sixth grade," Vergara said. "It is quite exciting to know that an entering sixth grader already can earn one year of high school credit with this advanced elementary pathway."
For more information about KISD's dual language immersion pathway, click here.