Third Annual Dual Language Immersion
Meeting the Demand
Educators, students, parents and media came together at Edgewood College to
discuss the future of dual language immersion in Madison area schools.
By Jonathan Gramling
Along with the growth of English-language learners in the
Madison Metropolitan School District in recent years,
students whose primary language is Spanish, Hmong and
many other languages, has been the growth of English
speaking students who would like to learn Spanish as
well as English through dual language immersion
classrooms where Spanish is the primary language used
in the classroom through second grade and then English
is increasingly used. While the school district is legally
required by state and federal regulations to provide ELL
instruction to the former students, it is a choice to
provide that instruction to the latter group of kids
although DLI can be used to meet the needs of the
students in the first group.
There are several barriers that the district faces in
meeting all of this demand. One is the difficulty in
recruiting certified bilingual staff. The other is that the
students may live in different attendance areas than where the resources are presently provided. The district is trying to get ahead of the curve
before a someone files a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, which would take the problem-solving decision-making partially out of the
district’s hands. The MMSD administration will be submitting a bilingual education plan to the board of education this fall.
On March 21, Nuestro Mundo, the Latino Education Council, Centro Hispano and other organizations came together at Edgewood College for
the Third Annual Dual Language Immersion Summit. The future of DLI and bilingual education in general was on the minds of those attending
“The best practice that research shows is dual language immersion programs,” said Salvador Carranza, the chair of the Latino Education
Council about meeting the needs of English-language learners. “The other advantage of dual language immersion programs is that they
provide full support where the student eventually will be fully bilingual and multicultural in both languages. And it allows for English speakers
to also attain the benefit of a different language and a more multicultural perspective. That is why that is the best model that we could have.
The issue with the model is that it requires teachers that are certified as bilingual teachers. And many times, it is difficult to be able to recruit
enough teachers to be able to expand the program to everyone that requires it.”
In addition to DLI, the developmental English model is under consideration.
“In the developmental English program, students are taught in their language,” Carranza said. “As they progress in their English understanding
— not just in speaking, but also in the academic English — they can be moved into mainstream classes, the late exit model. It takes about 5-6
years for most students to be able to get to the point where they are proficient in English and don’t have to receive the support in Spanish. That’
s the developmental English program. The problem with the developmental program is that students many times have to be in a separate
classroom. And that is why the dual language immersion program where everyone is together is a better model obviously. You’re not
segregating the students.”
The plan will contain a mix of new programming, transportation to get students to the programs and a better distribution of existing resources.
A dual language immersion program in Hmong is under consideration. And while Spanish and Hmong are the dominant second languages in
the district, Carranza emphasized that this is not Spanish and Hmong programming.
“These are English-language learner programs,” Carranza said. “They are just like any other talented and gifted program or programs that are
available in the schools and are backed up by best practices. That needs to be understood. It just happens to be that the languages that are
more prevalent are Spanish and Hmong. These are not Latino and Hmong programs. They are English-language learner programs. Dual
language immersion programs are also choice programs for everyone.”