Nuestro Mundo Showcase
it will add three 4th grade classes. Clearly, the school is going strong. “Isn’t this wonderful,” said Deborah Gil Casado, a Nuestro Mundo board member. “We see
children of all races and colors and creeds all together. They are dancing. They are interacting. Their parents are all here sitting next to each other. We don’t
see that segregation that we see lots of times in other programs where you have the bilingual program in one corner and the rest of the kids in the other.”
    While Nuestro Mundo stands as a monument to parental involvement and preparation of children to succeed in the global village, it almost didn’t come to
pass. “Those of us who were working on the school were told that the school was not going to happen,” Gil Casado said. “So the fact that we were able to pull so
much community support together is what really made the difference. We were very lucky to have Juan López, Ruth Robarts and some other board members who
really backed us and gave us the opening. One of the problems that happened was that as community members, we really didn’t the system. That’s a
disadvantage for people willing to commit to make change in the schools. We just don’t know how the whole infrastructure works. We understand our schools in
general. But it’s that interworking of how you get things passed or what kinds of information do you need to bring to the process that was difficult. There isn’t a
way to really facilitate the path of community members who want to help the schools change.”
    The school is clearly in demand. Currently, although it is a charter school, almost all of its slots are taken by students who live in the Frank Allis attendance
area. Yet there are siblings of current students and others who live outside the attendance area who want to enroll. “We could easily have at least two more
classes right now just taking the Allis applicants,” Gil Casado said. “And if we took people who want to drive their kids in to participate in the program, we could
expand to 7-8 classrooms. That would require moving because this particular location does not have the capacity for that.”
Nuestro Mundo is fast approaching a crossroads in its development as the students entering fourth grade have only two more years before they enter middle
school. Nuestro Mundo plans to develop a middle school proposal to submit to the school board so that the students can continue their duo-language approach
to education.
    However, as the day approaches when the students do enter middle school and the demand for dual-language immersion increases, it also forces the school
district to evaluate how the dual-language immersion approach fits into the overall structure of the schools. “I think that one of the initiatives that we had was to
try things out and be more of a think tank for the district,” Gil Casado said. “Parents have asked us on a continuous basis to open an immersion school on the west
and north sides. The school district, if they really wanted to do this, doesn’t need a charter to open immersion programming around the city using the model that
we’ve used. To me that would be the best way to go. So Nuestro Mundo, aside from language immersion, is really trying out different ways of having parent input
and involvement in the school decision-making. That’s what makes us different as a charter school from just being an immersion school. So we can continue
doing that work and modeling it for the district. The district can take those ideas and begin to implement them in other buildings.”
    And the concept also has implications for the high school level also. “What are they going to do in terms of programming,” Gil Casado asked. “I talked to a
Spanish teacher who said ‘Oh my God, what kind of Spanish can we offer them at the middle or high school levels?’ Are we going to have to send them to a
university program? They have to do something. We’re really looking at doing that blended immersion. Could we potentially open up the middle school to have
new entrants to combine the ESL/bilingual programs so that it isn’t a pull-out and be able to integrate them in the whole classroom setting. Those are the kinds
of models that we are exploring right now.”
    In the view of ex school board member — and current Nuestro Mundo board member — Juan José López, dual-language programs can lead the way in
preparing Madison’s children to cope in a globalized world. “I hope and I wish that the Madison school district with the new superintendent and board of
education in place, that they incorporate this into all of the elementary schools,” López said. “This direction, this global learning and understanding the
languages of all of the languages of the world is important. They should do a dual immersion in Chinese, Russian, Hong and other languages. I think it is
important for our children to learn two languages. It’s good that they started with Spanish and English. Hopefully they will extend it to other languages as well.
We need to make sure the middle school becomes a reality. It’s important for our parents and our children so they are truly bilingual and are competitive in the
global market.”
    “You want kids to be globally prepared,” Gil Casado added. “Once you learn one language, it is so much easier to learn a second or third language. The data
shows that it improves math scores and a number of different things.”
    And it can also help the district retain its students as the district’s student population undergoes a demographic change. “Today and for years to come, this is
the change,” López said as he gazed out at the crowd. “Our children, even the third graders here, understand that change is coming. Our children are part of the
change, part of the face of not only the school district, but also the city of Madison. I wish adults would get on board and not be stuck in the past. Some day, we
are either going to have to adapt to it or move aside and let the change occur. It’s here.”