Where are the bilingual schools?

We’ve had so much news lately that I haven’t had the time to blog about a Clayton elementary school where students become bilingual in English and Spanish by the time they enter middle school.

The students at Unidos Dual Language Charter School in Forest Park are a mix of native English and native Spanish speakers. At least half the classes are taught in Spanish.

This isn’t the first school to focus on a second language, but few have such an even balance between English and another language.

In many ways this design makes sense. Children tend to pick up languages easier. And it is a way to tap into the massive influx of immigrants moving to the area.

This Clayton school is focusing on Spanish, but I imagine some other schools could emphasize Chinese, Korean, Arabic or other languages, depending on the community.

There is a trade-off. School organizers admit test scores on state exams are low the first few years students are at the school.

Would you enroll your child in a bilingual school? Is this something more schools and districts should offer?

30 comments Add your comment

Zachs Mom

June 29th, 2009
9:35 am

My child has enough problems learning in English. Schools can offer a foreign language but when kids graduate from high school and can’t read on or above grade level in ENGLISH, something is not right.

Just A Teacher

June 29th, 2009
10:07 am

I am going out on a limb here and calling this what it is: continued evidence of the deterioration of American society. I would never enroll my child in a school which requires such nonsense. Schools should offer foreign language classes, but to require that half of the curriculum be taught in a foreign language is ridiculous. People need to become fluent in the language which has made this country great, English. I’m sick and tired of being asked to press 1 for English. If you can’t communicate in our national language, tough! Our schools are for our citizens who should be able to read and write in our language.

No one in your family speaks English? I’m sorry. Perhaps your child should go to a country where they speak the language you use in your home.

Danteach

June 29th, 2009
12:31 pm

This school is a great idea. And Just A Teacher, what languages do you think have had an influence on English, the language you cherish so dearly? Latin and French. By learning Spanish or any other Romance language, our children are improving their vocabulary and grasping a better understanding of the English language.

Look at the average SAT scores at the International School. Last I checked, it was 1350.

And judging by our test scores already, I think teaching the curriculum in another language and basing it on how it is taught in other countries would benefit our children.

Classroom Teacher

June 29th, 2009
12:32 pm

Just a Teacher…AMEN!

What is so hard about increasing the foreign language departments of schools if we are that concerned about our children learning a second language? Only in America are we chipping away at our national character and sovereignty. Only in America. Even in liberal bilingual Canada they don’t do this type of nonsense. Its either English or French. But I digress, no I wouldn’t send my child to a bilingual school.

Seen it all

June 29th, 2009
12:44 pm

I am very familiar with the Unidos School. It is doing QUITE well. I am an ESOL teacher. I have also studied Spanish for several years and I know what is it like to actually learn a foreign language. You don’t learn it simply by taking a class!!! You must hear the language, speak it, read it, and write it.

I support dual language schools. They are very effective and a great way to increase a student’s understanding and broaden their horizons. Dual language programs are not popular here mainly for these reasons:

1) Georgians (and many Americans) do not really respect other people’s cultures (and languages). We tend to be xenophobic, close-minded, self-righteous, and arrogant. Therefore the discussion of foreign language becomes POLITCAL. This is why bilingual education in Georgia and in many states has been denounced and banned. Part of the problem is that most people don’t understand REAL EDUCATION. They think of schooling as just indoctrination and a series of hoops to past through in preparation for future employment and social status.

2) Most foreign language “study” is simply an exercise. Sure, thousands upon thousands of Georgia high school students “study” a foreign language. But that is only in the most esoteric sense, hence the reason THEY NEVER MASTER THE LANGUAGE OR BECOME FLUENT IN IT. The high school Spanish and French classes are taught by NON-NATIVE speakers who teach the class as if it were just another subject like history or math. And the students treat it the same way. How can you learn an another language when the teacher spends the entire time speaking in English? All the students end up being able to do is reciting the names of the colors and conjugating some verbs. They can read a few simple sentences and utter “o-la. como… esta….oo sted.” After two or three years of “instruction”, they can’t even hold a simple conversation on the street, much less understand a Spanish television show or read a Spanish language newspaper. They take foreign language classes to meet an curriculum requirement, not because of any real interest to acquire this language, be it Spanish, French, Italian, German, or Latin.

3) In the current political climate and NCLB, NO public schools around here will take on this bilingual education/dual language programs. It doesn’t matter if the language is Spanish (reviled because of YOUR [not mine] hatred and bigotry towards Latinos), French, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, etc. The only schools I know of that have had dual language programs were in Clayton County and Atlanta. The one in Atlanta offers Chinese classes, but I don’t think it actually offers the academic instruction in Chinese. The program at Unidos actually teaches academic content in English and Spanish. And the kids there passed the CRCT and made AYP!!! But the point is that only there (and maybe Dekalb) would the people have the guts AND VISION to take a chance like that.

For one thing, research has shown that additive bilingual education can be HIGHLY effective for students whose native language is not English. Secondly we all know that it is generally easier for kids to acquire a new language a WHOLE LOT easier than older adults. The language connections in the brain become “wired” after around age 10 and it becomes a lot harder to acquire a language after then. Elementary school is the perfect time to learn a foreign language, not high school. Also the ONLY way to really learn a language is through immersion.

FLAWoodLayer

June 29th, 2009
1:29 pm

I lived in California and taught in an affluent school district. They had an elementary school there that was dual immersion. Those students whom I got to teach in high school were some of my brightest students. The native English speakers spoke Spanish fluently and can now use it as a resource in their lives. In other nations, the best and brightest students are MULTILINGUAL! Why are we so eager to be average? Just a Teacher, the language of English did not make this nation great no more than Latin enabled the Romans to create an empire. I wish my daughter could have attended a school that was dual immersion when she was in elementary school.

Seen it all

June 29th, 2009
1:43 pm

You people don’t seem to understand- the parents CHOSE to send their kids to the Unidos Dual Language Charter School. The parents applied for admission. The same thing with the Chinese program in Atlanta. There are several schools in Atlanta with language programs. Those parents choose to send their kids there.

The reality is that the children in these dual language schools ALREADY SPEAK ENGLISH. I’ll let that sink in for a while. They are actually at the school to be exposed to the foreign language.

Let’s put the visceral emotions aside and use logic and reason. There is good merit to dual language education. But I think that some of us are using a bigotry against Latinos to cloud our judgement. Look at the responses of two so-called “teachers” within the last hour. Pure hate and bigotry spewed forth. It sounded as if someone from the streets and gutter had uttered those words, not a supposedly educated and enlightened person. A person who job it is to educate and enrich the minds and souls of young people.

Let’s keep the debate above the table, OK.

Classroom Teacher

June 29th, 2009
1:46 pm

Seen it all you said a bunch of nothing. Your first statement “Georgians (and many Americans) do not really respect other people’s cultures (and languages). We tend to be xenophobic, close-minded, self-righteous, and arrogant.” Pretty much sums up your bias toward your fellow Americans. Ask Central Americans’ how Mexico treats illegal immigrants.

Seen it all

June 29th, 2009
2:11 pm

Classroom Teacher,

This discussion is NOT about immigration. Again the discussion is NOT about immigration, Latinos, or Mexicans. The discussion is about the merits of dual language schools and why are there more in Georgia.

There are more people than Mexicans who speak Spanish. There are the peoples of the Caribbean, Central American countries, SOUTH AMERICA, and SPAIN.

Furthermore when discussing language instruction, you have to consider Chinese, Japanese, French, and Arabic, which are all taught to a great degree in our schools.

Seen it all

June 29th, 2009
2:14 pm

You people don’t seem to understand- the parents CHOSE to send their kids to the Unidos Dual Language Charter School. The parents applied for admission. The same thing with the Chinese program in Atlanta. There are several schools in Atlanta with language programs. Those parents choose to send their kids there.

The reality is that the children in these dual language schools ALREADY SPEAK ENGLISH. I’ll let that sink in for a while. They are actually at the school to be exposed to the foreign language.

Seen it all is a bigot

June 29th, 2009
4:03 pm

“You people???” Please begone with you bigoted patronizing ways.

ScienceTeacher671

June 29th, 2009
6:22 pm

The educated Europeans I know began learning foreign languages (including English) in primary school, and are fluent in 3-5 languages. We should offer more foreign languages, and we should offer them in elementary school.

IEatCats

June 29th, 2009
7:25 pm

Further evidence of the Balkanization of this country? The acquiescence to learn the language of predominant foreign minority of a given geographic area. So my child will become proficient in Spanish while attending school in Atlanta, what good does that do him if we have to move to Los Angeles, where Korean is a significant minority, or to Miami, where Creole has a demonstrable presence. Pandering to localized demographics does not promote diversity through the embrace of multiple cultures, it retards the immersion of foreign-born citizens into American culture.

Seen it all

June 29th, 2009
9:45 pm

My goodness. Look at the smallmindedness. It has already been said that Spanish is only one language taught in the dual language schools. Other schools in the Atlanta area teach French, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic. Why single out Spanish?

Lee

June 29th, 2009
10:52 pm

Okay, give me one example of where a community went from 90% white to majority black &/or hispanic and the quality of life improved?

It’s not xenophobic to look at the deterioration of our cities and counties, due largely in part to the mass inflow of illegal alien invaders, and raise a concern.

My guess, the hispanic students love this school because they can attend with a student body that is most like themselves.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the reason that most Europeans speak more than one language has more to do with the small geographic area of the countries in Europe and the frequent travel between them by the population. Or, what if the official language of Alabama was spanish, the official language of Georgia was english, and the official language of S. Carolina was french, do you think we would have more multi-linguals? Probably so.

FLAWoodLayer

June 29th, 2009
11:16 pm

Wow Lee what a great argument. Let’s reverse that and apply it to the Native civilizations of the Americas. Very simplistic racist argument. I would also argue Lee that the students I have seen with the most gain from dual immersion schools have been WHITE. The school I taught at in California was affluent and white and consisted of parents who saw the benefit of their children learning Spanish. I guess they don’t speal Spanish in Los Angeles or Miami IEatCats. Really?

ScienceTeacher671

June 29th, 2009
11:47 pm

Lee, that’s true, but how many times do we hear people say we’re supposed to be preparing our students for The Global Economy? I don’t know that Spanish is the language they will need, but as others say, except in the hinterlands, high schools and some immersion schools are teaching other languages.

jim d

June 30th, 2009
5:01 am

This school is a school of choice–So just don’t make a choice to send your kid if you don’t want them exposed to this type of education.

It really is that simple

IEatCats

June 30th, 2009
7:20 am

So this school of choice nonsense will be a one-off in perpetuity, or will its “success” be the model of the mainstream curriculum in time? I am not a xenophobe, but I am appalled at the thought of my children being force fed a language because of the influx of a particular demographic. Yes, it is Spanish here in Atlanta, but this issue is prevalent with other languages in other parts of the country.

I do see a need for my children to be bi-lingual or even multi-lingual, but I want it to be a language of my or my child’s choosing and one that has a practical use outside of Buford Highway or Gwinnett county. If we as a country are trying to be a true global force, where are the classes in Japanese (the world’s 2nd largest economy), or German and French (4th and 5th, respectively)? Moreover, which schools are teaching Mandarin or Hindi, languages belonging to the two of the most populous and arguably fastest growing economies on the planet?

So don’t give me this garbage about how narrow minded I am, it is a weak and specious argument.

ScienceTeacher671

June 30th, 2009
9:01 am

jim d – “This school is a school of choice–So just don’t make a choice to send your kid if you don’t want them exposed to this type of education.”

EXACTLY!

catlady

June 30th, 2009
2:27 pm

Do the kids of Clayton Co actually speak English well? Heheheh What I have heard when I visited there was a patois of southern redneck and black English, with a seasoning of Spanish flavoring on the side.

is catlady real

June 30th, 2009
4:22 pm

catlady continues to amazes me with her ignorance and bigotry…

don't believe the hype

June 30th, 2009
5:29 pm

nothing wrong with learning a different language but this is just an attempt to serve the LARGE number of illegal immigrants in GA. come on people, don’t be so dense!

dense

June 30th, 2009
5:45 pm

Well, maybe those illegal immigrants can help children of those bigots to speak another language fluently and understand other cultures.

z.b.

October 19th, 2009
1:23 am

i’m sooo excited about this! i’m from california and we have lots of dual-language immersion schools. it’s about time georgia caught up; we live in a global world! i’ll be looking into how i can get my son invovled…

No turning back

October 26th, 2009
5:59 pm

wow so many angry people about learning about foriegn language. Im surprized no one mentioned the fact that with current population statistics, by the year 2012 at least half of the people in this country will be fluent in spanish. Forget a global economy and the educational benefits of learning more than one language, this country is changing and there is no turning back. Cacasian english speaking people will soon be a minority. No one will force you to learn spanish but you will be putting your chilidren at a severe disadvantage by only knowing english, they will be competing for jobs with an educated multi lingual society.

Elementary Teacher

February 14th, 2010
3:04 pm

I can’t believe the comments I’m reading here! Teaching our children other languages is a GOOD thing! Our children need to be multilingual and I’ve seen this dual linguistic curriculum work. How do you expect your children to succeed in such an increasingly global world if you object to them being taught anything other than English? And by the way, the USA doesn’t have an official language, so if you’re one of the close minded people who are comlaining about the kids not being taught the “official” or “national” language, get your facts straight! This type of curriculum is the best way to let them learn because they can speak, listen, write, and fully participate in another language (because I hate to tell you but one or two classes in high school doesn’t cut it). This could also foster acceptance and understanding among children towards other languages AND othe cultures in general. As an early childhood and ESOL teacher, I know that this is a good thing. And for those of you who are complaining beacuse it is Spanish that is being taught, get over it. Learning ANY second language increases their likelihood of successfully learning another, so why not let them be bilingual in English and Spanish (which will open so many doors in the future) as young children and let them work on a different languages as adults.

bilingual daughter

March 18th, 2010
4:47 pm

Here in Canada (Calgary, Alberta in particular) we do have options other than French/English. We have Mandarin Chinese (#1 spoken language in the world), Spanish (#2 spoken language in the world), French & German (both are much further down the list). My daughter is currently enrolled in a Spanish bilingual elementary school. Spanish is the # 2 most spoken language in the world. The benefits to their brains are tremendous. Initially it can be difficult & their scores may be lower, however, by grade 6 most are surpassing their peers. Think of the opportunities your child will have in the business, education, traveling, world when they grow up!
Why do so many Americans forget that their country was founded with the intention of inclusion not exclusion, and that freedom of religion, language, thoughts, speech are what make it such a great country?! The USA was not founded w/the idea of conforming (everyone must speak only English!).

bilingual daughter

March 18th, 2010
6:45 pm

PS. An American living in Calgary.

open your mind

September 1st, 2010
4:29 pm

Please do some research on bilingual education before making those ignorant comments. If you didn’t know about the program, are you qualified to make a judgement? Educators. please be open minded…you’re teaching 21 century students…