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SAISD dual language program continues to grow

Yes SiNext school year, San Antonio ISD will expand the number of schools offering dual language programs from 45 to 48 campuses, serving more than 6,000 students district-wide. 

While the initial expansion of dual language programs at SAISD over the past three years took place primarily in the lower grades, the 2019-20 school year will see three new secondary schools coming on board: Lanier High School, Edison High School and Whittier Middle School.

“I get excited knowing that I will be providing a tremendous service to my students that are English language learners and native English speakers,” said Irene Talamantes, principal at Whittier. “In a high stakes time like this, it is very important that we provide all our students the opportunity to learn at high levels and that is something that I believe dual language does.”

The new cohorts of high school and middle school dual language students will be offered one or two core courses such as biology or algebra in Spanish, an elective in Spanish, and an advanced Spanish language class. The students will take the rest of their required coursework in English. Dual language students at Brackenridge High School piloted this type of model during the 2018-19 school year with positive results. 

“The program at Brackenridge is very successful,” said Dr. Olivia Hernández, assistant superintendent for bilingual/ESL and migrant programs in SAISD. “It currently has about 60 students, and we are very committed to the program. It’s long overdue for our older students to have access to the curriculum in Spanish.”

There are approximately 50 students signed up for each of the ninth-grade programs at Lanier and Edison as well as the sixth-grade program at Whittier for the 2019-20 school year. Whitter just announced it will also be opening up the program to seventh- and eighth-graders.

“According to research, the best predictor to reach long-term academic success in English is the extension and quality of education in the first language,” said Hernández. “I am excited about higher grade levels learning in Spanish. The hard work is here, and the learning at these higher grade levels is exponential.”

Students who begin in a dual language program at the elementary level may now be able to continue their dual language education when they enter middle and high school.

According to Charles Fears, associate principal at Edison, when students follow the school’s four-year Dual Language Pathway, they will be working toward earning a Bi-Literacy Seal on their diploma.

“In other countries, schools provide learning opportunities for three to four languages, and Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world,” he said. “By developing students who are proficient in both Spanish and English, we are enhancing our students’ cognitive abilities and preparing them to successfully compete in the global workforce after high school.”

Hernández says the three new schools offering dual language will be utilizing current staff members already on campus to teach the courses.  

“We have teachers who are coming out and saying, ‘I can speak Spanish, I can deliver that class,’” she said. “As we continue growing, we will have to do some hiring but for now, we have the teachers who can do it. That’s the beauty of it.”

The teachers who will be teaching the classes in Spanish are certified in the subject area, and Hernández and her team will work assist them in getting on track to acquire their bilingual teacher’s certification if they do not already have it.

“I am committed; my team is committed,” said Hernández. “We are going to do this right. It’s for the kids. Our goal is to truly produce children who are bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural.”