By Pavan Vangipuram
Five Washington School Districts were awarded grants to develop and implement dual-language programs, models that educate students in two languages simultaneously.
School districts Bethel, Selah, and Mabton will receive grants of $100,000 over two years, and mentor districts Wenatchee and Bellevue will receive $60,000 and $40,000 over two years, respectively.
OneAmerica and other education advocates were instrumental in promoting dual-language programs to the legislature and securing funding in the budget for new and expanded programs across the state.
“We know that well-implemented, two-way dual language programs are the most effective models for closing the opportunity gap for ELL students, and they also create a classroom environment where all students value language and cultural diversity,” said OneAmerica Education Policy Coordinator Chelsea Whealdon. “Studies show the cognitive and social benefits of dual language immersion programs, and we’re so excited to continue to advocate for increased bilingual opportunities for students as a means of building an education system that is more culturally and linguistically responsive.”
Principal Rob Darling, of grant recipient John Campbell Primary School in Selah, Wash., said: “We hear about “majority” or “minority” cultures and languages. A language cannot be considered a “majority” language because it’s measured by the number of people who speak that language. It’s measured, rather, by the impact the language has to connect its people to its culture. If you lose that language, you have to borrow someone else’s language, someone else’s roots and culture. You lose your heritage.
“There is so much more at stake here than just closing the achievement gap,” Darling said. “Our goal is for our dual-immersion students, English- and Spanish-speaking, to leave the program in 5th grade academically bilingual in both languages, and academically thriving. With the help of this grant, we can make this declaration with even more confidence.”
This is the first time Washington has directly funded the expansion of dual language programs due to the advocacy of parents, students and educators in the 2015 legislative session. (end)