Kids will learn in two tongues
January 11, 2007
Aspen, CO ColoradoCARBONDALE Crystal River Elementary School plans to move forward with implementing dual-language instruction in the fall.The Roaring Fork School District Re-1 Board of Education approved the proposal a dual-language committee presented Wednesday.Administrators said it’s another option to boost student achievement for a Carbondale school that has a Hispanic population of about 79 percent and has struggled with segregation issues in the past. About 71 percent of Hispanic students at the school speak English fluently, according to district records.”Our kids are making great growth,” Principal Karen Olson said. “We think they can make better growth.”The plan is to add one dual-language class to kindergarten and one to first grade. The program seeks to integrate native English-speakers and native Spanish-speakers for both content and literacy in both languages. It would add to a Spanish literacy pilot program currently in place at Crystal River and could expand in the future if it proves successful.”Instead of just having a class for literacy for kindergarten, now the kids will be learning content in both languages,” Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said. Instruction in the dual-language classes would be about half Spanish and half English for most subjects. Students might learn addition in English one week and in Spanish another week, Haptonstall said. But literacy instruction would still be primarily in students’ native languages. If kids learn to read well in their native language first, skills will transfer over to a second language more easily, Olson said.A draft schedule has native English speakers receiving about 180 minutes of English instruction and 125 minutes of Spanish instruction per day. Native Spanish speakers would receive about 155 minutes of English instruction and 150 minutes of Spanish instruction per day. But Olson stressed that the schedule is a preliminary draft and subject to change based on additional planning, monitoring of student’s needs and the results of the programs. The program is meant to be flexible and adaptable, adding on to the existing academic agenda. Current curriculum at Crystal River would not change, only the language of instruction would change, a dual-language committee memo states.In addition to boosting student achievement, the committee hopes it will create a more integrated school and develop positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors. The program could also become a model for how the district might promote bilingualism for all students.District board member Bruce Wampler cast the lone vote against approving the program.”I am deeply opposed to this program because I see it as yet another step to making it a bilingual country,” he said. “I think this should be an English-speaking country.” But he said he did not think he could win that battle.Haptonstall said some parents probably share Wampler’s opinions and might not want to enroll their children in the dual-language class, but pointed out that participation is optional.The dual-language committee consists of Olson, Haptonstall, teachers and parents who serve on a school accountability committee. The committee has researched the concept for about a year and visited schools implementing similar programs that have demonstrated success, Olson said.