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U46 eyes progress of dual-language effort’s 2nd year

Updated: April 1, 2013 7:36AM

ELGIN — One second-grader read the few sentences she’d written about the dual-language program at Harriet Gifford Elementary School. “I like to talk in English. I can learn English and Spanish. My friends teach English and Spanish to me. I am learning English and Spanish at my school.”

Another read hers: “Es un buen programa.”

Both reports were part of an update to the Elgin School District U46 Board of Education on Monday night on its second year as a dual-language district from students, parents, teachers and administrators.

The district began transitioning to a dual-language model for its Spanish-speaking English Language Learner classrooms last school year, even opening some of those classrooms to English-speaking students as an enrichment program.

That model teaches students a second language while building literacy in their first language.

In it, kindergarten students receive 80 percent of their instruction in Spanish. That drops to 70 percent as the class moves up together to first grade, and 60 percent in second grade before instruction is split in half between Spanish and English in third, fourth and fifth grades.

“For every destination there is a journey, and this is our journey,” said Wilma Valero, director of English as a Second Language and bilingual education in U46.

Rising numbers

In the first two years of that journey, according to the presentation by the ELL department, the number of students in one-way dual-language classrooms for Spanish-speaking students has increased from 3,817 students to 4,106; the number of teachers rose from 157 to 178.

In the two-way dual-language classrooms of both English- and Spanish-speaking students, those numbers have increased from 377 students to 1,093, the presentation said.

That includes a jump from 232 ELL students to 715 and from 145 English-speaking students to 378. The number of teachers in two-way classrooms has increased since last school year, from 25 to 40, it said.

The number of schools with two-way dual-language programs, all based on the interest from parents, has more than doubled from seven last school year to 16 this year, according to the presentation.

And those two-way classrooms are as diverse as the Elgin school district, with 195 Hispanic students to 107 white students, followed by 40 students who are black and 36 of different ethnicities, it said.


Next up, the district is collecting interest forms through April 19 to determine how many schools will have two-way dual-language classrooms.

And it is starting professional development for fourth-grade teachers, who will have the one-way dual-language students who started the program as second-graders two years ago. The model has expanded another grade every year with its students since it started with kindergarten and first- and second-grade students in 2011-12.


Board member Maria Bidelman, whose daughter is a fourth-grader in the district’s pilot two-way dual-language program at Channing Memorial Elementary School in Elgin, called the district’s program “fabulous.”

“I’m very proud of what she does and the community that’s built around her being in the program,” Bidelman said.

And Superintendent Jose Torres praised the program, and Valero’s work, as “renowned” across the country, noting the Promoting Bilingualism Award U46 was awarded over the summer.

“We have a wonderful, wonderful team,” Valero demurred. “It takes a village to raise a child.”

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