Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Amazing Dual Language Education

Collier, V, P., & Thomas, W, P. (2004) The Astounding Effectiveness of Dual Language Education for All. National Association for Bilingual Education Journal of Research and Practice. 2 (1), 1-20.

            The achievement gap. A academic gap separating disadvantaged students from becoming successful in America’s school system (please note, the “achievement gap” can refer to not just cognitive gaps, but social, racial, sexual, and economical). In the education profession, teachers hold the responsibly to close the achievement gap and ensure all students academically stand at grade-level or above grade level; however, assisting every student to the grade-level or above standard can be a overwhelming task, especially for English Language Learners (ELLs).
            In Virginia P. Collier and Wayne P. Thomas’ article “The Astounding Effectiveness of Dual Language Education for All,” Collier and Thomas examine 23 different and diverse school districts under a dual language enrichment program. As the title of the article indicates, the authors discovered one-way and two-way dual language programs to close the academic achievement gap by 70%-100%+ by the 5th grade. Analyzing the information collected over an 18-year period, the authors clearly advocate for dual language education programs, not just for ELLs, but also for every student.

First, Enrichment and Remedial
            In their article, Collier and Thomas make a clear distinction between enrichment programs and remedial programs. The enrichment model, or the enrichment dual language schooling, helps ELLs completely close the academic achievement gap between students’ first and second language; moreover, the authors also note the closing of the achievement gap for all categories of students (Collier & Thomas, 2004).
            Simply stated, “remedial programs only partially close the gap” (Collier & Thomas, 2004, pg 1). The researchers consider the following remedial programs: intensive English classes, English as a second language (ESL) pullout, ESL content/sheltered instruction, structured English Immersion, and transitional bilingual education (Collier & Thomas, 2004). The major problem, according to the authors, with remedial programs resides in the program’s inability to effectively close the gap. Collier and Thomas found the remedial programs widen the academic gap as the student proceeds to challenging secondary education.


From the plethora of data collected and presented, Figure 5 summarizes the effectiveness of the four types of dual language program. From the figure, the reader notes all the dual language programs close the achievement gap by at least 70%. When examining Figure 5’s set of data, the authors indicate the percentage of gap closed ends at the 5th grade; in addition, Collier and Thomas mentions the students who failed to close their achievement gap by the 5th grade do so in their middle school years. In addition, Figure 5 shows the achievement gap lessens significantly by the students’ National Curve Equivalent (NCEs); moreover, students in the dual language programs perform 55%-62% better than ELLs in mainstream classrooms.

Getting to Dual Language Programs
            In their article, Collier and Thomas describe a few requirements of implementing a district dual language program. The first requirement resides in the administration approval of implementing dual language program. The second requirement relies on 6 principles the authors note as essential:
            1. Minimum of six years of Bilingual instruction with ELLs not segregated
            2. A focus on the core academic curriculum rather than a watered-don             version
            3. High-quality language arts instruction in both languages and integrated             into thematic units
            4. Separation of the two languages with no translation or repeated lessons in             the other languages,
            5. Use of the non-English language at least 50% of the instructional time and             as much as 90% in the early grades
            6.Use of collaborative and interactive teaching strategies
                                                                               (Collier & Thomas, 2004, pg 13).
            By examining the information Collier and Thomas presents, one can see the effectiveness of dual language programs: ELLs are completely closing the academic achievement gap, parents and teachers see the progress of their students and/or children, and native and non-native speakers form a cultural and linguistic experience with one another.
            However, when reading the research, I was, as the title inferred, astonished. For ELLs to close the academic achievement gap within five to eight years is quite powerful; nevertheless, I do see implications for a dual language program model. One implication resides in the name, “dual language program.” The success of the program rests on the shoulders of having only two languages; for instance, what if a school implemented a two-way dual language program with instruction in English and Spanish. The instruction and practice, I would assume, work effectively and successfully; however, once a student of another culture enters the school district, a problem surfaces. Is a student from another culture supposed to learn English and Spanish in a dual language program without the same effective method the other students are obtaining? I would conclude the student from a different culture might as well be in an intensive English inclusive classroom.
            Many more implications for a dual language program exist; however, the implication mentioned in the paragraph previously resides as a substantial issue in my opinion. If a school district has a clear distinction between two linguistically diverse cultures in their community, a dual language program would work wonders. On the other hand, if a school district has a linguistically diverse community, then dual language programs might not be the best option. Instead, another method would be required to successfully reach our English Language Learners. 

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