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School board approves dual immersion expansion

In a 4-3 vote, the Corvallis School Board voted Monday night to approve a recommendation by Superintendent Erin Prince to create school-wide dual language immersion programs at Garfield and Lincoln elementary schools over the next six years.

The proposal, developed by a 25-member Dual Language Immersion Task Force, expands both schools’ current DLI program in which students are taught their core curriculum in both English and Spanish. The schools’ English-only classrooms will be phased out one year at a time beginning with kindergarten in 2012-2013.

Dr. Prince’s recommendation to the board was similar to the original plan brought forward by the task force, but it also contained a few clarifications and modifications. The district will develop a late entry policy to allow native English-speaking students beyond the first grade who have some Spanish language skills to be evaluated to see whether they might be eligible for the dual immersion program.

The superintendent’s plan also ensures that every student currently on the wait list for dual language immersion for kindergarten and first grade next year will be placed in a DLI classroom next fall.

Concerns about the impact of dual language immersion on students with special learning needs will be addressed by reviewing whether a child’s disability significantly impacts his or her ability to succeed in the program and identifying effective strategies and accommodations to support students with special needs in DLI classrooms

Finally, the district will offer additional support to parents, teachers and students in English-only classrooms during the phase-out period in an effort to address issues related to class size and demographics. Student academic and behavior data will be closely monitored to support academic success throughout the transition.

Dr. Prince affirmed the teachers in English-only classrooms at both schools for their dedication and providing students with “exceptional” instruction and “going the extra mile” to ensure a quality education for all despite the challenges brought on by the current DLI model.

“The issue we have brought forward in suggesting this change is that the current setting has become even more challenging without the flexibility of multiple English-only classrooms,” she said. “That is the issue, not the quality of teaching and learning.”

School officials and board members admitted their decision to expand the two schools’ DLI programs incurs some risk. However, the goals of meeting the needs of a growing number of English-language learners and resolving the difficulty and inequities of operating two different programs (DLI and English-only) within a small elementary school outweigh the risks, they said.

“The research shows that dual language immersion is an extremely effective strategy for increasing academic achievement among all students, and there’s little argument that being bilingual is a skill that will be invaluable to students in our new global society,” Dr. Prince said. “This is a bold step for our district, but one that we believe will have a positive impact on our students for years to come.”

 For a more detailed explanation of dual language immersion in the Corvallis School District, click here.

Superintendent’s DLI Recommendation: 2-27-12 PowerPoint Presentation