Dual Language Program Planning: Aligning Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment … From the Start!

By: Dr. Barbara Kennedy (Dr. BK), GlobaLingo Education Consulting, LLC  http://www.globalingoed.com/

This piece represents Part Three in a series on effective planning practices for initial dual language program implementation.

It is not uncommon for leaders to underestimate the need for targeted cross-departmental support when launching a new dual language (DL) program. But ask any DL school principal or classroom teacher and they will tell you: One of their greatest frustrations is attempting to deliver high-quality DL programming within a district structure that is designed solely around the strengths and needs of monolingual English-speaking students.

When planning to implement dual language (DL) education, it is crucial that we adopt a systems-level approach from the start to ensure program sustainability over the long term. It is best not to wait. Your DL program planning team should reach out already in the early days of your planning year to collaborate across departments. Below are some critical actions for your DL planning team to initiate to increase alignment in the areas of curriculum, instruction, and assessment:

  1. Curriculum – School districts generally provide curriculum in English only. The monolingual English curriculum is grounded in best practices identified in research for native English speakers that is adjusted, if at all, for English learners served through monolingual English instruction (e.g., English as a Second Language – ESL, English Language Development – ELD). An effective DL program, however, requires curriculum that supports students in the attainment of DL program-specific goals: bilingualism and biliteracy, academic achievement in two languages, and socio-cultural competence.


Work closely with your colleagues in the Curriculum department to ensure that the following is in place before your new DL program launches:

(a) biliteracy curriculum that reflects the skills, scope, sequence, practices, and cultural perspectives that are authentic to the LOTE; is not a mere translation of the English literacy curriculum; allows for thematic connections across the two languages; is supported by high-quality instructional resources that are equitable across the two languages; and incorporates structured opportunities for connecting across languages (e.g., cognates, transferrable and non-transferrable skills);

(b) content curriculum (math, science, social studies) that is reviewed to ensure quality of translation/transadaptation, evaluated to ensure linguistic and cultural responsiveness, and enhanced to include opportunities for developing socio-cultural competence (Pillar 3); and

(c) scope and sequence documents that are adapted to account for the additional time needed to deliver DL instruction that promotes biliteracy (rather than monoliteracy), integrates language and content, and incorporates structured opportunities for cross-language connections (e.g. thematic teaching, compacting, bridging).


  1. Instruction – While many effective practices in monolingual English instruction are also applicable within the DL classroom, several additional, DL-specific methodologies are critical for success. These include, at a minimum, incorporation of sheltered instruction strategies that target language development of the LOTE, as well as English; provision of structured opportunities to connect across program languages; authentic literacy instruction in the LOTE, and in English, that is appropriately coordinated to support biliteracy development; and strategies to promote linguistic equity, foster bilingual identity development, and advance the socio-cultural goals of the DL program.


To support effective delivery of DL instruction, targeted PD for DL teachers and school principals is needed. A common misstep, however, is for DL PD to be viewed as a mere “add-on” to the district’s general PD plan. This often results in a failure to provide any DL-specific PD at all, or, alternatively, to provide DL-specific PD as supplemental “opt-in” training above and beyond the district’s standard PD requirements. Clearly, such an approach is flawed. It puts in place barriers for DL educator access to much-needed training and support. It also sends the message that the DL program is not truly valued.


To avoid this problem, DL program planners are advised to start early in the DL program planning year, and to meet regularly with colleagues in Instruction and PD to communicate the needs of DL teachers and principals and to look for ways to integrate targeted DL PD into the district’s “general” PD plan.


  1. Assessment – This is an area of utmost importance. Accountability and data-driven decision-making are at the foundation of our work as educators. One challenge is that many districts only provide assessments in English. An effective DL program requires ongoing evaluation in the two program languages to assess student progress toward the program goals of bilingualism and biliteracy as well as academic achievement in two languages. At the same time, DL educators need to be mindful of the burden of “double-testing” (in English and the LOTE) when devising DL assessment plans.

To monitor DL student progress, and to gather the outcome data needed to evaluate overall effectiveness of the DL program, leaders are strongly encouraged to work hand-in-hand with their colleagues in Assessment beginning early in the DL program planning year. The questions below can be used to guide collaborative decision-making:

  • How will student progress in oral language and literacy development be measured in the LOTE? In English? Do additional assessments need to be purchased?
  • How is progress toward mastery of academic content (math, science, social studies) currently measured (e.g., curriculum-based assessments, school-based assessments, benchmarks) and are these assessments also available in the LOTE? If not, do additional assessments need to be developed and/or purchased? What linguistic accommodations are available for DL students testing in their L2?
  • What assessments are administered for annual accountability purposes, and are options for testing in the LOTE available? In cases where assessments are available in the LOTE, what processes need to be put in place to determine a DLI student’s language of assessment and/or access to linguistic accommodations?
  • How will student outcome data in the two program languages be collected, analyzed, and shared? How will benchmark expectations be adjusted to ensure that emergent bilinguals in the DL program are appropriately monitored for progress?
  • What measures will be used to determine a DL student’s qualification for participation in special programs, e.g. special education, gifted, Dyslexia, honors, etc. to ensure appropriate identification and equitable participation?
  • What data will be gathered to inform the periodic DL program evaluation? How will data be disaggregated to ensure a complete and accurate evaluation of DL program effectiveness regarding linguistically and culturally diverse student populations? What is the plan for communicating DL student and program outcomes to parents, families, and community members?

From the above, it is clear why the DL program planning process requires a minimum of one year. Including stakeholders from the departments of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment in the DL planning process from the start is well worth the effort. System-wide collaboration will provide DL principals and teachers the aligned support system they need and will build the foundation for long-term DL program success.

If you have questions or would like a free consultation on effective DL program planning, contact me at globalingoed@gmail.com. Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment in this series, in which we will explore strategies for successful DL program launch and support in the first year of implementation.



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