School districts around the country have taken note of incontrovertible research on the effectiveness of dual language education (Thomas & Collier, 2017 - http://shop.dlenm.org/books). One-way and two-way programs offer both language-minority and language-majority students access to rigorous academics, bilingualism and biliteracy, and cross-cultural competence—all necessary 21st century skills.
The first steps toward effective implementation include:
- dual language foundations training for school community stakeholders to ensure shared and common knowledge and understanding;
- an alignment of available resources, including human resources (inventory of what we have);
- an action plan to ensure additional resources are secured and aligned; and
- a schoolwide alignment retreat to ensure everyone understands their individual and collective responsibilities as they prepare to implement.
While these are obvious necessary steps to effective program implementation, they are not sufficient to ensure sustainability of the program and the realization of the K-12 promise of dual language education. New programs are launched in an environment of excitement and seemingly endless commitment. However, it is common that this initial “honeymoon period” begins to wane in the program’s second or third year of implementation. This is a crucial time in the survival of the program and a sobering time for school communities when they realize that their initial planning did not include securing the input and commitment of all essential stakeholders. Key stakeholders include feeder secondary campuses to ensure the K-12 trajectory, district leadership to manage ongoing human resource needs, materials adoption, and professional development to ensure alignment of support services in order to grow and sustain a K-12 program.
Dual Language Education of New Mexico (DLeNM), and sister organizations (i.e., ATDLE, CAL) have given great thought to the issue of sustainability and our collective experience is found throughout the third edition of the Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education (www.cal/GP3). Published by the Center for Applied Linguistics in collaboration with DLeNM and Santillana USA, the latest edition includes the collective expertise of colleagues from around the country who have lived the challenges and promise of K-12 dual language education. This commitment to establish support systems helps ensure a program worthy of sustainability and effective program implementation.
As a result of this clearer view of the components that support program sustainability, the experts at ATDLE now require potential partner school districts to begin with a district-wide master planning session to prepare fertile ground for new program planting to be successful. ATDLE has a number of start-up resources to offer interested schools and districts that can be found at https://atdle.org/atdle-resources/.
DLeNM staff has developed the Readiness Framework with the support of sister organizations in New Mexico. The Readiness Framework is a product of the Dual Language School/Community Partnerships initiative that works with both tribal- and Spanish-language communities, and can be found at www.dlenm.org. Supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Framework includes a number of documents that can be used both by schools considering dual language education and/or those that have begun implementation and are looking for ways to improve their program.
A responsible journey toward K-12 DLE success begins with a focus on sustainability. Support systems must be developed and ready at all levels for the very best chance of realizing the K-12 DLE dream. We owe DLE students and their families our very best efforts to long-term, effective program implementation and sustainability.