Elkhorn Village Elementary School

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Elkhorn Village Elementary School, located in West Sacramento, California, and a part of the Washington Unified School District, has a long history of offering bilingual education for Spanish-speaking families. Elkhorn Village faced many obstacles in keeping and strengthening their dual immersion program. Originally, the school provided Spanish instruction in a K-6 program as a strand within a mainstream school.

However, throughout the years, due to state assessments and Proposition 227 – changing the way that "Limited English Proficient" (LEP) students were taught in California, specifically requiring California public schools to teach LEP students in special classes that are taught in English – the program became a K-3 Early Exit Transitional Program. The bilingual staff at Elkhorn would have vertical articulation meetings on their own time to discuss the long-term goals for students in this Program.

Photo for Featured School: Elkhorn Village Elementary School

In 2012, resources were limited for Bilingual classrooms and there were no supports in place for students in the program once they completed 3rd grade. The Elkhorn Village staff decided that if given the opportunity, they would transition to a Dual Language Program.

Many of the students in the Transitional Program were successful due to the hard work and dedication between staff and families; that being said, the staff felt they needed to implement a long-term plan for their students to become bilingual.

Elkhorn Village Elementary began it’s planning process in 2014 when they had enough grant funding used to create a Program Specialist position. District and site administration approved the position of a Program Specialist to research and establish a plan to move from a K-3 Transitional program to a K- 8 Dual Immersion Program. This position was funded for two years.

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The Elkhorn Village Elementary team dedicated the 2015-16 school year to research and planning of the program; a full year was needed to lay the foundation for a successful program. A timeline was created for the planning year that outlined the initial plan with questions, resources needed, and presentations such as: parent information sessions, Washington Unified Board presentations, pilots for SLA and Math curriculum, creating brochures, establishing relationships with local preschools and community members.

The Program Specialist knew that there would have to be time for families enrolled in the Transitional Program to understand why the school was moving towards a Dual Immersion Program instead of continuing with the K-3 Transitional Program that was previously in place.

The Program Specialist met with kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Urbina, talking logistics, including instructional minutes for both languages, student leveled groupings for Designated English Language Development, strategies to integrate Spanish Language Development, and homework instructions for English speaking parents to support children at home. Likewise, the Program Specialist met with ELD Specialist, Veronica Avelar, to discuss program models within the classroom. The model that would eventually be implemented was 90/10, and teachers we’re not to speak English to their students. A schedule was also created that met the leveled needs of all students, but had Dual Immersion students with a partner teacher that could teach them in English.

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Elkhorn’s Home School Liaison was also very important in this process, as she was able to explain the difference between Transitional and Dual Immersion in small and one on one conversations with Elkhorn parents that were very supportive of the bilingual program.

The team made sure that the school’s plans would meet requirements for the District’s EL needs, along with discussing with high school teachers the appropriate offered courses for students exiting the K-8 Dual Immersion Program. Research was done, both online and at other dual immersion sites, for the best methods of implementation during the early years.

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Today, the biggest challenge the Elkhorn Village program faces is carving out collaboration time for teachers to specifically address the needs of Dual Immersion. The collaboration time allows teachers the opportunity to plan when and what assessments are given. Sometimes, students will be assessed in two languages, but collaborating with various grade levels allows us to target which language to use when assessing to obtain useful data.

The Elkhorn Village team is constantly reflecting and analyzing what they do for their students in order to guarantee that the school is the most effective it can be.

To be most effective, the team needs SLD and ELD specialists to support instruction. By having ELD and SLD Specialists within their 90:10 model, the school would be able to have smaller groups during Designated ELD time and provide targeted SLD instruction for students who are in need.

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When asked for their best advice to those interested in creating their own dual immersion program, the team said that time in planning a Dual Immersion program is crucial. The team also recommends to incorporate collaboration time within and across grade levels with specific program goals, and invest in ELD and SLD specialists to support instruction.

Full communication between teachers is crucial, as being a Dual Immersion teacher is a timely commitment; teachers should know what they are signing up for before being part of the program. Teachers will work extra hours creating assessments and materials that aren’t available in Spanish, extra time will be dedicated to collaboration with teachers in other grades. If the Dual Immersion Program is part of a School District, teachers will have to work to align content to district expectations as much as possible. Teachers must be advocates in a program like this.

The Elkhorn Village administration and team are incredibly proud of the work they have put in to make a dual immersion program within their school a reality. The process of starting and implementing a dual immersion program has been a collaborative one, between parents, home school liaisons, secretaries, teachers, ELD Specialists, and Administrators. Their teachers excel at providing the best learning opportunities for their students because they know how important it is for future generations to be bilingual, biliterate, and have an understanding and appreciation of other cultures.

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