April School of the Month: Forest Glen, Indiana!
Forest Glen opened its doors as a Spanish Immersion school in 1993 due to a large number of community members valuing language learning in their district. About 10 years ago, as the EL population in the district began its boom, Forest Glen transitioned to a dual language model. Since then, Forest Glen remains as one of the top performing schools in the state of Indiana.
It is visited monthly by neighboring school districts and even neighboring states as a dual language model to be replicated.
Forest Glen serves students in preschool to sixth grade. In the early grades, preschool to third grade, the language allocation is 80% in Spanish and 20% in English. Once students enter 4th grade, the language allocation goes to 50% Spanish and 50% English through 6th grade.
Forest Glen believes in developing students bilingualism, biliteracy, and multicultural perspective. The dual language program at Forest Glen is rigorous, and students, along with strong parental support, are expected to meet high academic demands. Students from Forest Glen are prepared for whatever path lies ahead of them.
Their district believes that STEM, just like learning another language, offers children another opportunity to stretch and be challenged. They believe in ensuring that all students, even those in a dual language program, also have access to the demands of a STEM curriculum. Along with being biliterate, and providing access to a STEM Dual Language curriculum, they can ensure that their students will be prepared for not only the jobs of today, but the jobs of tomorrow.
One of the challenges that the program currently faces is access to STEM materials in Spanish. Although STEM is popular across the country, Dual Language and STEM combined are unique. To find materials that have already been created, rather than have teachers creating their own (costing them hours spent translating), is the greatest challenge.
Forest Glen is fortunate to have families and strong community partners that rally to support kids. Forest Glen is one of eleven elementary schools in a large urban school district serving over 16, 000 students on the northeast side of Indianapolis, Indiana. The students Forest Glen serves come from all types of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. It is a true salad bowl and their community partners help in many ways, by providing financial support for STEM events like Robotics, cultural events like the Hispanic Festival, and El Camino, Forest Glen’s version of the walk-a-thon, are just a few key events that have become part of the culture of Forest Glen. Each year, as part of the Hispanic Festival, Forest Glen hosts a breakfast for all major stakeholders and community partners as just one way to thank them for making Forest Glen the outstanding school it has become and will continue to be.
Forest Glen was the first public dual language school in the state. Therefore it had to go elsewhere, like New Mexico and even Chicago for support.
We pulled in experts from the field, such as Cheryl Urow and Karen Beeman from The Center for Teaching for Biliteracy, and Dr. José Medina, former director of the Center of Applied Linguistics (CAL), and others to help guide our work. It has been very exciting to have Dual Language programs starting to pop up everywhere in Indiana and to work together to make Indiana a leader in biliteracy!- Erika Tran, Assistant Director of English as a New Language (ENL)
The teachers and administrators have attended many conferences. As the field continues to develop it is important that the school also continues to develop. They attend the La Cosecha conference in New Mexico every year, and the annual Teaching for Biliteracy conference in Chicago, IL. They are fortunate to have a state department that hosts experts locally and Indiana University also hosts a week long DL Workshop each summer that they also attend.
Forest Glen recently expanded their dual language programs to another elementary school, Skiles Test Elementary, and the process was very rigorous. They had numerous studies and committees that were looking at all aspects of programming and support. They are fortunate to be in a school district where their community values their dual language program and board of education and their Superintendent, Dr. Shawn Smith, stands behind providing students with the opportunity to be bilingual and biliterate and achieve at the highest levels academically.
My biggest piece of advice is to ensure you have the support of the community, your school board and your leaders. Also have a clear vision. It is important to know what you want and how to get there. Do the research, always learn from the experts that walk before you, but ensure your tasks align to your target vision. It is so cool to see the kids at the elementary level love learning in two languages and then to see them continue into middle and high school, graduate with the Certificate of Multilingual Proficiency (Indiana’s version of the Seal of Biliteracy) and return as citizens of the world. They are using language in their profession and the stories and memories of their journey are just amazing! I love listening to former students of the program that can’t be more grateful for the opportunities Forest Glen provided for them!- Erika Tran, Assistant Director of English as a New Language (ENL)