When initiating a dual language program, there is a great deal of planning required, many decisions to be made, and many integral parts that require stakeholder feedback and support. We recommend that any new dual language program provides at least a full planning year to assure a successful launch and implementation, as there are school board and district policies that are affected and will need adequate time to go through the process to revise or written policies in support of the dual language program. In this section, we provide and explain the steps needed to plan and structure for success.
Schools and districts go about deciding that they will initiate a dual language program in many ways and for many reasons. Once the decision is made, or even before it is finalized, we recommend the establishment of a Dual Language Leadership Team, comprised of members from stakeholder groups.
Dual Language Leadership Team
Each of these constituencies can contribute important support to the dual language program. Let’s look closer at each one’s relationship to the dual language program and the support they may bring to the program.
- School Board Members – We recommend that you consider having one or two board members on the Leadership Team. This will allow the board members to bring back first-hand information about what they learned and questions that arose to their colleagues. Since they will give the final go-ahead to your dual language program and will be needed to support the ongoing needs of your program, it is very important to involve them from the start. In California, the Brown Act prohibits a majority of board members from participation and discussion when it is not a duly noticed public meeting, so one or two board members on the Leadership Team will not violate this important legislation and public safeguard.
- District Administrators, including Human Resources – Business (finance), human resources, curriculum and instruction, and student services are each impacted by the launch and implementation of a dual language program. Since this program model may be unfamiliar to the district administration, it is critical that they participate in the initial learning, discussions, and decisions about moving ahead. They also may be able to contribute thoughts and identify possible implications that will better prepare the Leadership Team to make thoughtful, well-reasoned decisions.
- Teachers’ Union – Many of the decisions around the dual language program have implications for certificated staff. Having a union representative on the Leadership Team would bring an important perspective to the discussion as each decision is considered.
- Principals/Site Administrators – The principal/site administrator from each of the schools where the program will be located should also be on the Leadership Team, as this program will have an impact on their site and leadership there. They also serve as the primary liaison with the district office and school community, so being a part of the discussion regarding the decisions that will need to be made for the program will be extremely important in order for them to be able to be that critical link for the program between the district and community.
- Key Teachers: Bilingual and English-only – It is extremely important to have key teachers on the Leadership Team, as they are the ones that will provide the context and connection to the classroom when making decisions about the program. Although the monolingual teachers may not be directly involved in the dual language program, we recommend that they are represented on the Leadership Team so that they will better understand the program and have a voice in decisions that may affect them, as well. The bilingual teachers, along with their partner monolingual teachers in certain program models, are also the ones who will be implementing the program, so providing the opportunity for them to have a voice in the decisions that will shape the program will be critical to its success.
- Resource Staff – Special Education staff representation on the Leadership Team is also important, as students in dual language programs may require their support and services, so understanding the program well and having a voice in the decisions that may affect their support and delivery of their services will be beneficial for all. The resource staff’s expertise in assessment may prove to be valuable when making decisions about the assessment that will be used in the dual language program.
- Classified Staff – Instructional aides are also important to consider inviting to be on the Leadership Team, as they may also be a critical connection to the classroom context where they provide support for students and teachers. They often have a strong connection to the local community, as well, which may be beneficial as you move toward implementation.
- Front Office Personnel – They will be able to provide an important perspective to the Leadership Team, as they are often the first point of contact with parents regarding the program. If there is a district registration center, we would recommend having a representative from their staff on the Leadership Team for these same reasons. Their participation will bring this perspective to the decisions that will be made regarding the program and will allow them to learn first-hand why the program has been designed as it is, which will aid them in being able to explain the program to parents.
- Parent Liaison – Your parent liaison is a direct connection to the community, and having him/her on the Leadership Team is a sign of the strategic partnership between the district, site, and the parents of the students in the dual immersion program, bringing the parents’ voice and perspective to the conversation around the various decisions that the Leadership Team will be making. The parent liaison should liaising with both language communities’ parents, or there may be two different parent liaisons, one for each language community.
- Librarian – A critical partner in the implementation of the dual immersion program, the librarian is instrumental in guiding the enhancement of the school and classroom libraries with texts and instructional media in the target language.
- Key Parents of English Learners – Often these may be parents who are a part of the English Learner Advisory Committee from each school site where the dual immersion program will be implemented. Their participation recognizes their immediate interest in the success of all of the English Learners in the program.
- Key Parents of English-only Students – Many of these parents may be interested in having their children enroll in the dual immersion program, and they, too, will be interested in the success of the English-speakers in the program. Others may be interested in the impact of the dual immersion program at the school site, and may want assurances that the decisions being made will not have any negative effect on the other programs at the site.
Identifying the Type of Dual Language Program: Definitions
One of the decisions that will have to be made is which type of dual language program the district will implement. There are several types of dual language education programs that are popular.
- According to the Center for Applied Linguistics (2005), the term, “dual language,” refers to the use of two languages for instruction in the classroom. The target language (other than English) is used for minimum of 50% of the time, and English is used for the minimum of 10% of time.
- “Dual immersion,” or “two-way immersion,” is a form of dual language education that includes two different linguistic groups in the classroom: English Learners (native speakers of the target language) comprise at least 33% of the classroom and English-only students (native English-speakers) comprise at least another 33% of the classroom.
- Programs with only one linguistic group in the classroom are also a form of dual language education, and are referred to as “one-way immersion” programs (Center for Advanced Research in Language Acquisition, 2016).
A critical feature of a dual language education program is monolingual instruction, where only one language is used at a time. This establishes motivation for student language use.