Equity in Dual Language Programs: Non-Negotiables at the Start of a Long and Ongoing Journey

When considering equity in our dual language programs, the one question to keep in mind is, who is the program for? With the “gentrification” of many dual language programs, we often forget that this type of program falls under the umbrella of bilingual education, which districts are required by law to provide, when they have a set number of multilingual learners who speak the same native language. Having a clear understanding that multilingual learners are at the center of this program will put the district on track to provide equity for all students. 

The district then needs to clearly outline and promote the goals of dual language education. A great resource to facilitate this work is the 3rd edition of the Guiding Principles of Dual Language Education (Center for Applied Linguistics). This resource outlines the three pillars dual language programs should align to. 

  1. The development of bilingualism and biliteracy
  2. High academic achievement in both program languages
  3. Sociocultural competence

Stakeholders at all district levels (paraprofessionals to the Superintendent of Business Operations and everyone in between) need to understand that any decision made, impacts the program. Therefore, the program director needs to be consulted at the onset of any ideas being considered. This open line of communication will allow the established dual language team time to research, vet, and/or create materials, schedules, and/or comparable distribution plans that are equitable to those being considered for monolingual classes. At times, the dual language program is an afterthought, leaving us to play catchup and find/create materials that not only honor the program goals but are authentic to the partner language. 

It is equally essential for the school that houses the program to honor and celebrate it. Upon arrival, it should be evident that this is a dual language school, that diversity is celebrated, honored, and most importantly, respected. The building administrator needs to elevate the program’s target language (not only in the bilingual classes but across the whole school). Signage throughout the building should be available in both program languages. If you have books in your waiting areas, they should be available in both program languages. Your support and clerical staff should represent both program languages. Your student support services and interventions should be available in both program languages. Although challenging, schools should provide the resources available for general ed/monolingual students/staff/parents in both program languages. 

Ensuring equity for dual language programs is a moving target. There is always work to be done when guaranteeing that the students and families for whom this program is for, have equitable access to the many resources a school district offers. This may not always be easy, but in the words of my dear colleague, Dr. Jose Medina –

“Dual language education is revolución. It’s about creating a desmadre

 in the name of equidad and social justice.”

Judith Ravina
Author: Judith Ravina

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