The Issaquah School District (ISD) launched its first dual language immersion program this fall.
The program integrates English speaking students with native Spanish speaking students. Classes are taught in both languages. According to the district, social and academic learning will occur in an environment that values the language and culture of all students and sets high standards to ultimately achieve academic success in both Spanish and English.
Other Washington school districts including Lake Washington School District, Bellevue School District and Northshore School District have dual language programs. ISD has spent about two years developing and preparing the program for implementation in the district.
The program will be housed at Clark and Issaquah Valley elementary schools with the intent to serve students in the two schools’ attendance areas.
Students in the 2019-2020 kindergarten class are eligible for enrollment. Each year, kindergarten students who enter the program will form a cohort that will potentially continue through high school. That requires a long-term commitment to the program.
ISD’s Spanish-English dual language program, also known as two-way immersion, will use a 50:50 model. Half of the instruction will be in English and half is in Spanish.
Savannah Williams is a kindergarten teacher at Issaquah Valley Elementary.
“Students who speak Spanish at home and students who speak English at home will learn together in one class,” she said.
The district said the goal is to balance the number of students in each class with half who are native Spanish speakers and half who are English speakers. Students are exposed to the same curriculum as their peers while also having the opportunity to learn a second language.
According to the district, students in dual language programs are presented with the social and cognitive benefits of bilingualism. They gain a second language, a broader vocabulary and multiple views of the world.
Katie Afman is a dual language kindergarten teacher at Clark Elementary.
“The learning of a second language helps in the development of a child’s brain and also helps them understand and value other cultures,” she said.
The program’s goals include developing students’ bilingualism, biliteracy and biculturalism; developing students’ high levels of proficiency in Spanish and English; helping students achieve grade level academic performance in Spanish and English; raising self-esteem for all students; and improving students’ cognitive ability.
ISD’s dual language program requires a commitment from the entire family. While students learn both English and Spanish language during the day, the district encourages parents to support their child’s acquisition of both languages at home. According to the district, children who have a love of learning, age-appropriate language development, and support and encouragement from home will find success in the dual language program.
For more information about the dual language program, go online to the district website (https://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/).