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Goleta Unified School District Examining Dual-language Immersion Program

The Goleta Unified School District is in the early stages of considering its own dual-language immersion program, where students learn grade-level curriculum in two languages. 

School officials are looking at the best methods to improve instruction for GUSD English language learners to become proficient in English, and the district has been studying dual-language immersion programs for more than a year, according to Superintendent William Banning.

“The school board and some administrators are interested in determining the research, but we haven't looked at the first steps in a decision to implement,” Banning said. 

“Research is presenting positive results about its effectiveness for getting language proficiency in English (for those who don’t speak English) and having an opportunity to take native English speakers and getting them to fluency in another language.”

School officials looking into Spanish dual-language immersion, but some California schools focus other languages such as Mandarin, Korean or French.

“We are aware that districts throughout the country are looking at implementing dual-immersion programs,” Banning said. 

The 90/10 model is the most common implemented model in California, Banning said.

“When kids enter the school in kindergarten, 90 percent of the instruction time is in Spanish, and 10 percent is in English,” Banning said. “Every year, (from kindergarten moving up grade levels) that changes by 10 percent — at a point, it hits 50 percent (in fourth grade). The expectation in fourth grade is 50 percent of the time is in English and 50 percent in Spanish.”

There is also a 50/50 model starting in kindergarten, which teaches 50 percent in English and the remaining percent in another language.

“Both models tend to have pretty good results,” Banning said.

Research has shown that the 90/10 model is “a bit more effective” in getting students to proficiency, Banning said.

Another aspect is breaking down the number of students in the classroom that are native Spanish speakers and native English speakers.

The Goleta district serves 3,700 elementary students in nine schools, and the district’s English learner population makes up about 30 percent of the total population.

The current model GUSD uses to serve English learners is academic instruction with embedded English language development programs.

“The embedded English language development program is probably the most common model in the state,” Banning said.

Board President Luz Reyes-Martin said the board is looking at how the program is implemented in California schools and the nation.

“The board is interested in learning more about the cognitive development and student achievement benefits of a language immersion program,” Reyes-Martin said. “We recognize that we will need to have a robust district discussion about this.”

No decision has been made at this time regarding implementation, Reyes-Martin said, but the board anticipates continuing the discussing a dual-language immersion in the future.

Dual-language education programs exist in elementary schools throughout the Central Coast including in Lompoc, San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara's Adelante Charter School was founded as a bilingual, intercultural school and has featured a two-way immersion program since its inception in 2000.

Adelante Charter School Principal David Bautista said the goal of a dual-language learning elementary school is “to begin the process of bi-literacy cross-cultural education for all students who attend the school.”

He said the learning environment creates effective communication skills to prepare for success in the global economy. 

“World-class education can't be in one language only,” Bautista said. “Students in this intercultural time need languages more than ever, and bilingual and intercultural schools offer that opportunity.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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