Published: Mar 16, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Mar 14, 2013 07:42 PM
In school year 2013-14 Frank Porter Graham elementary school (FPG) will become a dual-language magnet school. After three years of dual-language immersion, my twin 8-year-old girls will be transferring from Carrboro elementary school to FPG. They are delighted to be a part of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools dual-language program, and here’s why.
During the past three years, my children have been taught during their school day in two languages, half in English and half Spanish. They have responded positively to the program despite being different in learning styles and individual degrees of acceleration. I enrolled them in the program understanding only its superficial benefits, believing bilingualism in a multicultural world is critical to excelling in a global environment. However, I learned, as did they, that it is much more.
In last year’s publication, Dual Language Education for a Transformed World, Wayne Thomas and Virginia Collier revealed their results from study of dual language programs in N.C. as extraordinary. As the researcher Thomas reports, “I do not typically use the word ‘astounding’ when referring to school program effects. The effect sizes associated with the (NC) dual language schools are consistently the largest and most pervasive across all participant subgroups I have seen in my career.”
What did they find? “By the middle school years and sometimes sooner two-way dual language students regardless of subgroup (native English speaking, African-American, native Spanish speaking) are often at least one grade level ahead of their comparison (non-dual language) group.”
This is not closing the achievement gap, it’s eradicating it.
Emily Bivins, new principal of FPG dual language magnet, and passionate dual language advocate notes, “I have seen firsthand the benefits of dual language education and its profound impact on preparing students for the 21st century.”
So what does this mean for my kids?
Despite learning to read in Spanish first, they are reading at or above grade level. They are accelerated in other subjects such as math, as needed, just as in traditional classrooms. In social studies and cultural arts, they enjoy interacting with subject matter experts from other cultures, an authenticity not possible to derive from reading in a book. The day-to-day classroom collaboration breeds understanding between cultures, not fear and prejudice derived from the unknown. And they all still hate homework.
Why is closing the achievement gap important? Because that’s the vision that Thurgood Marshall sought in the early to mid-20th century with Brown v. Board of Education. And it’s likely that Frank Porter Graham, who believed in this vision of parity through education, would have been proud that his namesake school will house his 20th century vision in the 21st.
There will be an information session at FPG for future FPG parents to share ideas about our school community from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, March 18. Childcare and translation will be provided. Information about the FPG dual language magnet is available at bit.ly/ZRI3DT
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