How does the DOE decide to start a dual language program? Are they proposed by interested parents?
Dear ELL Mom,
Parents do have a big role in establishing dual language programs: the Department of Education is obligated to start one if at least 12 parents of English language learners who speak the same home language request one.
Here's how it works: parents of all newly-enrolled students fill out a Home Language Identification Survey (HLIS). If this form indicates that a language other than English is spoken at home, the child's English speaking ability is measured using a test called a LAB-R.
If the LAB-R test shows a child is in need of extra help learning English, the child's parents are offered a choice of three different programs:
- English as a Second Language (ESL), which involves taking the child out of her regular classroom for special instruction.
- Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE), where the child gets instruction in academics in his native language and gradually transitions into English.
- The third option is dual language instruction in a classroom where half of the students speak the same non-English language and the other half speak English as a native language. In a dual language class, half the day's instruction is in English, the rest is in the other language. The class curriculum is the same in both languages.
If a critical number of parents (12 or more) who speak the same language choose a dual language program, the school must start one. However, since the program requires an equal number of native English speakers in order to function, there must be lots of outreach to native English speaking parents. If you are earnest about getting a dual language program established in your school, make it your business to recruit English speaking parents. Otherwise the principal might resist, citing reluctance of those parents to participate.
Once the need is established and the students identified, the school can apply to the DOE for a grant and professional development. If you are really committed, get to work now because it can take some time before the program is up and running.