Echo Park school decides that learning in two languages is better than one

By Becky Koppenhaver

Logan Street Elementary in Echo Park will begin a new dual language program in the fall for kindergartners. The program will be offered to both English-learning and English-speaking students with the intention of producing students who are bilingual and able to read and write in both English and Spanish.  Logan is the second school in the area to introduce the dual language program to its curriculum. Highland Park’s Aldama Elementary implemented its English-Spanish dual-language immersion program  at the urging of many middle-class, English speaking parents who wanted their children to be fluent in Spanish.

Educators stress that new dual-language programs are different from the maligned bilingual ed classes of the past. Still, many say the dual-language program at Logan could prove to be a tough sell.

“ Parents for years have been told that bi-lingual education is not best choice for their children, its going to take a lot of outreach to change their minds about a dual language program,” said Cheryl Ortega, a former Logan teacher and director of bilingual education for the United Teachers Union Los Angeles.

Ortega says the Spanish dual-language program differ from the bilingual language programs that were implemented in many schools during the 1970s. Those bilingual classes, which served only Spanish-speaking students, were taught bilingually until the second  or  third grade. After that, the students after the students were switched to English-only learning.  In the case of the dual language program at Aldama in Highland Park, students spend half the day learning and speaking in Spanish and the remainder of the day in English.  The goal is not to wean students off of Spanish but to make them proficient in Spanish as well as English.

As is the case at Aldalma, parents at Logan will be able to keep their children in English only classrooms. Logan Elementary will have three kindergarten classes in the fall 2011-2012 school year, at least one of those will be a traditional English only instruction. Each year a grade will be added of dual-language classes until the school has a strand of dual classes in all grades.

Ortega says that she expects other elementary schools in the area will soon catch on to the benefits of dual- language immersion model of teaching because studies now show that learning in two different languages is an advantage for students. Ortega is convinced that parents who are exposed to this information, will choose the Spanish dual- language program at Logan.

Ortega and Luis Valentino, Director of School Services for the Los Angeles Unified School District #4 acknowledges that actually getting parents of students at Logan to choose the program for their kindergartners is going to be a job in itself. Valentino says that District 4 needs help in spreading the word and letting parents know that the schools Spanish dual-language program is a viable option.

“Parents generally supported the 1998 proposition 227 limiting bi-lingual education, we’ve spent 13 years bad-mouthing it, but now studies show that kids that kids that are taught two languages are the highest achieving kids, the real work is getting parents to change their minds.”

Ortega’s plan is to reach out to pre-schools in the Echo Park area and to educate parents early on the benefits of dual language learning. “Parents who are savvy, and knowledgeable, parents who are educated about this, know that this is the best chance for their kids.”

Parents interested in the Logan Street Elementary dual-language immersion program should contact principal, Luis Ochoa (213) 413-6353

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  1. Perhaps the school site newly occupied by the Camino Nuevo Charter Corporation could learn from this more appropriate model.

  2. I grew up in LA, attended LAUSD, and constantly lament that I wasn’t taught Spanish from kindergarten on. So stupid! I totally support this being the model for the whole city.

  3. learning a second language would be of great benefit to not only the students but anyone who does it, it boggles the mind why any parent would be against it. I would bet a lot of it based in anti Latino racism, being trilingual it has helped me immensely, not only being able to communicate but just gives me a whole new view on my mother tongue.

  4. Lisa Baca, CIO GEPENC

    Since the 2009-2010 under the new leadership of Logan Principal, Luis Ochoa, and dedicated teachers, like James Lopez and others who have been at Logan Elementary for over 10 years, Logan has seen a tremendous growth. API improvement of 30+ point in the 2009-2010 academic year and a very active parent school site council with over 50 mothers and fathers regularly attending school site and LAUSD Board meetings. They
    are active engage and advocating for their children. The new K Dual Language class is going to be a VERY POSITIVE addition to Logan.

    Not mentioned in the Eastsider article today is that starting in September 2011, Logan is going to be transitioned to a K to 8 Campus with both a NEW Dual Language Arts and a NEW Music Arts Program implemented in partnership with Harmony Project (www.harmony-project.org).

    Soon Logan will have a tremendous youth orchestra with students speaking both English and Spanish…just like LA’s famous Spanish/English speaking Gustavo Dudamel, maybe a future LA Philharmonic conductor will come from Logan Elementary “home grown” in Echo Park!

  5. This a great! I grew up in Portland, OR and attended a bi-lingual middle school. Even when I tell people this today they are surprised, but when the observe me interacting they are impressed.

    As a native English speaker it was a difficult transition at first, but my elementary school had Spanish/English taught in addition to regular state-wide required curriculum so my foundation was firm, but gradually the two sides of the coin merged immensely. High School, my favorite class was Spanish, English and Writing was more enjoyable (understanding of each languages grammar) and over all my interests and compassion was broader and deeper than I believe it would have been sticking to a single language. University is where my marks were the highest and my studies were formed by the interdisciplinary ways of Spanish, Art and Anthropology- all areas of study that have overlays in any language!

    Knowing both Spanish and English has increased my opportunity making and welcomed many new and fun circumstances into my life. Definitely broken barriers set by society. Even self confidence!

    Children’s young minds have such adept learning capabilities and the impact of this program, if picked up by other schools too, will definitely have a positive outcome on the future generations by way of numerous levels that we can’t even begin to calculate today. Hooray!

  6. The goal is not to wean the students off spanish? Don’t they know they are living in America, and not Mexico?

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