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