PLEASE ROTATE YOUR DEVICE
February 28, 2018
Integrating native English speakers into language-learning classrooms designed for LEP students offers some benefits, but many worry that it puts an unnecessary strain on classroom resources.
School districts have long relied on what are now called Limited English Proficiency (LEP) programs to help non-native English speakers gain fluency during their time in school. More recently, however, there’s been a trend towards dual immersion programs — classes that teach to both native English speakers and a group of non-native speakers who are fluent in the same language.
Supporters of these programs have already noted a promising improvement in the language-learning abilities of both groups of students. However, with language classes being expanded to include scores of native English speakers, it can’t be denied that they are also stretching the budgets of cash-strapped school districts.
Dual immersion classrooms with equal numbers of native and non-native English speakers have proven to be effective language learning environments for many students. Each group is encouraged to engage in activities and conversations with native speakers of the language they want to learn, allowing them to absorb skills through social interaction rather than just academic exercises.
These programs offer more than just linguistic integration: English learners often come from households in historically underserved communities, while the native English-speaking students tend to come from more privileged backgrounds. Dual immersion programs provide an opportunity to close the education gap between children growing up in different socioeconomic classes.
But this is where the problem becomes much more complex. With such limited budget to dedicate to programs like these, some wonder if it’s worth spending money on helping English-speaking students — who already have a natural advantage in our education system — become more fluent in other languages.
Enrollment in bilingual classrooms largely depends on economic diversity in local neighborhoods. If a school system distinguishes itself through high performance, more families are drawn to the district and housing costs subsequently rise. Families with LEP children are pushed out, and bilingual schools lose many of the students they were originally designed to serve. The programs are then no longer dual immersion, but unidirectional — that is, they’re primarily dedicated to teaching native English speakers another language.
Another problem is the cost of implementing and keeping these programs going. Schools need bilingual teachers for every class and subject — and there simply aren’t enough to go around. While one in four children speaks a non-English language at home in the U.S., only one in eight teachers do. What’s more, one-way programs for native English speakers are competing with dual immersion programs for these teachers’ talents. The reality is that we need a greater emphasis on multilingualism in teachers’ professional development before we have enough resources to meet demand.
The need for multilingual education isn’t going away anytime soon — in fact, as national demographics continue to diversify, that demand is only going to grow. Districts and states need to ensure that their schools have the proper resources to handle these needs. And accurate, comprehensive data reporting is essential to securing funding from the state Department of Education that will support both LEP and dual immersion programs.
That’s why the Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS software platform now features a module specifically designed to help track the number of students with limited proficiency in English. District stakeholders can use the tool to organize and easily check their LEP data for errors before it’s submitted to the state.
No matter what language your students are proficient in, they need all the resources you can get to succeed academically in the years to come. Make sure you know you’re getting exactly what you’re owed from your state government so that you can adequately support them.
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