In 2014, the Houston Independent School District Superintendent will be drastically increasing the number of dual-language programs in the district, adding 14 schools to the existing programs, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier announced during his Feb. 25 State of the Schools Address.
HISD currently has two dual language programs. One, at Wharton Elementary School, focuses on Spanish, while the other program focuses on Mandarin, located at the Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School.
The 14 dual language programs to come on line next year will focus on Spanish. The district is also exploring opening a program in Arabic, which would be the first of its kind in Texas.
Dual language programs are designed to immerse children in a second language early in their education. Because early elementary school develops many basic literacy and vocabulary skills, the early elementary years are ideal to stress educational development in multiple languages. At Wharton, for example, children enter the program in Kindergarten, during which 90 percent of instruction is conducted in Spanish and 10 percent in English. The balance of language instruction shifts steadily toward English until the two languages reach parity in fourth grade.
After that, instruction is 50 percent in English and 50 percent in Spanish through eighth grade so students can maintain bilingualism.
During his speech, Grier emphasized that language training provides students with critical abilities and added that schools needed to move beyond education in the so-called “core” areas to broadly educate children.
“It is no longer enough for our students to be able to read, write and do math. They also must be able to interact with everyone around them – not just those who look like them,” he said.