The Spanish Embassy has honored Wharton Elementary School’s Dual Language Program as its School of the Year for the United States and Canada in 2013.
The award for academic excellence in Spanish is given by the Education Office for the U.S. and Canada, which is a technical body of the Diplomatic Mission of Spain.
“I am extraordinarily proud of the work that our faculty and staff have put into creating our outstanding dual language school,” Wharton Principal Jennifer Day wrote in an HISD press release.
According to the press release, the honor highlights schools in “content and language integrated learning methodology” in Spanish and English (two-way, dual, immersion) and use Spanish in the program at least 50 percent of instruction time.
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.
The honor carries a $5,000 prize.
Based on past success at Wharton, and the Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School HISD has announced a plan to open 14 new dual language programs for the 2014-2015 schools year. All of those programs will be contain dual instruction in Spanish and English, though the district is also exploring offering one in Arabic.