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June 17th, 2019

pve dual language featurePrairie View Elementary School students get their progress checked by their teacher during a recent dual language class. Efforts are currently under way to expand the program for the entire school. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

The benefits to children learning a different language while young have been well documented, and USD 480 is looking to help with those numbers. 

The dual language program at Prairie View Elementary School has seen great success since being implemented, and is looking forward to the future of the program with the redesign efforts going on throughout the district. 

“Dual language started back in 2005, I believe, with only two kindergarten classes and then when I came to the district to teach at McDermott it had expanded to kindergarten through third grade and it was only a small part of the school’s student body,” Prairie View Elementary School teacher Louisa Gonzalez said. “Then later on, it went on to Sunflower Intermediate School and now that we have Prairie View Elementary, it’s kindergarten through fifth grade. A lot of times with dual language, we see the need for equal opportunity for all students, and as an ESL teacher, I’ve learned a massive amount of strategies and information on the struggles for ESL students. Why we chose to pilot a school-wide dual language program is to give every student that opportunity to be successful, including those who have challenges in learning a second language. Those students have gone through a lot of different traumas in getting here and then there’s also that culture shock as they try to learn what their teacher’s saying. So doing this would help ensure every child has that equal opportunity for success. I’ve been working with other teachers on this and we’re building that bridge with the parents as far as getting more involved in their children’s education and letting them know exactly what it is we want and see for their students. Then we get them high school-ready and ready for any post-secondary education and their career since being bilingual is very advantageous. It just fits with where our students are at.”

Gonzalez then shared some overall numbers about Prairie View Elementary’s program. 

“We’re the second largest elementary school in town with 444 students and 32 certified teachers, with 17 of them being bilingual,” Gonzalez said. “We have 86 percent of our students who are disadvantaged and 58 percent of our students who are ELS students. 86 percent of our student body is Hispanic and we foresee that continuing to grow. We also looked at students with disabilities and 13 percent of those students are actually in SDS, and that’s not broken down into Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3, but what we were astounded to see was how 68 percent of the students we’re doing interventions for are actually English language learners. We also looked at MAP data for reading and math and compared some of those numbers as far as where we want them to be. As an ESL teacher, I would also like to point out when we do testing, I pull out fewer students from the ESL class because they’ve already met the proficiency levels compared to the non-dual classes. That’s why we thought the way to go would be to provide this opportunity for all students. Spanish is the language for our community and it’s what we see and how we’re going to bridge that connection to ensure the students are successful. As the saying goes, it takes a village, so we need parents to be involved and be part of their children’s education, and we also need them to know and understand what we’re doing and our expectations for their students.”

Gonzalez also talked about recent stakeholder surveys, which indicated parents would want the program to be available for all students, which she said would overall improve the culture in the Prairie View Elementary building. 

“What our goal is is we want to implement this slowly throughout the next six years starting with kindergarten next year,” Prairie View Elementary Principal Kendra Haskell said. “So every kindergartener who comes into Prairie View Elementary next year will get instruction in dual language in reading and writing, and our goal is to have all of our students leave Prairie View Elementary fully biliterate so they can read and write in English and Spanish. Our goal for next year is to start with kindergarten and then we would continue moving up each year until all of our students kindergarten through fifth grade are part of that dual language program. In every grade level as far as staffing, we currently have two English-speaking teachers and two bilingual teachers, and then with our interventionists and instructional coaches and those staff members, we have three bilingual staff as well. So we’re not needing additional staff members, we can make this plan work with the staff members we already have at Prairie View Elementary.”

Prairie View Elementary teacher Noe Olvera then spoke about some other goals to go along with the program. 

“Another one of our big goals is we want or students to academically achieve in both languages and for our students to be more accessible in different cultures,” Olvera said. “As far as the resources, we currently have a great curriculum for both English and Spanish reading and writing and we also have resources for math.”

“This all got started because we wanted to know what is dual language going to look like in the future?” Prairie View Elementary teacher Marisol Peña said. “Having dual language for students from kindergarten through fifth grade would be a 50/50 two-way dual language immersion, and it took me a while to fully understand that, and that’s really just a fancy way of saying our native Spanish speakers would learn English at the same time our native English speakers would be learning Spanish, so they’d all be learning both English and Spanish. One way it could look, and it has looked like before in our kindergarten, is they experience half a day learning in English and then the other half of the day would be spent learning in Spanish, that is something we’ve envisioned. Another option is alternating between an English day and a Spanish day is something our kindergarten teachers have been piloting already for us, so they’re trying to see about allowing more time in the day for that, and they’d still be focusing on literacy in both those languages. Then yet another option we’d want to explore is with our special needs students, we definitely want to push them a little more especially with a lot of them being ELL students. We do feel pushing them more with those in the classroom would benefit them and there’d be more collaboration between those teachers.”

Peña then talked about an upcoming parent meeting for the parents of students in the dual language program, saying there will be a lot of information for them to consider, especially with the potential moving of boundaries in the future. Peña also talked about what would be put in place for those students whose parents would not want them in the dual language program. 

“One thing we’ve talked about with that is first and foremost, we’d want to educate the parents on what all would they would be learning and what the curriculum is and all of that and how it would be beneficial to them,” Peña said. “But in the end, it would ultimately be the parents’ choice to decide on that and one option we’ve talked about is simply letting those students stay with the English teacher for the whole day, and we are looking at what we can do for those students. And as far as resources, we have asked our librarian to order more dual language books and materials, we definitely feel that needed to grow within the school because when the students do check out books for homework and things like that, we do ask them to check out both the English and Spanish versions, so that’s something we’re definitely looking at. It’s great how we’re looking at this because we’re finally finding a way to help dual language grow throughout the school and maybe the district.”

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