Santa Barbara School District works to improve dual-language immersion programs

Views 7 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 3 - 7 - 2019 | By: Madison Smoak


A call for action to improve dual-language immersion programs in schools was brought to Santa Barbara resident’s attention at a school district meeting on January 29th. Superintendent of Elementary Education, Dr. Raul Ramirez, and Director of English Learners and Parent Involvement, Maria Larios, presented to the Santa Barbara community their vision of a dual-language immersion education program, reported the Independent. Ramirez and Larios identified the importance of dual-language immersion programs considering that forty-three percent of Santa Barbara residents are native Spanish speakers. The meeting addressed California Board of Education’s statewide initiative plan, Global California 2030: for all students to reach a level of proficiency in two or more languages by the year of 2030. The Independent writes that, “this comes as surprising news for the Santa Barbara School Board regarding the 2016 restrictions on bilingual education.” The restrictions were repealed in 2018 and now bilingual education has entered the school district’s program planning once again.

In August 2017, Canalino Elementary School in Carpinteria introduced new dual-language immersion educational programs into several classrooms. Canalino Elementary Principle, Jamie Persoon, told the Horizon that “bilingualism and biliteracy are very marketable and desirable skills in the modern economy, and in a diverse, hyperconnected world. In California, especially, biliteracy is a crucial skill that opens doors for our students.”

Persoon explained that something unique to these programs and positive for the family community is the increase in parental engagement. Persoon said that, “for the first time in 20 years on this campus, I am seeing Spanish-speaking parents volunteering in the classroom, running small groups or working with students one on one. The cultural and ethnic barriers are melting with every interaction.” Canalino is an example of a dual-language immersion program that follows the 90/10 model, which endorses 90% of classroom time in Spanish and 10% in English. This includes activities, such as recess, art, and P.E. The percentage of time spent in Spanish decreases as students progress in grade level and studies in English increase til students reach a 50/50 model.

The Independent also addressed Adelante Charter Elementary School as a positive example. Adelante took its first steps in the Spring of 1999 as a leading example of what a successful dual-language immersion education entails. The Adelante school website ensures that, by endorsing two languages into daily academics, they will “develop bi-literate, multicultural students whose strong academic and cultural foundations prepare them to meaningfully participate and provide leadership in their families, their community, and their world to create a more just and equitable society.”

Parents are hopeful about the 2020/2021 goals of multilingual education options in elementary schools and how it will impact cultural barriers, reports Coastal View News. Conversations about higher level education changes are expected to begin following the program’s success. Until then, the Santa Barbara community focuses on the construction of these programs.


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