Santa Barbara Unified School District approves dual-language immersion elementary school

Maddy Simonsen, Staff Writer

Recently, the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) board approved a dual-language immersion (DLI) program in one of its elementary schools. In addition, Santa Barbara Junior High School, which initially launched its DLI program in the fall of 2020, will expand its program to eighth grade in Fall 2021. 

The SBUSD website states that it “will launch its first Elementary Dual Language Immersion Program at McKinley Elementary School in the school year 2021-2022 in Kindergarten.” McKinley Elementary School’s website maintains that pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade students in the program will “receive 90% of instruction in Spanish and 10% in English.” It goes on to say that the school will gradually increase English instruction until “50% of the day is spent in each language.” 

According to the school district, dual language immersion integrates native Spanish, English and bilingual speakers in the classroom. Through this teaching method, SBUSD states that students will become bilingual and biliterate, which will help them succeed in life and improve their ability to “consciously reflect on the nature of language in general.” The district also states that this method will help students excel academically, appreciate linguistic and cultural diversity, and develop critical consciousness to understand that systems don’t treat all people equally.

SBUSD is following the Multilingual Excellence Transforming Achievement (META) plan. According to the Independent, META is a 100-page plan to implement “culturally and linguistically focused education models based on research that shows bilingualism will increase student achievement for everyone.” 

At Santa Barbara Junior High School, students currently “take up to 50% of their coursework in Spanish,” as stated by the SBUSD website. Students take six or seven courses a year and students and their families determine how many classes they will take in each language. The website shares that this program is open to any student who has completed the elementary DLI program. If a student does not attend a local DLI program, they must take a Spanish Language Placement Exam to ensure that they have the language skills required to participate. 

By expanding DLI programs, SBUSD hopes to prepare students to excel in today’s society and create academically bright and culturally competent students who can positively impact the world. 

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