By Victoria Martinez
After a period of research and observation in classrooms around the county, Solvang School’s Board of Trustees has approved a Dual Language Immersion (DLI) Program to begin in the 2018-2019 school year.
“I am very excited,” said Dr. Steve Seaford, the district’s superintendent.
The school district began discussing the possibility of starting a DLI program during the 2016-2017 school year, believing the school had a good population to explore such a program further.
“We were looking at what we could do, perhaps differently, to increase student achievement,” Seaford said.
In addition to reading research data, teachers, staff, and school board members have been observing DLI programs in and around Santa Barbara County to see how the program worked.
Research has shown that early acquisition of a second language has many positive impacts, such as strengthening cognitive skills, increasing student ability to adapt to a variety of learning types, enhancing creativity and problem-solving skills, improving academic performance, and increasing scores on standardized tests.
Seaford himself witnessed the implementation and benefits of DLI programs before beginning his tenure Solvang, having been involved in the establishment of programs in both Mandarin and Spanish while serving as the assistant superintendent of instructional services at South Pasadena Unified School District.
According to the district’s DLI implementation plan, the program would begin this fall with one kindergarten classroom made up of both English learners and English speakers. The program would expand by one grade level each year until fifth grade is included.
In sixth grade, students will return to English-only instruction, but the district is exploring “world language instruction” for grades six through eight. The school is already considering a German class and an art class taught in Spanish, since the school already has staff members who could teach such courses.
The goal of the program would be dual literacy in both English and Spanish, not just language exposure for students. The program would also foster multicultural respect and appreciation for other cultures and countries, while helping students to earn the California State Seal of Biliteracy upon high school graduation, a much desired and well respected accomplishment for students.
Solvang will use a “90:10” model for DLI instruction, meaning 90 percent of the instruction will be in Spanish and 10 percent in English during kindergarten. Two teachers will be involved in the instruction of students, one for each language.
The percentage of Spanish instruction will decrease and English increase each year until a 50:50 balance is achieved for fourth and fifth grades. Classes will have no more than 24 students and will be composed ideally of 50 percent English speakers and 50 percent native Spanish speakers, with the ratio never going below 33 percent for either language group. Teachers within the program will be required to hold a Bilingual, Crosscultural, Language and Academic Development (BCLAD) certificate and/or bilingual authorization from the state.
Seaford emphasized that the addition of the DLI program will not take away from the educational experience of students at Solvang.
“Something that we want to pay attention to is that this is simply another program we are able to offer at the school, not a separate program,” Seaford explained.
Parental choice and student home language will be the only criterion for acceptance in the DLI program, but the school plans to conduct a lottery for placement due to an expected high level of interest from parents.
“Typically, there’s a strong demand for these dual immersion programs,” Seaford said.
Interested parents should plan to attend one of two informational meetings from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on either March 14 or April 11 in the school’s cafeteria at 565 Atterdag Road in Solvang.
Applications must be received by Monday, May 7. For more information, call Solvang School at 805-688-4810.