The Think Bilingual Austin Advocacy Committee
The TBA Advocacy Committee (TBAAC) supports the leadership shown by Austin ISD and other area schools by additive bilingual, dual language (DL) programs that value and strengthen students’ home languages and add a second language. TBAAC also supports recent efforts to promote culturally-responsive and rigorous instructional practices and social and emotional learning for all students. DL programs aim for students to become bi-literate and able to speak, read and write two languages. Extensive academic research demonstrates that well-implemented DL programs lead to better academic, cognitive and social outcomes. In addition to allowing students to maintain cultural and family connections, DL is the only academic model demonstrated to close the academic achievement gap for students entering school with limited English proficiency. When schools choose a DL model for students with limited English proficiency, Texas Education Agency rules require that students stay in the program for six years and receive a minimum of 50% of their instructional time in the language other than English and continue through elementary school and middle and high school where possible.
DL programs stand in contrast to subtractive bilingual programs that seek to erase or reduce students’ use of their home language and replace it with English. Subtractive bilingual programs, such as early and late-exit bilingual programs and English as a Second Language (ESL) have not been successful in AISD at closing the achievement gap for students who speak Spanish at home, and have separated students from their home language and culture. Research has shown that the failure to implement DL programs for ELL students leads to poor long-term academic outcomes, especially in middle and high school.
28% of AISD’s students are currently classified as English language learners (“ELLs”), which does not include those students who were classified as ELLs but who have attained sufficient academic proficiency to no longer have the label but still have a home language other than English.
Given that DL is a change from years of AISD policy and practice, its implementation in the district has been uneven. Schools are often very focused on STAAR outcomes and they have failed to provide sufficient instructional time in the minority language and they often discontinue bilingual education by 3rd grade in favor of English-only or nearly-English only instruction. Some community members have advocated that Title 1 schools and schools with a significant number of Spanish home language students follow English-only or early-exit bilingual models and implement word memorization and rote learning programs aimed primarily at increasing annual STAAR scores, at the expense of a rigorous and culturally-responsive education and disregarding students’ home language and culture and long-term negative impacts.
We need trustee and district administrative support to effectively implement DL and a culturally-responsive, rigorous education for all students.