CMS Dual Language Programs Help Close Achievement Gaps

CHARLOTTE, NC — Sometimes, one and one equals more than two.

Schools have been trying to close academic achievement gaps for students from economically challenged areas, and students who come from non-English speaking homes, for decades.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools added dual-language immersion programs at Huntingtowne Farms IB and Starmount Academy this year. Educators say it’s the best way to give all students the same opportunities.

Learning a foreign language isn’t easy. But the earlier you start…

“It’s amazing how fast the kids acquire a language,” says Huntingtowne Farms Dual-Language Program Coordinator Griselda Perez. “When you are that young, you just learn it by being immersed in it.”

“El que sabe dos lenguas, vale por dos,” says Lillia Lawson, Dual-Language Immersion Teacher at Huntingtowne Farms. “And what that basically means is that anyone who is bilingual, who knows two languages, is worth more than one person. They’re worth twice as much.”

CMS opened two new Spanish dual-language immersion programs this year.

These kindergarten students at Huntingtowne Farms IB spend 90% of their day learning in Spanish.

“Songs, and dance, and movement,” explains Lawson. “Just so that we can keep them intrigued and inspired. Just keep learning and doing their best.”

It’s a “total physical response” classroom, with a 50/50 mix of kids from Spanish-speaking and English-speaking homes.

“You have classmates that kind of know what they’re doing, so you can see them, and follow them,” says Perez.

These students, and their parents, make a six-year commitment to this program. They are chosen from an lottery of children enrolled at Huntingtowne. The Spanish/English instruction split will shift to 50/50 starting in first grade.

National research shows that dual-language immersion students do better in testing, and show more engagement and cognitive benefits than students in traditional classrooms.

“All of the students in dual-language programs actually out perform students in non dual language programs,” says Huntingtowne Farms Principal Carolyn Rodd. “It’s the best way for students to achieve academically.”

CMS has 22 dual-language immersion programs at seven schools, teaching five different languages. Four schools are dedicated to Spanish, including the new programs at Huntingtowne and Starmount.