The Achievement Gap

(gadoeworldlanguages, @georgiadeptofed, Dual Language Immersion Programs not only give students a competitive edge they help to close the achievement gap!, 15MAR2017)

The term “Achievement Gap” is commonly defined as the persistent disparity in academic performance in an educational setting between groups of students based on gender, socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity. Some of the critics of the CHCCS Dual-Language program have implied that funds spent toward the MDL program should instead be used to address the substantial Achievement Gap in the CHCCS school district. Please read here for more about this specific argument. We agree that the achievement gap is an issue within CHCCS and needs to be addressed. However, dual-language programs have been one of the few solutions to this well-studied problem and we believe the MDL program can narrow the Achievement Gap within CHCCS.

For a quick review of different types of Dual Language programs, watch below:

Published by the Department of Dual Language at Portland Public Schools, this video describes the various types of dual language programs and benefits of each. The Portland Public School model is particularly helpful for small- to medium-sized cities having several significant minorities, such as Spanish-speaking and Mandarin-speaking communities.

We welcome discussions from the community on how the MDL program can be improved to better address the Achievement Gap in our schools.

For more information, please read below for studies on how dual-language programs can be beneficial:

A five-year long study of the dual language schools by Thomas and Collier showed that dual language programs can close achievement gaps by historically lower-performing groups including African – Americans and students of lower socioeconomic status. While some parents might worry that the lack of instructional time in English might negatively impact their child’s academic performance, in contrary, research shows that acquiring a second language actually provides cognitive and intellectual advantages. Findings from this study, both statistically and practically significant, demonstrates that dual language programs, if implemented well, strongly counteract the negative impact of low socioeconomic status on school performance. Thus, it is an innovative tool that should be widely used in closing achievement gaps. See below for a study from the Joint National Committee for Languages.

Dr. Robert Slater and his colleagues from American Councils Research Center find that dual language immersion program can be a powerful solution to address achievement gap issues in American public schools. Dr. Slater draws this conclusion through a four-year rigorous and systematic study of dual language immersion programs in Portland Public Schools District of Oregon involving 1625 students. His key findings demonstrate that dual language immersion classroom promotes greater educational achievement in reading, math, and science; it also helps retain students in public school system. Specifically, students in dual language immersion programs outperform their peers in English reading by seven months in grade five and by nine months in grade eight. 

Though dual language immersion can offer public schools an opportunity to support historically underserved students and offer every student an equal playing field to excel while accruing the significant benefits of bilingualism, challenges exist. The most prominent challenges for dual language immersion program are the demand for high-quality multilingual teachers and long-term commitment to dual language programs from school districts as well as parents. 

The video below reviews a language immersion program in Minnesota:

Interested in how dual language programs are benefiting kids elsewhere in our state? Watch and read from WCCB Charlotte: CMS (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) Dual Language Programs Close Achievement Gaps

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