Spring ISD to launch revamped English language program for bilingual students

SPRING, Texas -- In the upcoming school year, bilingual pre-K students at Spring ISD will be learning English under a new program that trustees approved at their Feb. 8 board meeting.

In a unanimous vote, trustees adopted the new "One Way Dual Language Bilingual" program, replacing the district's old model. The program aims to help emergent bilingual, or EB, students, who are native Spanish speakers, to learn English more effectively.

Eventually, more grade levels will become part of the program. Still, the program will begin with pre-K five students in August of the 2022-23 school year, according to the Feb. 8 presentation given to trustees by Marie Mendoza, executive director of instructional services, and Director of Multilingual Programs Lettie Houck.

"The whole goal of language support services is to help our students acquire English and exit the program or be reclassified as non-emergent bilingual," Mendoza said. "And so we've had students who have been in the program for years, who have not met the exit criteria."

The graduation rates of SISD EB students rose from about 44% in 2014 to about 73% in 2021. Meanwhile, SISD dropout rates for EB students have also risen from 1.6% in 2014 to 3.5% in 2021, although those rates have decreased since peaking in 2019 at 4.7%. However, the graduation rate of EB students is below the district's overall rate, and the dropout rate for EB students is higher, Mendoza said.

Department leaders hope the new program will improve academics for EB students. Mendoza said that the new program will have an equal distribution of Spanish and English curriculum, while the old model emphasized Spanish instruction.

"What we're talking about tonight, is how (to) support those students in an equitable fashion and provide them the best program model type that will get them what they need: proficiency in English, honor (for) their home language, and help (for) them (to) meet exit criteria," Mendoza said.

Department leaders will begin working on the transition in March, communicating the new program to teachers and training them.

Before the new program was presented to trustees, it was reviewed by a task force of SISD administrators, teachers, parents, and community members formed in September.

In the future, trustees expressed a desire to make the program available for all students-including native English speakers-who want to become bilingual. However, trustee Deborah Jensen clarified that it would not be required for all students.

This article comes from our ABC13 partners at Community Impact Newspapers.