Parents United for Excellent Dual-Language Education

DL Education and TX Law

The Texas Law that governs all bilingual education programs, including dual language, is Chapter 89. Any school district that has at least 20 English-learners in the same grade level must implement at least one of four bilingual education programs:

(1)  Early exit is a “bilingual” program whose goal is to transition all students to English-only instruction within 2-5 years after the student enrolls. The basic idea is that Spanish is like a crutch to learn English that should not be brought to school after the student acquires full proficiency in English. This is the most common program statewide.

(2)  Late exit is a “bilingual” program whose goal is to transition all students to English-only instruction within 6-7 years after the student enrolls. The basic idea is still that Spanish is like a crutch, but one that students need to use for a longer period until they acquire full proficiency in English.

(3)  One-way dual language is a bilingual/biliteracy program whose goal is for English-learners to attain full proficiency in English as well as Spanish (in the case of the RGV). This model provides ongoing instruction in literacy and academic content in both Spanish and English, with at least half of the instruction delivered in Spanish.

(4)  Two-way dual language is a bilingual/biliteracy program whose goal is for English-learners and Spanish-learners to attain full proficiency in English as well as Spanish (in the case of the RGV). Students identified as English-dominant are integrated with students identified as Spanish-dominant. This model provides ongoing instruction in literacy and academic content in both Spanish and English, with at least half of the instruction delivered in Spanish.

Out of these four models, only the dual language programs treat Spanish as something that is worth learning for its own sake. The real goal of the other two “bilingual” programs is not bilingualism! The goal of early and late exit programs is to transition students to English-only education, not for students to become truly bilingual, bicultural, and biliterate. Dual language programs are more challenging, just like gifted and talented programs, and this is why they lead to superior outcomes when implemented with fidelity.

Since every district in the RGV must provide a bilingual program for English-learners, and since the research overwhelmingly shows that English-learners in dual language programs outperform students in early and late exit programs, RGV PUEDE advocates for one-way and two-way dual language programs in every district. The demographics of the district and/or campus largely determine where one-way vs. two-way programs can be implemented. Two-way dual language programs require roughly equal numbers of Spanish-dominant and English-dominant students, whereas one-way dual language programs can be implemented anywhere there are enough Spanish-dominant students to require a bilingual program by law.

Dual language programs are also an excellent option for students who enter school already proficient in English, but parents need to be well-informed and ask their district to enroll their child in dual language. If it is not available, parents can transfer their child to one of the open-enrollment districts with dual language. The entry point for English-dominant children is Pre-K or Kindergarten, and parents should be willing to make a multi-year commitment to continue in the program through at least 5th grade, since it takes 5-7 years for a child to achieve academic proficiency in a new language. Regardless of a child’s home language background and socioeconomic status, the benefits of dual language continue to increase year after year, which is why RGV PUEDE advocates for districts to implement dual language from Pre-K to 12th.