California makes progress on dual-language immersion goals

Demand for dual-language immersion programs has been steadily increasing in the United States. The state of California just made a $10 million investment toward meeting that demand.

According to an Oct. 31 announcement from the state superintendent of public instruction’s office, 27 schools and school districts will receive a series of grants to expand dual-language immersion programs or establish a new one.

“Schools with strong dual-language immersion programs are proven to promote strong academic performance among students from all backgrounds and, in the end, prepare our students for college and careers in a highly competitive global marketplace where speaking more than one language is a critical skill,” said Tony Thurmond, the state superintendent of public instruction.

The move to expand dual-language immersion in the state comes as a result of Assembly Bill 130, which in 2021 established the Dual-Language Immersion Grant (among several other educational measures). According to Thurmond’s office, the grant was developed to support English-learning students and foster the state’s linguistic diversity. Schools and school districts were selected following a selective application process, for which they’ll receive up to $400,000 each.

Dual-language immersion programs are a type of primary education system wherein classes are taught primarily in the target language, alongside instruction in English (or in countries outside the US, the official or dominant language). Usually, each cohort consists of a 50-50 mix of native English speakers and native speakers of the target language. The ratio of target language instruction to English instruction varies from program to program, but 90-10 and 50-50 ratios are fairly common. 

These programs are particularly well-suited for students who do not use English as their primary language at home, as they allow young students to ease their way into the education system. In addition to boosting overall academic achievement, dual-language immersion programs have also been shown to increase the rate at which non-English-speaking students achieve proficiency in English compared to those in monolingual English programs.

As part of its Global California 2030 initiative, the state has committed to offering 1,600 dual-language immersion programs by 2030. Currently, the state is home to roughly half that number: according to a report from EdSource, there were 747 dual-language immersion programs in 2021.

“I applaud these schools for taking the initiative to invest in their dual-language immersion programs,” Thurmond said.

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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