Arizona Education: Dual Language Programs

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Dual Language programs are popular with parents. We’ll take a look at a program in the Kyrene School District and then talk to Jana Miller, associate superintendent of the Cave Creek School District and Aiden Fleming, deputy associate superintendent at the Arizona Department of Education, about the benefits of a dual language program.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona education talks about how children as.Children as young as four are learning to read and write in Mandarin, Spanish and Navajo, the students are enrolled in dual language programs, and as Allysa Adams found out, there is parents, students, and school districts excited about learning multiple languages.


Video: counting by ten this is any language, is a big accomplishment for most five-year-olds. These kindergarteners can do it in English and in Spanish.

Maria Rivera: It is amazing where the kids come in, and a lot of people feel it's difficult, but it's not, within a month, you can see such is a huge progress that the kids are doing. And speaking, and having conversations with the peers.

Video: In this classroom, the kids only speak, read, and sing in Spanish for the first half of the day. Then they move next door, and learn in English for the second half.

Maria Rivera: In our program, we have the language, is separate, and in different rooms, so the students have the understanding that this is the Spanish environment, so this is where you are encouraged to use the language. And then, in their English classroom, that's where their English vocabulary and language happens.

Video: Dual language programs are immersive. There is no going back and forth like you might have with an ell or English language learner program, and that means that maria rivera has to be creative sometimes.

Maria Rivera: In a year, especially in kindergarten, when they come in and have no idea of one word in Spanish, that's a challenge. It's being up there and doing your own puppet show for them so that they capture the language, as well, so being creative, and exposing them to the language so that they can understand, but also, enjoy the language.

Video: In this dual language program, the students must be proficient in English, in order to learn the second language, Spanish. This is, also, different from an ell program where the goal is to become more proficient in English, and not necessarily maintain the native language. Starting young, at four, five, and six years old, is key to bilingual success for these kids.

Ana Gomez Castillo: The research has shown that when a second language is learned at a very young age, that the second language is stored in the same area of the brain as the primary language.

Video: Dr. Ana gomez castillo, the principal at Kyrene de los lagos helped to launch the program in the School District six years ago at a different school. In that school, enrollment was shrinking. Until they started dual language.

Ana Gomez Castillo: Enrollment started to increase. We're seeing the same thing happening here, as well. There is, there is just a draw for this program.

Video: In fact, there is a waiting list for the program at one Kyrene school, and the district is expanding the program. In a market where public schools compete against charter and private schools to attract students, it seems dual language is a winner.

Rita Carlier: We were hoping that it would encourage my older son to speak French and, you know, since French and Spanish are so close to go, and we did not want to pay for the French school, and this was free and only a couple of miles from the house, so we said, let's do it.

Video: Rita carlier's five-year-old son is learning his shapes in Spanish in miss maria rivera's class. His mother says that she sees progress in more than just language development.

Rita Carlier: When you are thinking of two languages at the same time, you have more problem solving skills, so it's, actually, a real benefit in a lot of other aspects of your life.

Video: And the research shows that kids in dual language programs are better at multi-tasking and focusing. The test scores of the students in Kyrene's program are proving it.

Ana Gomez Castillo: A show right now, that, based on the Arizona merit, assessments, that was given last year, that they outperformed their great level peers.

Video: There are challenges with dual language programs. Maria rivera is teaching with an English language partner, requires lots of time.

Maria Rivera: The lessons, the planning, making sure that your kids are making progress along the way.

Video: And Dr. Gomez says recruiting teachers takes extra work, but in the end they agree. Teaching these kids to communicate in two languages, is much better than one.

Ted Simons: Next year the Kyrene School District will open up its first classroom at the middle Columbine High School level and here with more on dual programs is miss jana Miller, associate superintendent of the cave crank School District and aiden Fleming, deputy associate superintendent at the Arizona department of education. As far as an English bilingual program, what are dual, where do dual language programs fit in?

Jana Miller: It our School District, in 2003, we started our immersion program, and it's actually not dual language. It is a oneway immersion because our students are English speakers, and we do not have the target language students in the classrooms. So, we have a 50-50 model, and half the day are students in our Spanish immersion program, learn math and science and Spanish, and the other half of the day they learn in English, and so they switch during the day, at noon, and they go into the other classroom, and so we have had the program going since 2003, and those students are now seniors in high school, and graduating from high school, and so, some of the concerns that I hear about, middle school, those are concerns that we have had about planning and having a good program k-12.

Ted Simons: What are some of the concerns regarding dual language programs?

Aiden Fleming: I think that funding is still an issue. It's local still, so the state hasn't really gotten involved over the years. But, like jana said, it's funding, making sure that there is data provided, and those are one or two of the issues going on, but the programs, themselves, are thriving, and they are really making the state take notice on how well they are performing, and we are, and we have for the past few years.

Ted Simons: And as far as the benefits, the impact, just simply on learning content, I would imagine it would be somewhat substantive, wouldn't it? Tangible?

Aiden Fleming: Absolutely, it's really -- it can be condensed into one word, access. What you are really getting with the dual language are the access and students getting opportunities, and the content switching from four hours of math in Chinese, Mandarin, Chinese and going to an English model, and you know, what a great exposure for the students.

Ted Simons: Is there a, a threat or a concern that, with all this emphasis on dual language, that kids may be not learning as much as they would if, you know, American kids are learning in English or Mexican kids learn -- you know, the idea that they are not learning as quickly as they otherwise would?

Jana Miller: That's a great point and a huge concern for a lot of parents not accustomed to the model, and we would consider our students and first and second grade, initially because they are at such a high learning curve of this target language, the second language, whether it's Mandarin or Spanish, that they would have a bit of a gap in some of their content, and they don't. It's amazing. They keep up with their peers, and as was stated in the earlier segment, on the standardized test, the students are doing better than their students who are in the non-immersion classrooms.

Ted Simons: So, I guess, Hispanic kids go and get half the day, taught in English, but, and they also get half the day or certain number of hours taught in Spanish?

Aiden Fleming: Correct. And if you are talking about the 50-50 program, they would have half the day in English, and half the day in Spanish.

Ted Simons: I mean everything is taught there. Everything from, you know, I need to go to use the bathroom to I can answer that question on the chalkboard.

Aiden Fleming: And that's the amazing part about it. Yes, it's subject matter, core subject matter that they are tested on, an az merit and the standardized tests being taught in another language, and what jana was saying is that in Utah, we are concerned about the test scores and we want to make sure that the districts are using these programs, and they are successful, but we have seen examples across the country of not just in Arizona, about the test scores, but we have seen this across the country in Utah and Connecticut and other states.

Ted Simons: I know there is a challenge finding qualified teachers, just in general. Qualified teachers, that can speak Mandarin, and that are bilingual in any shape or form, that has to be a challenge, too.

Jana Miller: It is a challenge. In our School District, we just started Mandarin, Chinese. This is our first year for our first grade, and we also have a flex program, and so, that is where students who are not in the immersion program, receive the target language, so in this case, Chinese, two times a week, and we bring our teachers over from China. We support them. We have a language director in our district, and she goes to China, and in fact, she's leaving on Wednesday. She will go and interview the teachers, and we bring them back to our School District, and we currently, I believe, have six or seven teachers, from China, and we bring teachers from Spain.

Ted Simons: Interesting. We have got this program in place, and we saw awfully young kids over there, and I am hearing as young as four, there -- I mean, is that a -- it seems like it's awfully young.

Aiden Fleming: Well, the earlier, the better, is kind of what the research is, has always stated. Classically, how we would see language and how the United States has adopted it, is in high school, you get a dabbling of one or two years, maybe, and maybe three or four, if you really get into it, but, the research has really flipped. It's the earlier, the better, the more you can immerse, it's the most direct way to do it. The 50-50 model fits in perfectly with that idea, and some brave school districts in the state, have come first and said, you know what, we're going to take the lead on this, and they have been very successful.

Ted Simons: And as far as you mentioned the results, closing that achievement gap, which we hear a lot about with Latino students and white students and the whole rainbow there. Possible? Evidence of it happening?

Jana Miller: Well, we believe that it is one Avenue for closing that gap. In our School District, we are, we have high test scores with our students, and all school districts are looking to increase the growth, and so, this is one Avenue for students who already have high test scores, they are doing even better, but also, with the students who are in different demographics, who may not be doing, as well, it is one way to close that gap. This is one practice that's good for all kids, and it's not just for one group of children. When you were talking about the -- having the Spanish speaking students in the classroom, well, we don't have that in our School District, and we certainly don't have the Chinese-speaking students, so it is definitely a oneway immersion program.

Ted Simons: One last question, closing the achievement gap, it kind of closes the cultural gap, too, doesn't it?

Aiden Fleming: The legislature has been really supportive of this over the past few years, when jana, and we had a stakeholder group, and they came to the department and said these are the things we are struggling with and we need help getting teachers from out of the country, so we listened, and we started changing some rules, and they go, it would be great to have a pilot program, and we thought the same thing, we have some flack but we did not, we had great support, and that's one of the selling points, is economic, national security, and culture, absolutely, narrowing that gap.

Ted Simons: It sounds like it's certainly working, and congratulations on the success, and thank you both for joining us. We appreciate it.

Aiden Fleming: Thank you very much.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona artbeat looks at one of the Phoenix's hidden treasures, the shemer art center, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. Producer Shana fischer and photographer Miguel Valverde take us on a tour.

Video: This is a colorful history. It was owned by a worker for the water company. In 1927, the family who owned the company, bought the home as a vacation retreat. In 1984, the home was purchased by Martha shemer.

Jocelyn Hanson: She purchased the home, and I think, probably, at a point in her life when she wanted to leave some kind of legacy, as well. She and Terri goddard worked out a donation of this home to the city, and it was specifically to be in arts education facility.

Video: Today, four of the homes original bedrooms serve as gallery space. You can see the history of the home as you walk through it. Original light fixtures and the bell system used to call upon the home's wait staff. In the lobby is an old stone fire police chase, with a Latin phrase, art is long, life is short. Which seems a bit serendipitous now. It's a monthly exhibition, one of the biggest offerings is the art classes.

Jocelyn Hanson: We teach all of the arts, and that includes painting and drawing and print-making, and when we talk about painting, we're talking about a lot of different media, too, like oil and pastel, and watercolor. And we teach sculpture. We teach ceramic and we teach jewelry-making.

Video: The home's garage was converted into a studio space. The students spend six to eight weeks in a class. The center also is known for its beautiful sculptures that are placed all over the property. Each one is available for sale. There are also several patios to enjoy.

Jocelyn Hanson: To me, I, actually, love just going out over the noon hour, and taking, you know, my lunch break, and sitting out on the patio, and viewing the iconic Camelback mountain.

Video: Keeping the doors open to this point of pride, takes tremendous support from the public. For director Sandra whyman, without places like this, a community loses a valuable asset.

Sandra Whyman: The arts are what make life worth living. They enhance every, everyone's heart, and they put you in harmony with your own life. I really think that Arizona needs to be able to come here and to -- to the shemer, and to explore our different rooms and our grounds, and make themselves at home.

Ted Simons: For more information on this, check out their website at We'll get an overview of the heroin problem in Arizona, and with the director of the state Department of Health services, and we'll hear about the latest efforts to fight tax filing fraud. That's on the next Arizona Horizon. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great evening. Captioning Performed By LNS Captioning

Video: Arizona Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Jana Miller:Aassociate superintendent of the Cave Creek School District ,Aiden Fleming:Deputy Associate Superintendent at the Arizona Department of Education

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