Dual language immersion strengthens multilingual students, whether they are English speaking students who want to learn a second language, or students who are native Spanish speakers who speak limited English.
Third graders in Brittany O’Connor’s class at Little Canada Elementary School are part of a growing dual language immersion program. O’Connor taught their math lesson in Spanish, unlike traditional classes where they would be taught in English.
The school officials in the Roseville school district say that nationally the dual language program has a proven record of boosting academic achievement of all students, as well as having students become fluent in two languages.
For O’Connor, teaching a portion of the day in Spanish was not what she expected when she first began teaching. However, she minored in Spanish in college, and studied abroad. The continual use of the language has improved her own skills.
“I try my best to be bilingual,” she said. “It’s getting easier, but it can still be difficult.”
Minnesota schools are faced with meeting the needs of an increased number of multilingual students. Over the past ten years, the number of students who have limited English proficiency (LEP) has grown by 20 percent. Minneapolis and St. Paul have some of the larges concentrations of LEP students.
However, the growth of the number of English learners declined in the cities since 2005 and has increased in suburban and rural districts, such as Roseville.