My old high school will go bilingual

More students are choosing bilingual education in Chicago’s North Shore, reports the Chicago Tribune. Highland Park High — my alma mater — will offer core subjects taught in English and Spanish in the next five years.

Officials say no standardized test fully illustrates the impact of the K-8 dual language program.

But school officials say data from various student achievement measures, as well as student and parent testimonials, show a clear benefit from native English and native Spanish speakers learning together in a dual-immersion environment where Spanish is the dominant language from kindergarten through second grade. By the time students reach fifth grade, classroom work is about 50-50 Spanish-English.

In my day, Highland Park High enrolled HP kids (middle or upper-middle class and often Jewish), Highwood kids (working class and Italian) and Fort Sheridan kids (lots of Southerners). Now, the fort has been turned into condos. I guess the Italians have moved up and out. More than 70 percent of students are Latino at Highwood’s Oak Terrace Elementary School. Districtwide, it’s about a quarter. Almost 15 percent of district students are in bilingual classes.

To better nurture the bilingual identity, Highland Park High will phase in dual language math, science and social studies classes over the next five years, Assistant Principal Tom Koulentes said. The school is about 18 percent Latino.

The district uses a double immersion model:  It mixes equal numbers (if possible) of native English speakers and native Spanish speakers. In kindergarten through second grade, students are taught in Spanish 80 to 90 percent of the time. “Your child’s going to get that English,” Jaime Barraza told parents at the informational meeting. “We need to get more Spanish in there.”

Bilingual students catch up in reading and math by fifth grade, said Barraza, who oversees the bilingual program.

So why do they need to learn math, science and social studies in Spanish in high school?

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