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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  1. Spanish immersion is a great way for young native English speakers to learn Spanish. And English immersion is a great way for young native Spanish speakers to learn English.

    But Spanish immersion is a terrible way for Spanish speakers to learn English. And I actually believe that this is the point: to maintain a permanent Hispanic underclass.

    It’s interesting to note that a country like Israel that really wants newcomers to assimilate, puts young children in normal Hebrew classes. This happened with my first-grade daughter when we were visiting. On the first day she didn’t understand a word. within 6 months, she was speaking Hebrew and reading/writing it.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      The clue would be “hispanic UNDERCLASS”. I have a friend recently retired from a high position in the hotel biz. His view is bilingual ed–lousy education in a language other than English–is designed to maintain a supply of people who can’t get jobs besides cleaning hotel rooms.
      Years ago, working with a faith-based peace&wonderfulness bunch, I discovered that balkanization was a goal, since the current US society was so vile.
      All so silly, of course, but they at least have the advantage of providing some reason, however nutty, for bilingual ed. The official reasons fail to convince even at that level.
      I don’t guess they say anything about maintaining a poor and marginalized class whose votes can be bought by the Free Stuff party?

  2. When my father started first grade in New Jersey in 1915 the only word of English he knew was “Hello”. The language he spoke at home was German. I remarked to him once about how difficult it must have been for him. He was quite surprised by my comment and said he didn’t remember any difficulty whatsoever in learning English. In no time at all he was teaching my grandmother how to speak English.

  3. I first wrote about this model in 2002, when I learned about it in my CLAD courses at Sacramento State. I posted it on my blog in 2005:

    I would suggest not holding your breath whilst waiting for the 2nd Coming.