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July 19, 2013

Bilingual Classrooms Turn English-Only in Effort to Improve Test scores

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Faculty at DiLoreto School in New Britain, Conn., are facing push-back from their community after deciding to switch from a dual-language school to English-only classrooms.

The kindergarten to eighth grade school specialized in a dual language approach to teaching in which students were taught in English one week and Spanish the next. The goal was that all students would graduate fully bilingual. However, recent test scores showed that the school was struggling. Seventy percent of all students and 85 percent of those learning to speak English were failing Connecticut’s reading test.

To help boost test scores, Superintendent Kelt Cooper decided to transition to English-only instruction. Teaching students should help English language learners understand syntax rules and the way sentences form so that they can write correctly. With improved writing comes improved reading.

Those who oppose the switch are concerned that the school is sending the message that it does not value a student’s first language and culture. Research strongly suggests that students learn better in their native language. Despite the concern of many community members, the school continues to only teach in English. The school will soon get an early look at whether its recent switch is making a difference.

Results from the latest state test will be released this July.


Quote

“The proof is in the pudding. It’s very clear that the ones that have gone through these programs have a better articulation of the English language, better understanding of the English language, understand the grammar rules and are much more proficient in English than their native English counterparts in the mainstream.” – Kelt Cooper, New Britain Public Schools.

Warm-up questions

1. What does it mean to be “bilingual”?

2. How do you define success in education?

Discussion Questions

1. What are some challenges foreign-language speakers may face when attempting to learn a new language?

2. What is the importance of having a dual-language school in an urban area?

3. How do you think this change may affect retention rates for schools?


- Compiled by Carrie Waltemeyer for NewsHour Extra

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