Dual Language Programs
We are fortunate in Woodburn because so many of our students are bilingual and even trilingual. Woodburn School District values multilingualism and the opportunity it affords students to connect with other cultures, be more open-minded and feel more connected to other cultures and to the world. Multilingualism creates a shared sense of purpose and students develop empathy for understanding their world.
WSD provides dual language programs for all students and families who wish to participate, from pre-kindergarten through graduation– more than 4,000 students across our system of great schools. We believe that beyond the cultural importance of bilingualism, these skills open up more career opportunities for our WSD students by giving them a significant advantage in their future. Our students are sought after by business and educational sectors across the state, and Woodburn students are known to be set apart from other candidates in a positive way. For students who plan to travel abroad in the future, the experience of being able to converse with locals will allow for a richer connection to their culture. Understanding and being able to communicate in another language opens the door to a whole new world of art, music, dance, fashion, cuisine, film, philosophy, and science that students may not otherwise have been able to access.
It's been 17 years since Woodburn School District started its official Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Programs (TWBI). We have seen numerous students successfully graduate as bilinguals and be awarded the State of Oregon’s Seal of Biliteracy– and we hope to see many more in the years to come. In this week’s newsletter, you can learn about the benefits of dual language programs in general and the dual language programs offered by the district. For those who wish to learn more, we discuss the history of our dual language programs and explain where our programs are now.
Benefits of Dual Language
When schools provide children with quality education in their primary language, they give them two things: knowledge and literacy. Once children can read in one language, they can read in general. Access to and understanding of two cultures through language is one of the many benefits of bilingualism that Sorace exalted. According to Antonella Sorace in "One Brain, Two Languages, Many Advantages." Sorace researched the effect that bilingualism has on children's cognitive development, yielding many positive results. Bilingual children tend to better understand the structure of the language, often becoming more gifted readers than monolingual children.
Bilingualism has a positive effect on intellectual growth. It enriches and enhances a child's cognitive development. Furthermore, it leaves students with more flexible thinking and leads to a greater sensitivity to language which improves a child's understanding of their native language. Bilingualism opens the door to other cultures and helps the child understand and appreciate people from other countries. Moreover, it gives the child a head start in language requirements for college and it Increases job opportunities in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset.
Woodburn School District (WSD) has Spanish/English and Russian/English dual language programs that implement a Two-Way Bilingual Immersion (TWBI) model. Currently, the Spanish TWBI program is in place in all WSD schools. The Russian Heritage Language TWBI program is in place at Heritage Elementary, Valor Middle School, and Woodburn High School. The TWBI program lays the groundwork for the development of a PreK-12 pathway that allows students the opportunity to develop their bilingualism and literacy in two languages. In its strategic goals, WSD promotes the preparation of all students for full participation and success in a global society that is multilingual and multicultural. The dual language programs align with that goal. The WSD multi-site dual language programs nurture a vibrant PreK-12 learning community in which students from diverse backgrounds speak, read and write a combination of Spanish and English, and Russian and English while participating in multicultural studies and experiences as part of their education.
Course offerings at the elementary, middle, and Woodburn high school provide a pathway to biliteracy. It prepares students to be successful at earning their Seal of Biliteracy. With regard to programming at the elementary level, the language of instruction generally alternates by subject area and grade levels. Students participating in the program receive the majority of their education in Spanish or Russian until second grade. In 2nd grade, the percentage of English instruction increases with additional instruction in Spanish/Russian in science and social studies. In 4th grade instruction in each language reaches a 50:50 ratio. Literacy instruction is taught in both languages at this point. In the Spanish TWBI program, the language arts is taught in English and then literacy is taught through science and social studies in Spanish. In the Russian Heritage Language Program, language arts are taught in Russian and then English literacy is taught through science and social studies. In middle school and high school students may continue taking courses such as science, social studies, math or language arts in Spanish and Russian to deepen their bilingualism.
Dual Language Advisory Board
The District’s Dual Language Advisory Board formed 2 years ago will start meeting for the 2022-23 school year in the next few weeks. This advisory board ensures district programs reflect the district Strategic Plan and makes recommendations for program adjustments as a result of program evaluation.
The overarching purpose of the board is to ensure district programs reflect the district’s Strategic Plan and to make recommendations for program adjustments as a result of program evaluation. In the past, we broke up into subcommittees (Program Evaluation and Data Collection; Outreach and Engagement; Pathways and Benchmarks; Culturally and Linguistically Sustaining Practices; Curriculum and Instruction: Elementary K-5), and this year we will review the outcomes these subcommittees had and provide recommendations for next steps. As a district, we will be engaging in a comprehensive dual language program review, and the DL Advisory Board will have a key role in this.
Read more about the history and where WSD is now with Dual Language Programs
History of the Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Program (TWBI) program
The TWBI system in Woodburn has its roots in the English Transition Program (ETP), a one-way transitional bilingual program. The ETP provided a balanced combination of academic instruction in students' first language and English. The ultimate goal was to transition to mainstream classrooms where students continue their education in an English-only setting. During the approximate time of 1994-96 and under the direction of Mary Evans, interim superintendent, teachers formed a task force to investigate how to improve English instruction for K-12 . As a result, the school board approved implementing an ETP bilingual system across the district. The board further supported the ETP system development by including language goals for all students in the district’s strategic plan. The ETP bilingual program began with kindergarten classrooms across the district in 1996-97 and added one grade each year. By the 2001-2002 school year, all elementary schools had established an ETP. Approximately 80% of classroom instruction was in the partner language in kindergarten and 50% of instruction was in the partner language by fifth grade.
A hallmark of the ETP team’s research was the acknowledgment that TWBI was the best program model with the best outcomes for English learners. A TWBI program respects and validates the culture of the community because it recognizes bilingualism as a strength, rather than a deficit. At the time of implementation, the district recognized that it had limited resources (both in terms of personnel and curriculum), and decided to begin implementation of an ETP model instead, focusing attention on programs built specifically for English learners. Even as the team developed the ETP handbook, the district recognized the difference between a transition plan and a TWBI program. WSD cited a “future option” which stated that a 2-way Bilingual Model “may be part of future plans for Woodburn School District” as it would provide “monolingual English-speaking students opportunity to become orally and academically proficient in Spanish and/or Russian.”
By 2002, all elementary schools had bilingual classrooms at each grade level K-5. The initial purpose was to meet the needs of a large number of English learners with Russian or Spanish as a home language. At Nellie Muir, a group of parents including fluent English speakers asked about the possibility of extending bilingual instruction to fluent English-speaking students as well. After a year of research at the school level by teachers and parents, Nellie Muir parents and teachers obtained permission from the school board to begin TWBI instruction beginning in the fall of 2003, with an 80/20 model in kindergarten.
Lincoln Elementary began the TWBI instruction in the fall of 2004 with two kindergarten classrooms with partner English/Spanish teachers and a 50/50 model. In the fall of 2004, Washington Elementary began the TWBI program in both kinder and first grade, with two English/Spanish partner teachers at each grade level with a 50/50 model.
Finally, in the fall of 2005, Heritage Elementary began the TWBI program with an 80/20 model in kindergarten in both Spanish and Russian. The first classroom of TWBI students in the district graduated in the spring of 2016.
At the secondary level, the ETP and two-way programs were programs in place, though implementation has varied by school depending upon staffing and leadership priorities. Overall, as the district moves forward with plans to strengthen and sustain this core program, it will continue to work to overcome barriers such as teacher capacity and shortages, materials in multiple languages, secondary content licensure issues, and budget.
Where Is WSD Now With The Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Programs?
The TWBI system replaced the WSD ETP models 17 years ago as of this article. Currently, Woodburn schools provide TWBI services district-wide at all four of its elementary schools and at two middle schools, and the Woodburn High School. This is now the main model that serves all English learners with Spanish or Russian as a home language in the district.
Course offerings at the elementary, middle, and Woodburn high school provide a pathway to biliteracy. It prepares students to be successful at earning their Seal of Biliteracy. With regard to programming at the elementary level, the language of instruction generally alternates by subject area and grade levels. Students participating in the program receive the majority of their instruction in Spanish or Russian until second grade. In 2nd grade, the percentage of English instruction increases, and in 4th grade instruction in each language reaches a 50:50 ratio. In middle school and high school students may continue taking courses such as science, social studies, math or language arts in Spanish and Russian to deepen their bilingualism.
Our English Plus program offers students the opportunity to learn Spanish or Russian as a foreign language. At the elementary level instruction is primarily in English with the opportunity to learn Spanish or Russian for 30 minutes a day. In middle school and high school students have opportunities to take foreign language courses and possibly content courses such as language arts, science, social studies, and math. The English Plus program is offered at all of our elementary schools except for Washington Elementary School. Spanish is offered as a foreign language at Lincoln, Heritage, and Nellie Muir. Russian is offered at Heritage.
Future Plans for the Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Program
WSD will do a full program review this school year to make recommendations for improving the Dual Language Program. We will need your input, please see the next article for more information on how to provide us with your feedback and thoughts.