Pro: Yes, all students benefit in the end

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Aug. 24, 2014 at 6 p.m.

As the number of Spanish-speaking students in the Crossroads continues to grow, the Victoria school district needs to prepare for the implementation of a dual-language immersion program.

"The numbers are going to continue to grow," Robert Jaklich, Victoria school district superintendent, said. "We have an obligation to ensure each of these students are learning."

In a dual-language immersion program, native English speakers would be placed in the same classroom as English Language Learner students and would receive part of their daily instruction in English and the other in a second language.

The idea behind the immersion program is to get students from different backgrounds to work together while simultaneously aiding each other in communication.

The benefits of a program include improved college readiness for all students involved - not just the English Language Learners, who are largely Spanish speakers in the Crossroads, said Alejandro Mojica, the Victoria school district's newly hired Bilingual and ESL Learning director.

"Both groups of students would benefit from each other," said Mojica, a Columbia native. "Research shows that by the time they reach high school, these students are more college-ready than their peers who didn't participate in an immersion program."

Benny Martinez, a Goliad resident and League of United Latin American Citizens member, supports learning two languages in school.

He said when he started school in the United States he didn't know any English.

Unfortunately for Martinez, he went to school during the 1940s, when it was still illegal to speak Spanish on public school grounds.

That law remained active for half a century until the U.S. Congress passed the Bilingual Education Act in 1968.

"When we spoke Spanish in school, they would whip us," Martinez said. "And because of that, 25 percent of my class failed the first grade."

Dual-language immersion programs in the U.S. began in 1960s as way to desegregate classrooms.

Tanya Asbury, a Bloomington Elementary School parent, said she would like to see a dual-language immersion program for her English-speaking children.

About 18.2 percent of the 284 students at Bloomington Elementary School are limited in English proficiency, according to the campus' Academic Excellence Indicator System 2011-12 campus profile on the Texas Education Agency's website.

"My kids know a little bit of Spanish already because most of the kids at their school are Hispanic," Asbury said. "It's definitely something I'd like to see happen because they're going to have to learn the language eventually."



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