Parents of English languages learners (ELLs) often place their children in English language based classroom in hopes that they will pick up the language, but bilingual education may be the better decision. A recent study by the Houston Education Research Consortium found that students learning English as a second language are more successful when they are continually taught in their native tongue. The study is one of the first solid results from the Houston International School District’s (HISD) two-way dual language program.
For the study, HISD offered four options for ELL dual language education. The first was to place students in English language only classes as early as possible. The second was a short-term, transitional program, which provided instruction in both languages and was geared towards getting native speakers of Spanish ready for English language only classes. The third was a “one-way” dual language program focusing on native speakers of Spanish, but providing instruction in both languages. Lastly, the “two-way” dual language programs included both English and Spanish native speakers with instruction in both languages. The final “two-way” dual language system provided the best results for ELLs.
The dual language education program was not only beneficial to ELLs but to the English native speakers who participated. “Parents should know if you want your kid to know something besides English, the best time to do it is when they’re little, not high school,” said Ruth N. López Turley, director of Houston Education Research Consortium. The primary difference in the program is the mix of students. Rather than isolating ELLs in separate classes, including them in a dual language program results in greater cultural understanding and language skills all around. Turley continued, “From the district’s perspective, I’d want to keep expanding these programs, despite the expense, because [we're] getting results.”