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Dual Language Institute Graduates Teachers


Dual-Immersion Biliteracy Institute Graduates First Class of Teachers

UC Riverside Institute Training Educators to Teach Children Who Want to Learn In Two Languages

(June 7, 2004)

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Name: Kris Lovekin
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RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) An institute that prepares K-12 educators to instruct in English and Spanish, established at the University of California, Riverside two years ago, has graduated its first class of nine teachers and administrators. Institute graduates will serve as leaders in the field for two-way immersion education in the Riverside and San Bernardino region.

The goal is to train a corps of instructional aides, teachers and administrators in the practice and theory of two-way or dual-language immersion, where classes are taught alternately in English and Spanish, with an eye toward developing students who can speak, read and write in both languages.

Teresa Márquez-López, the UC Riverside researcher spearheading the effort, known as the Two-Way Immersion Biliteracy Specialist Institute, proposed and received a $1.5 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education in 2002 to establish the institute over five years. Márquez-López runs the institute with Francisca Sánchez, assistant superintendent at the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools office.

Since its start in January 2003, the institute graduated seven teachers and two vice principals from the San Bernardino City Unified School District, the Corona-Norco Unified School District and the Victor Elementary School District, who passed four courses to earn a biliteracy certificate. Overall, more than 30 teachers and administrators are enrolled in the biliteracy certificate program and have taken about 70 courses.

The biliteracy certificate program is just one of five tiers of training the Institute offers. The others include: A certificate in Reading Program, Reading Specialist credential, Bilingual Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development (BCLAD) certificate, Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development (CLAD) certificate, and a Dual-Language Institute for Paraprofessionals.

Although fairly new, the institute has already undergone some changes, according to Márquez-López.

“We listened to the teachers and they said they wanted to include some things we initially didn’t offer,” she said. “They told us they wanted an administrators program and advanced Spanish language courses that are subject specific.”

School administrators from five districts were invited to attend two days of professional development. Thirty-two administrators, who are working toward building strong two-way immersion programs at their schools, participated in learning new strategies for helping students to improve their academic achievement.

The institute, which initially served three school districts — San Bernardino City Unified, Ontario-Montclair and Victor Elementary — quickly expanded to include two Riverside County districts in Corona-Norco and Banning.

The project’s focus is currently on the early elementary grades, where schools are most affected by students who are learning English. However, San Bernardino City Unified School District plans to develop a dual language program that extends to grade 12, with students graduating from high school with a diploma that indicates they are biliterate.

A hallmark of two-way immersion programs is the high level of parental participation. In California, parents of students in such programs have asked for additional program years and participate in school activities more fully because the teachers and school personnel are bilingual. Parents who choose two-way immersion education for their children tend to see the importance of learning about, and appreciating, other languages and cultures.

Two-way immersion has been gaining acceptance over the past 15 years in the state and may address one of the more-than 60 recommendations made in the California Master Plan for Education, which calls for the state’s six million public school students to become bilingual. Business leaders too have underscored the importance of being bilingual to the growth of business competitiveness.

During a recent visit to UC Riverside, alumnus Byron Pollitt, Chief Financial Officer of the Gap Inc., said that being bilingual is “an invaluable skill.”
The U.S. Department of Education, as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, is studying approaches to best teach children whose first language is Spanish to read and write in English. As part of this thrust, the federal department is also studying how to develop the teacher skills to effectively instruct such children.

In the two-way immersion approach, the class is divided roughly in half between English and non-English speaking students. Teachers spend half their instructional time in English and half in Spanish, according to Márquez-López. There are 297 such programs in 25 states nationwide, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics. California leads the nation with 155 two-way immersion programs.

The approach, which began in the 1960s, has recently become a promising alternative to English immersion or to standard bilingual education classes, where non-English speaking students were transitioned to English over time and then enter English-only classrooms.

Dual immersion incorporates both languages without sacrificing instructional hours used to teach subjects such as reading, mathematics or social studies. Both English and Spanish are viewed, and used, as an avenue for teaching academic subjects.

“Not only is there a greater understanding of the other culture,” said Márquez-López. “But it puts the students in the roll as both teacher and learner.”

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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