Elementary bilingual programs around Champaign

Dual-language education is catching on around the country, including Champaign-Urbana, Ill., the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette reports, here via the Bloomington Pantagraph.

The school district in Champaign (Unit 4) will start offering dual-language classes in kindergarten and first grade during the 2014-15 school year, while dual-language programs in Urbana School District 116 are in their second year for English and Spanish, and officials there hope to add a program with English and Mandarin Chinese at some point.

The goal of these programs is to have students “bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural” before they finish elementary school. Classes combine native speakers of English with native speakers of the second language, usually Spanish, and teach the course material—be that math, science, social studies, or whatever—in both languages, starting mostly in Spanish and gradually reaching a goal of 50 percent teaching in English and 50 percent in Spanish.

For example, Urbana’s program starts with 10 percent English when students first enter it and gradually adds more English to the instruction over a period of about three or four years. Champaign Unit 4, on the other hand, plans to start in the first year with a 50-50 ratio.

Native English speakers pick up the second language like second nature, which gives them an advantage in today’s America.

“Being bilingual is a great asset both on a personal and professional level,” said Maria Alanis, Champaign’s director of English as a Second Language and bilingual education. “It opens doors for you.”

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.