With children back in school for the start of the 2021 school year, one of the Santa Clara Unified School District’s (SCUSD’s) newest programs finally has the opportunity to thrive. In fall of 2020, Scott Lane Elementary School launched a Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program, but the transition happened virtually, making interaction between the students and the teachers difficult.
“The biggest challenge with distance learning [is that] it’s really hard for those kids to be language models for one another because they’re at home,” said Scott Lane Principal Jeff Keller. “I think we lost families because of that experience.”
DLI relies on interaction between the students to help both Spanish and English speakers adapt to each other’s languages. Principal Keller says in an in-person environment, it’s a much better curriculum for students than the school’s previous bilingual program.
“The goal of the bilingual program is basically is to use the student’s native language, Spanish, to teach them in Spanish and then transition to English. The goal is to use their native language to acquire English and drop their native language,” said Keller. “The goal of dual language immersion — which is amazing — is that kids will become completely bilingual, biliterate in English and Spanish.”
Each class in the DLI program is made up of one-third native Spanish speakers, one-third Spanish/English speakers and one-third native English speakers. Kindergarten classes are taught in 90 percent Spanish, 10 percent English. That ratio of Spanish to English adjusts as kids get older until they reach a 50/50 ratio in grades four and five.
DLI Kindergarten teacher Beatriz Magana previously worked within Scott Lane’s bilingual program. She says this new system makes a huge difference for all of the students.
“It totally helps. I mean now we have models for both languages. For the Spanish speakers we have the English-speaking students who help us through ELD [English Language Development] and then vice versa throughout the day. We have the Spanish speakers that model for the EO [English Only] students,” said Magana.
Adelina Contreraz, a TOSA specialist who offers support to the students in the DLI program, agrees that the change from bilingual to DLI was a good one.
“It was a change, but it was all positive for all of us, because we went from learning how to do a new program, and to be able to bring in resources that are going to be able to be implemented in this new program for dual language,” said Contreraz.
Students in the program appear to be thriving.
“She’s loving it,” said Shannon Allen, whose daughter is in Magana’s kindergarten class as a native English speaker. “It’s crazy. She’s coming home and teaching us; she’s speaking in complete sentences now…She comes home and teaches mommy and daddy and her little brother and sister the Spanish words that she’s learning.”
Scott Lane has one DLI kindergarten class, two DLI first grade classes and one DLI second grade class. Eventually, the school hopes to have two DLI classes at every grade level.
Marivel Joffre who teaches a first grade DLI class says an added benefit of the DLI program is a more inclusive community.
“We have a few students from other schools and not just English only speaking families, but some of the Spanish speaking families don’t belong to Scott Lane. So, we really try to incorporate a community of Santa Clara, not just Scott Lane,” said Joffre. “That’s the goal is to instill that in them. It’s not just a Scott Lane family.”
Scott Lane’s DLI program is open to all students entering kindergarten in the 2022 -2023 school year. Interested parents can contact the school’s principal Jeff Keller at email@example.com when enrollment opens in January 2022.