Washington State Bilingual Education Expansion Plan


A Vision for Bilingual Education in Washington State. Source: OSPI

OLYMPIA—August 25, 2022—In bilingual education programs, students learn classroom content partly in English and partly in a partner language, giving them the opportunity to develop bi-literacy and bilingualism while learning the content. At a press conference yesterday, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced plans to expand access to these programs to all students in Washington.

Chris Reykdal

Across Washington State, 35,000 students in 42 school districts and state Tribal Education Compact Schools are learning in bilingual programs. Under Reykdal’s plan, these numbers will steadily increase over the next few years so that all Washington students will have access to bilingual K-8 education by 2040.

“The evidence is clear,” Reykdal said. “When young people become bilingual in the early years, they have more cognitive flexibility and they do better in school. As our global economy changes and our world becomes increasingly international, bilingual education must become an essential opportunity for our students.

The Washington State Legislature has invested in steadily strengthening student access to bilingual education since 2015. Under Reykdal’s proposal, the Legislature would invest $18.9 million in 2023-25 ​​to continue to expand bilingual programs to more school districts while simultaneously strengthening the workforce of educators, setting Washington on the path to statewide implementation by 2040.

“As education leaders in our state and community, we must provide all students, especially our multilingual learners, with the most effective learning environment and research-supported curriculum available to us. “, said Dr. Rob Darling, Deputy Superintendent of the Yakima School District and Executive Council Member of the Multilingual Education Advisory Committee. “Bilingual programs have consistently proven to be the most effective learning model for multilingual students to accelerate their academic success. And for every student involved, it’s the most effective way to break down social barriers and increase their ethnic and racial awareness.

Bilingual education is backed by decades of research as the only program model that prevents and closes opportunity gaps for multilingual/English learners and other groups of students who have been historically underserved.

“As an immigrant rights organization, we believe that multilingual education is the cornerstone of building a prosperous state for immigrants and refugees,” said Roxana Norouzi, Executive Director of OneAmerica. “Dual language is a long-term investment for students to become bilingual and biliterate; it centers multiculturalism in the classroom and has been shown to improve academic outcomes for immigrant and non-immigrant students. Washington State has an opportunity to be a leader on this front by passing this year’s bilingual budget request to ensure that all school districts can provide quality bilingual education by 2040.

To increase the manpower needed to support additional bilingual programs, Reykdal’s plan includes doubling the number of residency preparation programs for bilingual educators, as well as providing annual stipends to teachers and paraeducators working in bilingual classes.

In Washington’s bilingual programs, schools choose the partner language to be taught alongside English. Currently, 102 programs offer Spanish; 3 offer Chinese-Mandarin; 2 offer Vietnamese; and 5 programs offer the following tribal languages: Kalispel Salish, Lushootseed, Makah, Quileute and Quilshootseed.

“As a mother of girls in the bilingual program, I hope they enjoy their races (roots) and embrace their culture (culture),” said Daisy Mendoza, bilingual educator for Selah School District. “It has been rewarding to see my daughters come home with schoolwork and projects embracing language and culture, strengthening their Spanish literacy and speaking academically.”

Research shows that students engaged in bilingual education achieve high levels of fluency in a new language; performing as well as or better than their peers in English-only classes on standardized English tests in all content areas; and demonstrate increased development of literacy, cognitive flexibility, problem-solving skills, cross-cultural awareness, attention control, memory, and information integration.

“The bilingual program has transformed my life in many ways,” said Sarai Urias, student at Highline High School and president of the school’s Latinx Club. “Since I’ve been in the bilingual program, I’ve been able to communicate better with my classmates. Our school is so diverse and because of that there are a lot of children who don’t know the English language. Being able to speak, read and write in English and Spanish has definitely given me the chance to help people around me.

The plan to expand student access to bilingual programs is the third in a series of transformational budget and policy proposals Superintendent Reykdal will unveil through November, called Washington State Innovates: K-12 Education for the 21st Century and Beyond.

Source of content: OSPI press release


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