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Waco ISD's Dual Language Immersion program helping students excel

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Posted at 11:03 AM, Sep 08, 2023

Math, science and other subjects are already tough to learn — and it is even more challenging when you are from a different country.

Waco ISD is made up of young learners who speak 30 different languages.

With English in blue and Spanish in red, students at Provident Heights Elementary and across the district are learning in both languages at the same time. It is all thanks to the One-Way Dual Language Immersion program.

“With this program we try to incorporate the cultural background of our students that just makes them shine and be super interested in what they're learning,” said Tiffany Chen Wu, Provident Heights Elementary 2nd grade teacher.

The program utilizes picture and sequence cards, chat mats and other learning tools to help students understand content in English and Spanish.

“Not only do they come bilingual where they speak, understand and comprehend in two languages; they can also read and write in two languages,” said Grace Benson, Waco ISD's Director of ESL & Bilingual Education.

Instructors also pair non-English speaking students with only English-speaking students, so they can develop social skills and friendships.

“The research shows that children who are in dual language programs," Benson said. "They tend to appreciate other cultures more. They tend to really value diversity and celebrate diversity. That is something we weave throughout the program."

Administrators say the program has helped lower their emergent bilingual dropout rate and boost the graduation rate for those students over the years.

Benson said by the end of the first year, students should be able to write a sentence in their native language and read that sentence in English.

By the end of the second year, students should be able to write a full page in their first language and half in English.