In Julie Sugarman’s 2008 study for the Center for Applied Linguistics, District 112 students were asked: Are you happy that you’re in a school where you learn in two languages? They unanimously responded: “yes.”
The children were then prompted with the question: Is there anything that you wish was
different? Native Spanish-speakers and English-speakers alike, alongside requests for more recess and less reading, expressed a desire for “Everyone in the school [to] be able to speak English and Spanish.”
At the ages of nine and ten, kids are already able to recognize the value of bilingualism—a value that is increasing with the growth in multilingual American households. Nearly 10 years later, a program which received high praise is taking a major hit. The dual language program of NSSD 112 is being subjected to cuts and consolidations without long term
consideration. District 112’s decision to merge Red Oak and Sherwood dual language programs is a step in the wrong direction for bilingualism and academic equality.
While the district faces financial stress due to increasing operational expenses and decreasing facility quality, targeting language programs is not the answer. Changing current dual language instruction will diminish cultural diversity and interfere with students’ abilities to bridge social and cultural gaps.
Research by experts Thomas & Collier has shown that “all students, regardless of
[socioeconomic status], race, and other demographic factors, can do as well or better in foreign language immersion and two-way immersion programs than their peers in monolingual English or transitional bilingual programs.”
In other words, bilingual education enhances one’s knowledge, providing students with the necessary tools to support themselves in challenging environments. District 112’s plan to consolidate classrooms delays the development of critical executive function skills. Early integration capitalizes on children’s predisposed tendencies to develop certain skills at different ages. District administrators must repeal this decision to preserve the high quality of education our schools provide.
Additionally, separating students by primary language inhibits cultural appreciation. Limiting students’ opportunity to learn from one another creates distance between classmates, families, and neighbors within the same community. However, Anya Kamenetz of NPR notes that dual language programs “improve students’ sense of belonging and increase parent involvement in their children’s education.” District 112 has a fundamental responsibility to prepare students to succeed in high school and beyond. Cultivating an accepting environment is part of this success.
Illinois has been a leader in education reform since 1985, continually transforming regulation and demanding results statewide. Notable legislative achievements include extending second language support to pre-schools in 2010 and former Governor Pat Quinn’s Law to Boost Bilingual Education in 2012.
If our state politicians recognize the importance of bilingual education, why are district
administrators depriving students of this social and academic advantage at a local level?
Every child deserves exposure to an advanced education. Whether it be while interacting in class or at recess, native speakers of both languages benefit from a bilingual, multicultural experience. The only way to provide this academic benefit to the students of District 112 is to repeal the recently passed legislation before associated changes are implemented.
Our community prides itself on offering “a world–class education, [which] nurture[s] every child to become an inspired learner, a well–rounded individual and contributing member of a global community.” We cannot uphold our reputation as one of the best-educated districts in the Chicagoland area if we alter our bilingual curriculum. The Board must preserve dual language programs in order to foster an innovative, respectful, and engaging academic environment.
To read other students’ voices, click here.
The author is a sophomore at the University of Southern California majoring in Business Administration with minors in Spanish and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She attended Highland Park High School (‘16), Northwood Junior High (‘12), and Wayne Thomas Elementary (‘09).
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