District 15 looks to start dual-language program

  • Cheryl Wofel, second from right, is Palatine Township Elementary District 15's executive director of second-language programs. Here, she discusses starting a dual-language program during a meeting Wednesday at Central Road Elementary School in Rolling Meadows.

      Cheryl Wofel, second from right, is Palatine Township Elementary District 15's executive director of second-language programs. Here, she discusses starting a dual-language program during a meeting Wednesday at Central Road Elementary School in Rolling Meadows. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/15/2017 4:45 PM

Palatine Township Elementary District 15 is moving toward launching its first dual-language program in the 2018-19 academic year.

As part of the process, two consultants from Dual Language Education of New Mexico concluded a visit to four district schools Wednesday. District 15's dual-language program would have classes taught in English and Spanish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Cheryl Wofel, the district's executive director of second-language programs, said the dual-language classes likely would begin in one or two buildings in the next academic season.

"I think that it would be beneficial for our Spanish-speaking students and our English-speaking students," Wofel said. "I think it builds on biliteracy, it builds on biculturalism. It just is good for everyone. I think that it would really promote bilingualism in our community as well."

District 15 would join several suburban systems with dual-language programs in Spanish and English, including Gurnee-based Woodland Elementary District 50 and Elgin Area School District U-46. Barrington Area Unit District 220 offers dual-language programs with Spanish and Mandarin as the choices with English. Students who are interested in the learning option enroll in the programs.

Dual Language Education helped U-46 begin its acclaimed English-Spanish program.

Known as an "80:20" initiative, the youngest Elgin district students start with 80 percent of their instruction in Spanish and 20 percent in English. The Spanish portion is reduced by 10 percent annually from kindergarten through third grade, with the split staying at 50-50.

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On the final leg of the consultants' two-day District 15 tour, they met with parents and educators at Central Road Elementary School in Rolling Meadows. Wofel told the group Central was part of a site evaluation visit in an effort to decide where to begin the dual-language program.

Michael Rodriguez, director of operations for the Albuquerque-based company, said research shows students benefit greatly by knowing at least two languages. He said dual-language programs typically narrow the achievement gap for English learners and serve as enrichment for others.

"The main premise for dual language is high academic achievement in both English and Spanish," Rodriguez said.

District 15 school board members have listed the dual-language program as part of their goals. About 36 percent of the district's 12,800 students are Hispanic, according to the 2016-17 state report card.

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