State superintendent calls U-46's dual language program 'a beautiful thing'

Illinois State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala dropped in on a few dual language classrooms at Elgin Area School District U-46 elementary schools Tuesday to see the nationally acclaimed program in action.

"It's a beautiful thing," Ayala said during her visit. "The fact that they have schools where all children can learn another language is, I think, a wonderful thing as we are becoming more global."

This year, 12,000 students are enrolled in the dual language program at the state's second-largest school district. U-46 has one of the largest dual language programs in the country and offers it from preschool through 12th grade.

The program started in 2011 with Spanish speakers learning English at 29 U-46 schools. A two-way program, which included English speakers who wanted to learn Spanish, was offered at six of the 29 schools. Today, the district's dual language program is offered at all district schools to English and Spanish speakers.

The Association of Two-Way and Dual Language Education, a national organization, recognized U-46's program in 2017 for its efforts in promoting bilingualism.

Research has found an ethnic studies curriculum helps promote an appreciation for differences among diverse communities and contributes to overall academic success.

"I see amazing things happening here in this district," Ayala said Tuesday.

Ayala's visit included stops at Channing and Creekside elementary schools, both in Elgin. Both schools also are part of the initial group of "Schools for Equity and Rigor" that serve as models for U-46 Rising, a program to ensure the district is meeting the needs of all students.

Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.comFrom left, State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala, Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders, Illinois student advisory board member Rossi Gutierrez, and U-46's Director of Multilingual and Multicultural Education Griselda Pirtle tour Channing Elementary School Tuesday to observe dual language classrooms.
  State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala talks with kindergartners Tuesday at Channing Elementary School in Elgin. See more at Paul Valade/
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