State School Superintendent Chris Reykdal wants all K-8 schools to offer bilingual programs by 2040.
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – A Mount Vernon elementary school models what Washington’s Superintendent of Public Instruction wants for the entire education system by 2040: bilingual education.
It’s a new school year and a new language for many of the kids at Madison Elementary in Mount Vernon.
The school has been fully bilingual since 2019. Parents send their children there precisely for this reason. Everything is done in both English and Spanish.
Fifth grader Olivia Ruiz says it helps bring kids together.
“Many of my friends are more fluent in Spanish than I am,” said the 11-year-old. “If I forget something or don’t know how to say something, they can help me.”
A proposal from state school principal Chris Reykdal would allow parents to opt into bilingual programs in some school districts as early as 2026.
The proposal is awaiting funding from the state legislature.
About $19 million will be needed to get the program up and running in the first two years. Currently, 35,000 students in 42 Washington school districts are studying in bilingual programs.
Reykdal wants programs to be available in all districts by 2040.
“The evidence is clear,” Reykdal said. “When young people become bilingual in the first grades, they have greater cognitive flexibility and perform better in school. As our global economy changes and our world becomes increasingly international, bilingual education must become a key opportunity for our students.”
There has also been criticism of some bilingual programs.
They are often contradictory.
Washington’s program would end before high school, meaning some students could lose much of what they learned in previous grades. Difficult topics can also be even more difficult to understand.
For students struggling with a subject, a foreign language can be another obstacle.
Studies also show that it takes seven years for a second language to “click” in children, so academics can suffer in the early years.
However, teacher Cecilia Guzman-Marron says further research shows that the benefits outweigh any disadvantages.
“Once they get to that seven-year click point, they start to outperform their peers in monolingual programs,” Guzman-Marron said.
Guzman-Marron is a daughter of immigrants and only learned English in kindergarten.
She began to despise school because she couldn’t understand what was going on.
She believes that bilingual classrooms are about much more than just learning a language.
It is also about teaching compassion.
“If I know that was me as a student and these children and these families come into my classroom, they will never have to feel like they can’t communicate with their teacher because someone in that building is communicating with them in their language can,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “It’s a gift. Why not accept it?”
Spanish would probably not be the only alternative to English.
Several other languages could also be offered, including Vietnamese and some Native American dialects.
https://www.king5.com/article/news/education/bilingual-dual-language-education-washington-schools/281-e5e529b0-0600-4f8c-9858-d0a8db4b68af Washington superintendent working toward bilingual education