Does Dual-Language Immersion Work?

Mario Castro

Effectiveness of Bilingual education

When implemented correctly, bilingual education works. So has Stephen Krashen, as well as other notable linguists and educators, always maintained ever since Proposition 187 and other similar propounded measures began rearing their heads in California and elsewhere in the country back in the late 90s.

Even though there is ample, verifiable data that shows how bilingual education benefits not just English-Language Learners (ELLs) but English-Only (EO) students as well, today there are still some people who reject the findings and continue to fear that somehow “foreigners” are going to take over the country and educational systems with their own languages and cultures.

Some say that what strengthens and unites us is our common English language. Others say that what strengthens and unites us is our multiculturalism. Debating which one of those theories is correct, or whether both are correct or incorrect, is not the purpose of this article. What needs to be stated unequivocally is that bilingual education, today in the form of dual language immersion, is working and the evidence is plain for anyone to see.

Proven Academic Success

Dual-language immersion, also known as two-way immersion, is by far the version of bilingual education preferred nowadays by most educators. The hard facts tell why. In studies conducted by E.R. Howard, Lisa M. Dorner, and many others, it has been clearly demonstrated that through adequate planning and effective implementation, dual-language immersion contributes in great measure to long-term academic success of both ELLs and EO students.

Case studies abound across the country in states such as California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. These are available for viewing and reading by anyone who has access to the Internet. A compiled bibliography of case studies and academic achievement can be found at this site from the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL): In addition, Wikipedia also offers a very decent reference section on the effectiveness of two-way immersion on this page:

Strive for Bilingualism and Biliteracy

So what is dual-language immersion, and how does it work? Essentially, when you have English and a partner language as the languages of instruction in a classroom, you have dual language immersion. There are many dual language immersion models, but at least 50 percent of the school day must be taught in the partner language. According to CAL, dual-language immersion strives “to promote bilingualism and biliteracy, grade-level academic achievement, and positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors in all students.”

Descubre el español con Santillana, the new Spanish immersion program by Santillana USA, presents structured opportunities for all students, EOs, heritage speakers, and native Spanish speakers to practice the Spanish language accurately and at grade level through differentiated instruction so students with different modalities of learning can access the same curriculum. The various components and pacing guides available can accommodate the needs of most students and classroom settings by providing teachers the tools they need to successfully implement the program and make a positive difference in their students’ Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Dual Language Immersion and Higher Standardized Test Scores

Descubre el español con Santillana is ideal for use in a dual-language immersion setting. Its student editions, anthologies of authentic Spanish literature, phonics readers, leveled thematic readers, and state-of-the art technological components comprise a comprehensive, yet simple and easy-to-use program that meets national world language standards, aligns with the Common Core State Standards, and provides assessment opportunities for teachers to monitor progress of their students as they prepare for the standardized end-of-year examinations.

Equally important is the fact that while doing so, teachers and students will also be experiencing the cultural richness of the Spanish language, and students will be making strides toward the achievement of bilingualism and biliteracy, both benefits that will be reflected in higher standardized test scores and in students’ AYP.

Since research has been going on for more than two decades, it is clear now in 2012 what the findings reveal. If schools and teachers want to improve and enhance students’ test results and fully close the achievement gap in second language (L2) students, they should consider dual-language immersion, especially when supported by comprehensive, research-based models like the one offered by Descubre el español con Santillana.


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