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Transitional Bilingual Education in Brownsville

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The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation highlighted Brownsville Independent School District's success with Hispanic and low-income students when announcing that the district had won the 2008 Broad Prize for Urban Education. But the district couldn't have won the prize if it hadn't had success with its English-language learners, who make up 42 percent of the district's 49,000 students.

I wrote what I learned about the school district's programs for ELLs in "It's No Secret: Progress Prized In Brownsville," which was published yesterday at edweek.org. The district has a very well-articulated transitional bilingual education program in the elementary grades and moves most students out of the status of being an English-language learner by the 5th grade. For students to be reclassified as proficient in English, they have to achieve a certain score on regular state reading and writing tests as well as the state's English-language-proficiency test.

The district also has a limited number of two-way dual-language programs, in which speakers of English and Spanish learn both languages in the same classrooms and the goal is true bilingualism. I didn't discuss these programs in my article but Hector Gonzales, Brownsville ISD's superintendent, told me he is very interested in them and said the school district is carefully studying how well students are faring in those programs versus the district's transitional bilingual education programs.

1 Comment

Hola Mary Ann!
Gracias for such a good and lively article. I commend you for posting it and for your perceptive distinctions regarding the link between the parent's education and expectations for the children, coupled with economics, and also the lack of links for the children that are without the immediate and personal support of their parents. What is interesting is the fact that the students seem to go down once they reach the higher grades... is this the right perception I get from reading your article? From my perspective, the best for all concerned, is to extend the dual language teaching and learning till the 12th grade. It leads to good communication with the family, the assurance of language permanence and cultural values, the peaceful interaction among nations, and the future of a world which is round and needs desperately multilingual, if not bilingual citizens!
Yes, dual language for me, and for the future professionals of the world.
Again, Muchas Gracias!

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