Transitional Bilingual Education in Brownsville
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.