When Dual Immersion Programs Become Exclusionary

by multilingualmania on August 2, 2011

in Dual Immersion

keep out!!
I wish that I could give you all the dirt on what a drama-filled day that I had at work today, but I can’t. I pride myself on being a professional who tries to stay above all the drama and tries to remain professional even during times of great conflict. I’m really angry and perturbed over some recent interactions that I have had at work today, but as a manager there are just things that shouldn’t be shared with other people because some things should continue to remain confidential. So, I won’t be specific with what is weighing on my mind today, but I will speak in a general context. Here goes:

It bothers me that some people perceive Dual Immersion as an exclusionary program. I’m pretty sure that they don’t view it as such, but their actions make it so. Some people have the view that students in Dual Immersion programs should be pre-screened and students should basically be hand-picked. Some people also have the view that struggling students should be immediately exited from the Dual Immersion program, even before any systematic types of intervention and extra support are provided to assist students.

I believe that all students should have the opportunity to participate in a Dual Immersion program, even students who may be struggling or students with learning disabilities. I believe that pre-screening students at the beginning of kindergarten may result in the exclusion of students with untapped potential. I also believe that Dual Immersion programs should provide every support necessary for struggling students.

I once knew of a Dual Immersion program where a friend worked that started to pre-screen incoming kindergarten students. Almost immediately, all of the African American and local Native American students were immediately excluded from the program, although many of them were middle class students who had attended preschool. In many cases, assessments have been historically plagued with cultural and linguistic biases, and are geared towards white, middle class children.

Shouldn’t students be at least given an opportunity before making an immediate assumption that a program is not acceptable for them?

What is more important than pre-screening students is to determine parent commitment for the program. I’d prefer to have a class of struggling Dual Immersion students with parents who are firmly committed to the program than a high performing student whose parents are wishy washy about whether they want the Dual Immersion program for the long haul. Trust me, I’ve dealt with both and parents who aren’t committed to the Dual Immersion programs will ultimately cause its downfall.

Instead of constantly having conversations about who should and shouldn’t be in Dual Immersion program, or who should be exited from a Dual Immersion program for this or that reason, why don’t we spend time instead discussing strategies, extra support and instructional interventions that can be provided to struggling students in order to assist them with meeting grade-level standards? Let’s also work towards building the capacity of bilingual special education teachers, bilingual speech pathologists, bilingual psychologists, and other site personnel that can assist students and families.

Don’t buy into the exclusionary Dual Immersion philosophy. Bilingualism is a right for all students!! It isn’t a privilege that is afforded only to the privileged!

Related Content:
“They Call Us Blackxicans”: Addressing Issues of Race and Racism in Dual Immersion Programs

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

sandrine August 2, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Thank you for this post, it this is a real eye opener. I think that before I had Max I may well have subscribe to the view that a bi-lingual education should be a privilege for bright students. Probably because I was brought in an environment in which the only bilingual people were those who were rich and travelled (rich=bright???!!!) and the children of immigrants whom no one looked at long enough to decide whether or not they were bright… After bringing up a son trilingual who definitely wouldn’t have passed any of the supposed tests, I have definitely changed my mind. But not until reading your post did I realise I had actually believed this, it had all been below the surface somehow.

Coley August 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm

In addition, students who struggle usually benefit from a second language, no matter what age that student is. I had a special education student whose counselor kept insisting we take her out of my Spanish class and give her an extra class period of English, the class in which she struggled. However, by second semester not only had her English scores improved, she told me it made so much more sense because she understood how taught her Spanish and applied it to her English class. I get so tired of authorities in schools pidgeon holing students, whether it be a counselor, an administrator, or another teacher…let the student be and watch him or her grow!

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