To accommodate the growing number of students participating in the Two-Way Immersion (TWI) program, the District 65 School Board has approved the program’s expansion to magnet school Bessie Rhodes starting next fall with the incoming kindergarten class.
“With a bilingual education program, there needs to be a balance maintained of different language speakers,” District 65 Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Stacy Beardsley said. “For the past five years since we only had six TWI classrooms per grade, we’ve had about 65 percent Spanish-dominant speakers and 35 percent English-dominant speakers, and according to research, that is not implementing the program in the more beneficial manner for students.”
The TWI program is implemented by starting students in kindergarten with the majority of their instruction in Spanish. Each year, there is a smaller percentage of instruction taught in Spanish and by fourth grade, the ratio of English to Spanish instruction is about half and half. Rhodes hopes to have all classes taught in dual language through 8th grade.
“I was arguably fluent by the end of elementary school and had developed a foundation for future Spanish learning,” junior Quinn Sieja, past TWI participant said. One major concern for parents and other community members about this decision is the fate of current teachers at Bessie Rhodes, as the school will become fully immersed in the TWI program, and will have to hire completely new instructors.
“The vast majority of teachers at Bessie Rhodes are tenured, so they will have another guaranteed position in District 65,” Beardsley explained. Community members were also concerned with the original proposal of this decision, which suggested that the Mandarin program at Bessie Rhodes should be removed. This suggestion was taken out of the final proposal.
Due to this increase in number of students in TWI, by the time they get to highschool, ETHS is expecting to see an adjustment throughout the language program. World Language and Bilingual Education Dept. Chair Rachel Gressel assured that ETHS would be ready to adapt when the time comes.
“We have adapted at ETHS for the TWI students regarding which language courses they are placed in,” Gressel said. “I am hopeful that we are going to have more students come to ETHS with a strong proficiency with language.”
According to the American Councils for International Education, students in dual language programs outperformed their peers in reading level by almost a year by eighth grade. Programs like TWI have the power to transform educational achievement in public schools across the country.