I live in Austin (which is near Lake Travis, the focus of this news report) where more than 60 of our Austin Independent School District elementary schools are also dual language schools.
Our teachers need books and curricula that promote biliteracy in English and Spanish, but we've taken a step in the right direction. Our very conservative State Board of Education notwithstanding, lots of good things happening here in Texas nonetheless.
Hispanic students account for almost 20 percent of the student population of the Lake Travis school district. Because the majority of Spanish-speaking families live within the attendance zone of Lake Travis Elementary, the school is home to the district’s newly implemented dual language program, the Gomez and Gomez Enrichment Model, applicable from pre-K until fifth grade. The program is designed to make students proficient in reading in speaking in both English and Spanish by the time they complete the program. English Language Learners across the district are allowed to attend LTES to take part in the program. According to the school district, 47.2 percent of the student population at LTES is Hispanic.
“The research is showing that kids that stay with dual language have stronger academic (performance) as they continue on,” Sims said. “Some research shows they outperform monolingual kids in later years.”
In the dual language program, reading, science and social studies are taught in Spanish while math is taught in English, Lake Travis Elementary Principal Angela Frankhouser said. The program also utilizes more participatory teaching methods such as group work.
“Implementation has been wonderful,” Frankhouser said. “Right now, we have pre-K through third, and we’re going to grow that into fourth and fifth. Feedback has been incredibly positive. All the techniques Gomez and Gomez uses are the same strategies they use to teach gifted and talented lessons. And so we’re seeing monolingual teachers saying ‘Oh, I love that strategy’ and using it in their classrooms, too.”
The school is also implementing the Latino Family Literacy Project this year. Once a week after students are dropped off for school, Spanish-speaking parents come in and learn about a new book to read with their children and tips for discussing the book with their children in an educational way.
“We have 15 families participating right now,” Frankhouser said. “Our bilingual parent liaison Paloma Rodriguez leads it … it’s kind of like a book club. They take children’s literature, specifically literature that’s culturally relevant to them, and they discuss the book and they take it home and read it with their children. Part of what the program does is it helps teach parents how to build routines to support literacy at home.”
The Lake Travis school district has provided bilingual support for years, but officials finally felt the time was right to implement new programs, Frankhouser said.
“We are super proud of what we believe the impact this has on our entire campus,” she said. “We take great pride in the diversity here, and it’s really great to see it all come together through these programs.”
Growing Austin is an Austin American-Statesman and Austin Community Newspapers occasional series that examines the impact of Hispanic growth in the Austin area. In coming months, stories will explore changes ahead for politics, education, health, culture and other aspects of Central Texas life affected by this demographic shift.
Read stories and watch videos from our series examining the impact of the area’s growth with a focus on the Hispanic population at statesman.com/growingaustin.