Bilingual Program Q&A

You mentioned that the District is creating a plan to retain bilingual teachers in this district. What is the plan/incentives coming into place?

The District values and supports retaining quality bilingual teachers. We continue to provide professional development in the areas of workshop implementation, paired literacy and English Learner (EL) strategies. Our coaching model has been designed to provide job embedded professional development and support teachers as they implement our new bilingual model and curriculum. 

We are also being creative with recruitment of high quality teachers. The District is exploring the possibility of having a teacher pipeline developed for our current bilingual paraprofessionals and investigating the possibility of recruiting students interested in becoming teachers while still in high school. We are also investigating recruiting teachers from Spanish-speaking countries through a Visa program. Finally, we continue our efforts to evaluate workload issues related to assessment and other areas to support a thriving workforce. 

Is the bilingual trajectory going to change due to less minutes of Spanish? It will be more difficult to get to those higher levels when less time is spent in them, especially in a two way. 

No, the bilingual trajectory will continue to be the same. The biliteracy trajectory looks at emerging bilingual students holistically. The current emphasis in our program is paired literacy in which literacy skills are explicitly taught and transfer across languages. Bilingual students read and write in both languages every day. In pages 10 & 41 of Biliteracy from the Start, you will see the time allocation and grade appropriate teaching approaches that support the paired literacy model and the biliterate reading zones. Remember that the biliterate zones were created to teach to the potential of our emergent bilingual learners! 

Will a framework be created like the Bilingual Universal Framework to help integrate content with the District’s literacy curriculum?

No. Science and Social Studies will no longer be integrated with literacy. Bilingual teachers will still be bridging and using best practice strategies for English Learners (ELs). Bilingual teachers are responsive to  the language needs of their students.  Bilingual teachers will continue to focus on the transfer of language and literacy via the English Language Development (ELD) instruction per the content allocation plan.  Bilingual Coaches will be available to support this process. We are excited for this continued focus on developing bilingual, biliterate and bicultural students.

Why is the District making changes to the bilingual program now?

In April 2019, the Board of Education approved a new instructional model for the bilingual program.  There are several reasons for the changes:

  1. Legal: Under State Statute 115.955 (2) the State of Wisconsin allows the District to teach non-English language students in their native language to assist in the understanding of concepts; but the ultimate objective shall be the student proficiency in English in order to participate fully in society. The State of Wisconsin defines “bilingual-bicultural education program” as one designed to improve comprehension and the speaking, reading and writing ability of a limited-English proficient pupil in the English language, so that the pupil will be able to perform ordinary classwork in English.
  2. Student Performance: According to Thomas & Collier’s (2014) research “when students attend a high quality, well-implemented dual language program for all the elementary school years in Grades K-5 (and some attend PreK-5), you should expect the majority of dual language students to reach grade level achievement in their second language by the end of fifth grade, if not sooner… we typically find that, for example, sixth grade dual language students are scoring at seventh-grade level in academic tests across the curriculum in first and second languages.”

The District’s longitudinal data shows that fewer students demonstrate English proficiency the longer they were in the previous instructional model. The below charts show the one-way and two-way 6th grade and 7th grade longitudinal Forward Exam data.

Forward ELA Grade 3 - 6 Performance
Forward ELA Grade 4-7 Performance

Were these changes  piloted? If so, what were the results?

The changes to the bilingual program were implemented in an identified bilingual classroom in each of the elementary bilingual schools during the 2018-2019 school year. The schools literacy coach and classroom teacher implemented a literacy framework supporting both Spanish and English student needs.

Eisenhower Elementary partnered with the Teaching and Learning Department to study and implement the paired literacy model. Spanish Language Acquisition was implemented as an instructional alternative due to bilingual teacher shortage. Bilingual teachers in this option as  provide Spanish to multiple to classrooms. The feedback from the native Spanish speaking families was very positive. 

Why is the District no longer valuing English and Spanish languages equally by maintaining the 50/50 instructional model in grades 3-5? 

The district places great value on learning both languages. The new instructional model places an emphasis on literacy, and recognizes that students are dynamic bilingual learners, meaning that they do not need to have rigid time allotments in order to be bilingual. The new instructional model provides a framework of 70% Spanish and 30% English for grades K-2 and 30% Spanish and 70% English in grades 3-5. The intent of the new model is to empower teachers to meet the needs of their students, with each teacher’s goal to move ALL students to proficiency in English and Spanish (the minimum is English proficiency); removing the focus from the percentage of time spent in either language. 

What does the law and DPI say about bilingual education?

The District is committed to bilingual education, remaining compliant with the law, and meeting the needs of ALL students. There are several legal cases, one being Castaneda vs. Pickard which states “the Equal Educational Opportunities Act guarantees students who are English language learners (ELL) the right to equal treatment to access the school's instructional program and extra support to help them learn English as quickly as possible.” It sets up three accountability guidelines for bilingual programs: 

  • The bilingual education program must be “based on sound educational theory.”
  • The program must be “implemented effectively with resources for personnel, instructional materials, and space.”
  • After a trial period, the program must be proven effective in overcoming language barriers/handicaps.

Finally, the DPI provides the following guidance, “school districts that provide bilingual education constantly struggle to balance the need for separate classes where unique needs of language learner students can be addressed against the need to avoid prolonged segregation of ELLs from other students.”

Why does administration support the Spanish Language Acquisition model in Grades 3-5, rather than hiring more bilingual teachers?

The District has moved to the Spanish Language Acquisition model in schools where we cannot find bilingual teachers. Bilingual teachers are difficult to recruit and hire. It is our first choice to hire bilingual teachers when available. 

The District, like  most school districts across the nation, is struggling to hire enough bilingual teachers. This has been an ongoing concern. Significant efforts have been made to increase the District’s recruitment of bilingual educators, as well as working with the DPI regarding alternative licensure pathways, and seeking candidates from other countries through the visa program. 

With a greater focus on English in grades 3-5, what is the benefit to native English speaking students in the program?

The changes to the program are being made with the intention of improving literacy for all students. The below chart shows the 2019 Forward Exam results of all students in grades 3-5 two-way program. 


2019 Forward Exam Results Grade 3-5 Two Way Program
Through the two-way bilingual program, native English speaking students have the ability to learn to be bilingual, biliterate and bicultural, which will have significant benefits in high school, college and in their chosen careers. 

Finally, research shows that students in two-way bilingual programs by middle school and sometimes sooner are often one grade level or more ahead of their non-bilingual peers. (Thomas & Collier, 2012) This is the goal for the program, and so changes were made to improve results for ALL students. 

What support and/or professional learning will be provided for bilingual teachers?

Bilingual teachers will be supported in their professional learning by their building literacy coaches. There will be opportunities for bilingual teachers for grade level collaboration and professional learning after initial implementation. Bilingual teachers in an SLA model will receive additional job-alike professional learning throughout the school year. 

What did we learn from the implementation pilot in model classrooms and collaboration with Eisenhower?

The following are positive results of the implementation of paired literacy in various locations across the district: 

  • Student growth in Spanish and in English reading on the EDL2/DRA2
  • In the observation classrooms, student writing and reading  in both languages mirrored grade level expectations
  • Our district literacy framework as the foundation of our instruction as well as the paired literacy component does fit in within our elementary instructional time
  • Differentiation and collaboration of teachers and students. Teachers collaborated and problem solved together as a team.
  • Student data in reading and writing was monitored closely in both languages to inform instruction and next steps
  • School environment transformed into positive learning environment. In the SLA model, students were integrated and learned from each other
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