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School District Exploring Dual Language Program

Forty-Three Percent of Santa Barbara Students Are Native Spanish Speakers

Dr. Raul Ramirez
Paul Wellman (file)

The Santa Barbara Unified School District is exploring the possibility of incorporating dual-language immersion education as an option for interested parents and students. At its January 29 meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Dr. Raul Ramirez and Director of English Learner and Parent Engagement Maria Larios-Horton presented to the board a vision of what dual-language immersion could look like in the district.

Currently, Adelante Charter School, for students K-6, is the only option in the city for parents who wish to enroll their children in a dual-language program. The district has started preliminary conversations with Santa Barbara Junior High about continuing dual-language instruction for grades 7-8 in English language arts and social studies. The potential timeline presented at the meeting shows school year 2019-20 as a planning year and 2020-21 as the launch for 7th grade and 2021-22 for 8th grade. A community survey is planned for the 2019-20 school year to gauge community interest in creating an elementary program at one of the Westside elementary school campuses that would be open to students from anywhere within the district. A transitory kindergarten and kindergarten program could potentially launch in 2021-22.

SBUSD’s efforts to create a pathway for dual-language education aligns with the statewide initiative Global California 2030 put forth by the California Board of Education to have half of all students participate in programs leading to proficiency in two or more languages by the year 2030. The initiative was released in 2018, after the restrictions on bilingual education were repealed in 2016.

Up until 1998, when the school board unanimously approved to dismantle the programs, the district offered bilingual education. According to the California Campaign for Biliteracy, “Multilingual proficiency actually strengthens how the brain functions. Bilingualism is associated with more cognitive flexibility and better problem-solving abilities. Children who are bilingual tend to perform better on achievement tests.” In the district, 48 percent of students are language minority students, and 43 percent of students are native Spanish speakers.

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