Washington superintendent works on bilingual education
State School Superintendent Chris Reykdal wants all K-8 schools to offer bilingual programs by 2040.
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — An elementary school in Mount Vernon is modeling what Washington’s Superintendent of Public Instruction wants for the entire education system by 2040: bilingual education.
It’s a new school year and a new language for many children at Madison Elementary School in Mount Vernon.
The school has been fully bilingual since 2019. Parents choose to send their children there for this reason. Everything is done in English and Spanish.
Fifth grader Olivia Ruiz says it helps bring the kids together.
“A lot of my friends speak Spanish more fluently than me,” said the 11-year-old. “If I forget something or don’t know how to say something, they can help me.”
A proposal from Public School Superintendent Chris Reykdal would allow parents to opt into bilingual programs in some school districts as early as 2026.
The proposal is awaiting funding from the state legislature.
Approximately $19 million is needed to operate the program for the first two years. Currently, 35,000 students in 42 Washington school districts are learning in bilingual programs.
Reykdal wants programs to be offered in all districts by 2040.
“The evidence is clear,” Reykdal said. “When young people become bilingual in the early years, they have more cognitive flexibility and they do better in school. As our global economy changes and our world becomes increasingly international, bilingual education must become an essential opportunity for our students.
Some bilingual programs are also criticized.
They are often inconsistent.
Washington’s curriculum would end before high school, meaning some students could lose much of what they learned in the early years. Difficult subjects can also be even more difficult to grasp.
For students struggling with a subject, a foreign language can be another hurdle.
Additionally, studies show that it takes seven years for a second language to completely “click” with children, so early academics may suffer.
Teacher Cecilia Guzman-Marron, however, says additional research shows the benefits outweigh the harms.
“As soon as they hit that seven-year point where it starts to click, they start to outperform their peers in monolingual programs,” Guzman-Marron said.
Guzman-Marron is the daughter of immigrants and only learned English in kindergarten.
She started by despising the school because she didn’t understand what was going on.
She believes that bilingual classrooms are about much more than learning a language.
It is also about teaching compassion.
“Knowing that it was me as a student and seeing these kids and families walk into my classroom, they’ll never feel like they can’t communicate with their teacher because someone in that building can communicate with them in their language,” she said. said with tears in his eyes. ” It’s a gift. Why not accept it?
Spanish would probably not be the only alternative to English.
Several other languages, including Vietnamese and some Native American dialects, could also be offered.