For the first time in over two decades, Santa Barbara Unified will have a bilingual immersion elementary school (DLI).
McKinley Elementary was selected as the campus to launch the district’s new DLI program in the 2021-22 kindergarten school year and each year thereafter will add the next class.
It’s a 90:10 model, which means that students in kindergarten through first grade spend 90% of instruction in Spanish and 10% in English. During their elementary years, English instruction increases through Grade 5, when 50% of the day is devoted to each language.
“We’re giving students a gift to connect to cultures they may not have been connected to before,” said McKinley principal Elena Garcia-Yoshitomi. “They might be able to connect to their own culture in a way that wouldn’t necessarily have been supported at any given time. There is so much more to this than just literacy scores.
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Although improving literacy is a primary goal for the school, the IDD offers more. And everyone benefits, regardless of their mother tongue.
“English-speaking students will not only become bilingual, but also really be able to connect with other communities,” said Maria Larios-Horton, executive director of diversity, equity and family engagement programs at Santa Barbara Unified. “From all of this comes this idea of a more empathetic student, a more aware student.
“Let’s say I don’t look like some of our other families; maybe my kid has blonde hair and blue eyes,” she continued. “At the end of kindergarten, you will be able to see the children talking to each other in Spanish, singing together, talking together. It will bring tears to your eyes. »
Larios-Horton explained that bilingualism will help students in so many areas beyond reading. She said bilingual students outperformed monolingual students in creativity, attention to detail, switching between tasks, problem solving, etc. But why is it that despite overwhelming research, critics continue to say that DLI programs produce poor test scores?
California has not yet succeeded in creating a proper assessment for the IDD. “At this time, we are still measuring student achievement against a metric that was not designed for our students,” Larios-Horton said. She explained that the test in elementary schools will show that IDD students are not aware of English speaking students only, but it is only because they carry this double language load which will only strengthen their knowledge – but this will not be seen passing tests until college.
Garcia-Yoshitomi said his IDD staff had been working hard to prepare for the launch next fall. Cynthia Esquivel, a kindergarten teacher at McKinley, will be teaching kindergarten through the DLI program next fall.
“I always wanted to be a bilingual teacher,” Esquivel said. “I’m really excited. It’s going to connect so much deeper with content for kids… It’s like we’re writing history.
To learn more about the DLI program, join one of the bilingual open house events here.