Language First Standard #2: Dual Language Development

April 19, 2023

Four focus areas that support the goal of bilingualism and biliteracy in dual language education: The Language First Standards – dual language development

Shift the paradigm

By: Stacey VandenBosch

In my last post, I talked about the Program Fidelity Standards and how they provide you with a direct route to high levels of bilingualism and biliteracy, cultural competence, and academic achievement for students. In this post, I want to discuss the Dual Language Development Standards and how they help you shift the paradigm. Let me explain. Many studies on dual language learners describe English as the societally dominant or superpower language. That means students, even home-language speakers of minority languages such as Spanish, tend to prefer English. They’re motivated to learn and use English outside of school due to societal pressure and popular culture. It’s also the language our U.S. education system has valued for hundreds of years. Unlike other countries where students are educated in multiple languages, the U.S. has focused almost exclusively on English language development. 

Because English is the superpower language in our country and education system, we need to shift the current paradigm and create a program and classroom environment that values and expects Spanish language use. 

Why is this so important? 

Well, most dual language immersion students perform as well as their traditionally educated counterparts on English achievement measures, REGARDLESS of how much instruction they receive in English. That means a student that spends 100% of the day learning in Spanish performs as well as a student who is only learning 50% of the day in Spanish. But, these same students struggle to reach high levels of Spanish proficiency. According to research, it’s the Spanish or other minority language side of bilingualism and biliteracy that suffers; not the English. In fact, higher levels of academic proficiency in Spanish contribute to English language development. 

How do we shift the paradigm?

Well, that’s where the Language First Dual Language Development Standards come in. They help shift the paradigm from a focus on English language development to a focus on Spanish or other minority language development. By upholding the standards, you will prioritize the minority language, maintain high expectations for Spanish language use and provide consistent corrective feedback. The success indicators associated with each standard explain what this looks like for school leaders, teachers, community members, and students. And the best news? Upholding the standards does NOT result in lower performance in English, just increased performance in Spanish or the minority language side of bilingualism.

To learn more, you can download a copy of the Dual Language Development Standards here, watch our Language First Webinar here, or schedule a call here to learn more about how we can help you shift the paradigm by valuing and expecting Spanish language use.