Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the 21st Century. On today’s world stage, multilingual skills and cultural competence have taken the lead roles, as the 21st century showcases the emerging professionals of a future competitive global workforce. Thus, it is Utah’s quest to provide all their students with the opportunity to become linguistically proficient and culturally competent by mainstreaming Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programs for students of diverse abilities across all socioeconomic, ethnic, rural, urban, large and small school communities throughout the state.
Utah’s statewide Dual Language Immersion Initiative is a lofty, incredibly ambitious, and unprecedented effort to ameliorate the urgency for language skills that address the state’s business, government, and education needs. In 2008, under the visionary leadership of former Governor Jon Huntsman and State Senator Howard Stephenson, the Utah Legislature passed Senate Bill 41, providing funding for the DLI programs and charging the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) with creating a world-class DLI program. Legislators and business leaders believe this to be a critical long-term investment in the viability and vitality of Utah’s future economic competitiveness.
Utah educational leaders thoughtfully and intentionally selected a model that is not only rooted in research-based principles and practices of second language teaching and, but is also responsive to the political landscape of the state and best meets its students’ needs. Utah’s DLI programs implement a fifty-fifty model for grades K–6, in which students spend half of their school day in the target language and the other half-day in English. All state support schools with DLI programs are required to implement the fifty-fifty model and use two teachers, one who instructs exclusively in the target language for half of the day and a second teacher who teaches exclusively in English the other half of the day. Teamwork is essential to the successful implementation of the program.
Specific proficiency goals for every DLI program language are set at each grade level in all four language modes: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The program offers one honors course and outside the classroom opportunities for exposure to authentic language and culture in grades 7–9. In the ninth grade, participating students are expected to enroll in Advanced Placement language coursework and complete the AP exam. In grades ten through twelve, students will be offered university upper level coursework through blended learning with seven major Utah universities. Students are also encouraged to begin study of a third language in high school. The goal of this articulated K-12 curriculum is to see the state’s students enter universities and the global workforce equipped with language skills at the Advanced Level of proficiency in all four critical language skill areas (listening, speaking, reading and writing).
Today, DLI in Utah enjoys unprecedented broad-based, cross-sectional support from our state community. Currently, there are 54 Spanish (24 two-way, 24 one-way, 6 secondary), 28 Chinese, 11 French and 5 Portuguese programs serving over 20,000 students across 21 school districts from every corner of Utah. Despite the rapid increase in programs, we fall far short of meeting the current demands, as seen by the long wait lists that are common throughout the state. In 2013, responding to this high demand, current Governor Herbert has recommitted and reignited the 2008 vision.
Whereas the daily success of the DLI programs are the direct result of the passion and commitment of individual teachers and school and district administrators, it is the systemic statewide infrastructure of support that sets the unparalleled success of the Utah initiative apart. Although the promises of DLI may be widely recognized and desired by district and school administrators eager to implement the program, wanting the program does not always correlate with the decision to implement it. Having the capacity to initiate and sustain the program becomes critical for administrators who must align their resources to address program design, curriculum articulation and development, assessment, recruiting and staffing, and the professional development necessary for successful program implementation. To help administrators with this realistic dilemma, the USOE has designed an infrastructure of support for districts and schools wanting to implement DLI programs that includes:
1) financial support for the purchase of start-up target language materials;
2) access to a standardized program model design;
3) an articulated target language K-9 curriculum that is grounded on grade-level language proficiencies;
4) common language-specific assessments to monitor target language progress and ensure that students are meeting the grade-level targeted language proficiencies;
5) systematic and on-going professional development for teachers, principals and district administrators; and
6) continued refinement and development of curriculum program.
Without a state model that is supported by the USOE, access to program implementation and support for parental choice would be significantly compromised.
The DLI Initiative is a win-win undertaking for Utah because it builds our capacity for economic prosperity, gives parents choice in education, better meets the instructional needs of ELL students, and provides all of Utah’s students the skills they need to be competitive in 21st century academia and the global marketplace! Our goal is to eradicate monolingualism, since it leaves our students under-skilled and unrehearsed to star on the stage of a global marketplace where language skills and cultural competence have taken the lead roles! Thus, in the pioneering spirit of its history, Utah is undaunted in its quest to mainstream DLI for all students!