Interview with Karen Lapuk- Bilingual teacher at McPherson School in Napa, CA
What kind of programs are there for students who don't speak English?
There are many different kinds of school programs that support diverse learners. In Napa, we have bilingual education and English immersion. Within Bilingual education there are a couple of different models. They are: dual immersion, early exit, and maintenance.
Dual immersion is the most comprehensive. This is a program where both English and Spanish speakers learn Spanish. The goal is fluency in communication and literacy in both languages. Usually, a dual immersion program includes a maintenance model.
Early exit is a program where students are taught in their primary language until they can read well. They are simultaneously taught oral English, increasing the amount of English used in the class as the student gets older. Usually after third grade, the student begins to read and write exclusively in English.
A maintenance program is a program that uses the primary language even after the student is literate. They learn English at the same pace as an early exit student but they continue to have Spanish instruction so that they become bilingual and biliterate. This is my favorite model since I think it supports the students for longer and allows for family involvement in the student's education. Research shows that this is one of the best designs.
English immersion is a program designed for students when no bilingual education is available or offered. It is specially designed instruction so that a student learns English as fast as possible so that they can participate in regular classes. For me, this is the hardest model for students. Often there is no one who speaks the primary language of the child and no one with whom to communicate for the parents, but in districts where there are few bilingual teachers or speakers of many different languages, it is the only feasible model.