Jen Austin

Jennifer Austin for | Creating more dual-language programs should be part of post-COVID recovery plan

By Jennifer Austin and Jen Sargent

Despite the lifelong advantages conferred by bilingualism, only two in 10 Americans know a language other than English. As we begin to recover from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, our nation’s schools must work to ensure that our kids have the education they need to succeed, and multilingualism should be considered a critical part of that education.

Creating more dual-immersion programs in public schools would be the most effective way to offer more Americans the opportunity to become bilingual and would also help promote an equitable recovery for all children, particularly those who don’t speak English at home.

New Jersey currently offers dual-immersion programs in Spanish and English in only four districts, despite being one of the most linguistically diverse states in the country. After a pandemic which has had dire educational consequences for young children, particularly English-language learners, prioritizing the creation of dual-immersion programs to close this achievement gap is an equity issue. Most bilingual programs for English-language learners are transitional, supporting the home language only until children can be instructed entirely in English. In addition, students who speak English at home are not given enough exposure to other languages in school to become fluent in them.

Dual-immersion programs, in contrast, continue instruction in the non-English language long enough to develop full bilingualism and biliteracy in their students, who emerge able to read, write, and speak in two languages.

At Hoboken Dual Language Charter School, we’ve prioritized dual-language education since our inception because we know it will help our students succeed both inside and outside the classroom and will make them well-rounded bilingual citizens who can become positive members of their communities. We’ve seen it work firsthand and we are proud to be designated as a model dual language program by the New Jersey Department of Education.