Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Rise in Demand for Dual-Language Education Could Leave Latinos Behind

As neighborhoods that used to be predominantly Latino change color, it has become a phenomenon for parents, who once kept their children out of the District of Columbia Public Schools, to flock to enroll their children to programs such as Oyster-Adams Bilingual School. The school principal Mayra Canizales credits the fact that “dual language skills became sexy” for the school’s waitlist of nearly 800 applicants, the vast majority of whom are native English speakers.

“Privilege does wonders,” says Beatriz Otero, a veteran of the early battles for dual-language education in D.C. and founder of DC Bilingual Public Charter. “You have very loud voices and, especially right now, given what’s going on with immigration and the fear that families have, the likelihood that you would see any of our immigrant families beating down the doors for any of these services – they’re scared to death. They’re not going out anywhere, so their voices aren’t heard.”

As a city with a demand for dual-language education that exceeds the current supply, there will always be losers. The programs that were originally created to serve Latino immigrants have now become highly coveted enrichment opportunities for native English speakers who recognize the value of the dual-language skills.

“No one should be surprised to learn that all studies of bilingual education have found that teaching children in their primary language promotes achievement in the primary language,” wrote Claude Goldenberg in an article for the American Federation of Teachers. “This should be seen as a value in and of itself.”

As Latino parents continue to face communication barriers between themselves and a mostly English speaking staff, they continue to look into transferring their children to schools with dual language programs. The problem is Latinos are not the only ones looking to get their children into this programs anymore.

U.S. News