Students in SAISD’s Dual Language Program test higher than monolingual peers

Program introduces English literacy from Pre-K

SAN ANTONIO – Since its transition in 2016 to the current dual language program, the San Antonio Independent School District has expanded from two schools to 61. The growth, according to the district, is due to student success and their approach of developing both languages equally.

Unlike other dual language programs, SAISD’s introduces English literacy from Pre-K, which means they’re working on both languages at the same time.

“A dual language program is an enrichment program for all students,” Monica Valderrama, dual language coordinator for SAISD said. “All students can participate. English learners and monolingual students can participate in the early grades. So, this is a program where our goal is for all students to be biliterate, bilingual and bicultural.”

For students like fifth grader Arelli Hernández, it’s about bridging her two worlds. At home, her parents speak Spanish and she didn’t learn English until Pre-K.

“It was crazy since I didn’t know what to do and understand the teachers,” Hernández said of her first day at school.

It didn’t take long before she picked up her second language.

“I’ve learned how to speak English a little bit more and learn new words every day,” she said.

In the case of her peer, Sarahí Casillas, she didn’t learn Spanish until a few years ago.

“I went to dual language in second grade, and I couldn’t speak that much Spanish,” Casillas said. “Like, I knew the basics, but I couldn’t speak it (fluently).”

Three years later, Hernández and Casillas can read, write and speak in both English and Spanish.

Casillas said her favorite part about being in the immersive program is being able to, “speak both languages, and (that) I can translate things.”

She’s also able to build a relationship with her grandmother whose predominant language is Spanish.

For Hernández, she takes pride in being able to teach her Spanish-speaking parents a little bit of her second language.

“I’m happy and proud of myself because I can communicate with even more people,” Hernández said.

Valderrama said the dual language immersive program is here to stay as every year more campuses are on-board with the program and the SAISD Board of Directors recently voted to add the program as part of the district’s permanent policy.

For more information on SAISD’s dual language program, click here.

About the Authors

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

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