Op-Ed

Bilingual programs bigger and better in Miami-Dade public schools

TNS

Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) is a leader in Florida in world-language instruction. It is committed to ensuring students fully acquire a second language and become bilingual and biliterate citizens. In fact, M-DCPS spends more on teaching foreign languages to elementary school students than every other district in Florida combined. The cost of allocating resources for K-5 bilingual instruction, about $20 million yearly, is a local commitment that is not funded by the state.

Last school year, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, with the support of the Miami-Dade School Board, convened the Pathways for Biliteracy in Elementary Education taskforce to fully revamp the district’s world-language program. The taskforce was composed of 28 members, including a cross-section of community members, principals, teachers and parents who contributed their expertise and/or experience to provide viable recommendations in order to revamp the Spanish S and SL programs into one cohesive World Language program that meets the language needs of all our students.

The School Board chair proffered legislation that the board passed creating a Biliteracy Seal to recognize students who study and master World Languages. The Florida Legislature followed the School Board’s lead, approving a landmark State Seal of Biliteracy Program to recognize all Florida students who earn that designation.

Last May, a three-year rollout plan to revamp elementary world-language instruction in M-DCPS was completed. This plan included 12 recommendations made by the taskforce.

On Aug. 22, we proudly launched a fully revamped Spanish World Language Program in grades 2-5 that includes new print and digital instructional materials. The purchase of these materials, at a cost of $3.6 million, also includes extensive professional development for teachers. This professional development started this summer with a Spanish Writing Institute, Por los caminos de la eñe, where more than 100 K-5 Spanish teachers participated in a week-long comprehensive creative-writing program through the use of drama and literature.

This year marks the first year in which world language will be a required course in grades 2-5. Students will be able to access foreign-language instruction through multiple pathways since the district offers a variety of dual-language programs in addition to the newly revamped World Language program, such as Bilingual School Organization (BISO), International Studies (IS), International Education (IE) and Extended Foreign Language (EFL). In fact, the EFL program is offered in 145 schools and has received numerous accolades since it was implemented in 1997. The district will also continue to explore the taskforce’s recommendation to expand the requirement to offer the program in K-1 in subsequent years.

In convening the Pathways for Biliteracy in Elementary Education taskforce and acting upon its recommendations, Miami-Dade County Public Schools has reaffirmed its commitment to give students access to a world-class foreign-language program that will set a national example as an instructionally sound and inclusive student-centered model. We are certain that the new program will provide our students with a solid foundation as they take their first steps toward becoming bilingual, biliterate and productive citizens of society.

Marie Izquierdo is chief academic officer for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

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