“Gwinnett latest district to launch dual education program” blared a headline over a June 16 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The newspaper said experiments with bilingual education— in the case of two Gwinnett County schools, teaching both in English and Spanish– is part of a “growing trend.” The article also listed dual language schools in several other Georgia counties with most having Spanish and another offering French and one even Chinese.

But the question being asked in Georgia education circles is whether public schools that teach elementary and middle students in two languages during the day are effective in getting all students to achieve effective English proficiency.

In diverse Gwinnett County– where white English-speaking students make up a third of the student population and Hispanic and other foreign-language speakers make up the rest– the article said the program would work like this: Elementary school students learn math and science in a foreign language from one teacher while their peers learn language arts and social studies in English from a different teacher. Halfway through the day, the students switch. Any math and science concepts students don’t understand in the foreign language would be reinforced with the English teacher. Students would continue with the program through the fifth grade.

Once they reach middle school, the idea is that they would be able to take an advanced foreign language class. Administrators would measure success using state standardized tests.

Teachers this writer interviewed (who don’t want to be identified for fear of retaliation by superiors) give mixed reviews of such bilingual education and its impact on students. 

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