San Marcos CISD looks at changes to bilingual program

Fifth grade students at Hays CISD learn math in both Spanish and English. (KXAN Photo)
Fifth grade students at Hays CISD learn math in both Spanish and English. (KXAN Photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) – School leaders say students who speak two languages when they graduate high school have a higher chance of being successful. In San Marcos, the school district said a new dual language program could set their students up for that path.

“The research shows that students who are bi-literate, meaning that they can write, read and speak in multiple languages, are academically successful and they are given additional enrichment opportunities throughout their curriculum,” said San Marcos CISD Assistant Superintendent Monica Ruiz-Mills.

The dual language program the district is looking at is similar to the one already in place at Hays CISD.

Fifth grade dual language teacher Patrick Martinez has been teaching his math students in both Spanish and English for 13 years.

“They have been switching since kindergarten so they have teachers that are teaching the subject matter in Spanish and then they switch and the teacher teaches the subject matter in English,” said Martinez.

Martinez said it’s safe to say the majority of his students enter junior high fluent in both languages.

“These programs are beneficial to not only the Spanish speaking students learning English but to the English speaking student learning Spanish. It’s a benefit to them now and it’s a benefit to them in the future,” said Martinez.

The model has been used across the country for years and now San Marcos CISD is looking to opt in.

“This program would just be an opportunity to give students the linguistic diversity to learn multiple languages,” said Mills.

San Marcos CISD said that by the time their students who speak English as their second language reach fifth grade, only eight percent are reading at grade level. If they began incorporating both languages in a dual language program, they believe that percentage would improve.

At Hays CISD, Martinez says he’s seen the program work. “A native speaker of the Spanish language, they are able to build that Spanish language in reading, then it will pay off in the English language and I’ve seen that with some of our students at school.”

San Marcos CISD leaders say they are gathering more information to bring to the board. The district says they will be meeting with bilingual teachers on December third and will have open forums with parents in January.

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