No Dual Language Program for My Son!

I just finished reading an articleon a wonderful site titled No Dual Language Immersion School for My Son’ http://spanglishbaby.com/2012/03/no-dual-language-immersion-school-for-my-son-yet/

This mother, a Colombian born like me, just heard that her son didn’t make the lottery for the Dual language-two way school in California. I felt so sad because I remember being at that moment 5 years ago when I received notice that my son, now in 3rd grade in a two-way dual language school in Boston, was waitlisted. I don’t understand why we are limited in our choices, why do we wait to teach our children a second language until they get to high school. How do we create equity for all students when we don’t equip them with the right tools and opportunities– like becoming bilingual/multilingual. Why do we send them the message that their language must be sacrificed at the expense of learning and living in an English only “world” until they get to high school and then we tell them that they need to be prepared for a “global” community. Make your voice heard! Let’s organize to promote more dual language schools.
Here are some strategies I tried and worked for now:
1. Ask about a wait list and get on it
2. Call the district office and follow up on the wait list and do the same at the school every week.
3. Don’t give up!
4. Call when school starts and let them know you are waiting for a spot and you would like to know how many students have not shown up the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd week–schools must open spots after that point
5. Try for a transfer during the school year
6. Try again for next year
7. Get involved with the parent group and perhaps they have other ideas

Good luck to all the professionals and parents who believe that all children deserve a school experience that prepares them to be global learners– dual language school (AKA Two way programs)

Links to Academic Articles in Bilingual Development

Bilingualism in infancy: first steps in perception and comprehension
Janet F. Werker and Krista Byers-Heinlein in Trends in Cognitive Sciences Journal 2008.

Bilingual language learning: An ERP study relating early brain responses to speech, language input, and later word production by Adrian Garcia-Sierraa, Maritza Rivera-Gaxiolaa, Cherie R. Percaccioa, Barbara T. Conboyb, Harriett Romoc, Lindsay Klarmana, Sophia Ortizc, Patricia K. Kuhla, Journal of Phonetics in 2011.

Language selection in bilingual word production: Electrophysiological evidence for cross-language competition
Noriko Hoshinoa, and Guillaume Thierryb in Brain Research in 2010.

Brian Goldstein’s, 2nd edition of Bilingual Language Development and Disorders in Spanish-English Speakers. Brookes Publishing

Bilingualism Matters according to Latest Research in the NY Times

This New York Times article by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee provides a summary of a variety of research evidence on the benefits of bilingualism. The author summarizes research benefits in young children and the elderly and provides a new way to see bilingualism as an edge! Benefits include:
Better cognitive skills in general
Better/improved executive functioning
Larger vocabulary
Shielding from Dementia and Alzheimers
Stimulating on the areas of the brains that improves functioning not seen in monolinguals
Speed in processing and shielding of distractions
Increased ability to monitor the environment

This is a great must read!
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-benefits-of-bilingualism.html

SMART RTI- What is that anyway?

In this post I would like to describe what is SMART RTI and the latest research from its authors as to how to continue improving RTI in school district and schools.
As I sat in my office this morning, I opened the most recent issue of the special education journal Exceptional Children and found SMART RTI!
According to the authors, SMART RTI is like SMART phones, cars or houses, which are using information oriented enhancements to make these tools work better and more efficiently–in Response to Intervention (RTI) this is an opportunity to look at the “Next Generation” approach to Multilevel prevention frameworks.
What is SMART RTI (or how I like to call it SmRTI?)
Fuchs, Fuchs, and Compton (2012) in their most recent article SMART RTI: A Next Generation Approach to Multilevel Prevention- explain that as districts and schools address the issue of RTI and the time and cost of resources for implementation they should also be thinking “out of the box” to improve the implementation of the model/framework. In their redesign of RTI their overall message recommends the following features:
1. Having multi- stage screening processed versus a 1 universal screening tool to determine the needed level of intervention (investment upfront with the hope of less false-positives).
2. Having Tier 3 or tertiary prevention that integrated data-based program modification with meaningful access to the curriculum, and clear explanation of movement across tiers inherent in student IEPs– for students with disabilities.

The authors make a great point in explaining the current limitations of RTI in districts and schools today, and offer new ideas that allow RTI to expand its ability to meet the needs of all students. The authors believe that primary (Tier 1) and secondary prevention (Tier 2) benefits from data-based problem solving and standard protocols practices but that we need “experimental” instruction in the tertiary interventions. Does this mean that Tier 3 is special education? No, I believe in their article the authors are talking about the unique needs of students with disabilities and how their needs will be met across the level of tiers recognizing that they will need tertiary interventions (Tier 3) that should be handled by special education teachers. At this point, special education teacher evaluate “meaningful” access to the general curriculum and wage it against the student’s current level of performance in designing instruction, but the authors don’t address the rest of the population of students who may at times need Tier 3 level of supports– students who are English language learners and low achievers in general, or students with emotional behavioral disorders.
The authors call for SMART RTI is welcome and critical at this point when districts and schools are hitting walls in time, resources, and the number of students who are not responding. We need to support this effort to move forward and to continue the current gains we have made to close the silos of education in practice. RTI has required by design that Offices of Special Education, Curriculum and Instruction, English Language Learners/Bilingual Education, and others collaborate; it has required that regular education, special education teachers and support personnel sit at the table and work together like never before to support all learners because of its ccles of progress monitoring, and its also made principals and headmasters become instructional leaders and consumers of data – we don’t want this to go away we want to make it more effective!

The article can be found at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) in its premier publication Exceptional Children. Reference: Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L, Compton, D. (2012) SMART RTI: Next Generation Approach to Multilevel Prevention, Exceptional Children, 78(3), 23-279.