As a young boy, I would collect returnable soda bottles that were worth three cents each. When I had nine cents worth of bottles, I would run to our neighborhood market and cash in the bottles and purchase a 50/50 ice cream popsicle, which cost seven cents leaving me with two cents that I immediately spent on penny candy. For those of you that are too young to remember, a 50/50 is a Popsicle that was half ice cream and half orange Popsicle—the best of both worlds.
The reason I mention the 50/50 Popsicle is because I am the English Language Development grade level teacher and while filling out required forms and looking at ELD standards, I begin to remember my early elementary school years and how I was reprimanded for speaking Spanish at school. I was not given a choice if I wanted to become bilingual or a 50/50 language student. Fortunately, in high school I was able to re-acquire my Spanish language ability. Even today many of Arizona’s students are not offered the gift of developing a second language.
However, in July I attended a presentation by Dr. Larry Shumway, Utah Superintendent of Public Instruction, who explained Utah’s Dual Immersion Program or 50/50 model. According to Utah Department of Education, Dual Immersion in Utah is a program in which students spend half the day in English with one teacher and half the day with another teacher in a second language such as French, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, or Spanish. Most subjects are taught in both languages. Although the concept is not a new idea, it is new to Utah.
Utah’s 50/50 model is open to all students who are entering first grade, so that they can be proficient in their second language by the time they leave elementary school. Older students are allowed to enter the program only if they are monolingual in French, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, or Spanish. They are allowed to keep their primary language, but also learn English. Currently, Utah’s Department of Education reports that over 7000 students are enrolled in 40 dual immersion programs. In addition to becoming bilingual, Utah’s dual immersion program is also preparing its students to become the future multilingual workforce that Utah will need due to its aggressive recruitment of businesses such as: Adobe, Ebay, Edwards Life Science, and Goldman Sachs who carry out business worldwide.
Thus, as I finish my required ELD forms it is my belief that Arizona can benefit from a program such as Utah’s Dual Immersion Program. Not only would our students benefit being offered a second language, but it would prepare our students to complete globally and Arizona would be able to lure global industries to our state by promoting our multilingual students as an asset.
A 50/50 choice—the best of both worlds.