It doesn’t take a whole lot of research to see that over the past 15 years or so, the enrollment at Lincoln School and Congress Park School in Brookfield – two different school districts but facing similar demographic changes – includes more and more Hispanic students.
At Lincoln School, 52 percent of students are Hispanic (and 23 percent are English language learners), compared to a Hispanic enrollment of 25 percent in 2001. At Congress Park School, Hispanic enrollment has grown from 14 percent in 2001 to 41 percent in 2016.
Both school districts had the opportunity to hire new principals this summer, and both chose to recognize that important demographic shift by hiring principals who speak both Spanish and English, who can communicate directly with families for whom Spanish may be the primary language at home.
At Congress Park School, Principal Claudia Jimenez’ implementation of a voluntary dual language program is one we hope more and more non-native Spanish speakers want to be part of.
The dual language program will include instruction in both Spanish and English. That’s not a sop to Spanish speakers. It’s an opportunity to provide foreign-language instruction to students when they can take best advantage of it.
It’s an educational opportunity to which far too few American elementary school students have access, and more districts – particularly ones with sizable and growing Hispanic populations – ought to consider.
The ability to speak more than one language is a benefit and such opportunities should be embraced. We hope this one is.
District 103 is not offering such a program at Lincoln School, at least not yet. That school district has a separate set of issues it’s working out and introducing such a program at this time likely isn’t feasible.
However in the future, D103 ought to look at such a program, not just at Lincoln but also its other elementary schools, where Hispanic enrollment is just as high.