Expanded dual-language programs go into effect next year in Tulsa Public Schools.
Kendall-Whittier Elementary will begin the process of bringing English and Spanish instruction to pre-K through fifth grades next year. All pre-K and kindergarten classrooms will have dual language instruction next year, and the school will add one grade each year after.
Principal Ronda Kesler said the aim of the program is to make both more accessible to students regardless of their native language, with the end goal being all bilingual students.
"Students that are able to be multilingual, their brain develops in different ways, and it makes it easier to not just be bilingual but trilingual on up once those brain pathways are developed," Kesler said.
Research shows that by the time Spanish-speaking students in such programs are in fourth or fifth grade, their English skills are on par with native speakers, in addition to having fluency in Spanish.
"As a program overall, we have proven the research out. So, that has proven to me that we are definitely on the right track and providing the opportunities that we need to for our kids," Kesler said.
Kesler said dual language instruction also helps kids learn cultural literacy.
Will Rogers Junior High will offer a new Spanish-language pathway starting next year for students who speak English and Spanish going into sixth or seventh grade.
"We would like to maintain all the learning that the students have had through their elementary years because usually, if you don't use a language, you forget. So, we believe that three more years will kind of stabilize all that learning, the academic vocabulary that they have," said TPS Director of Dual Language and Immersion Liliane Vannoy.
Vannoy said bilingual students are better prepared for the workforce and global economy later in life.
In addition, Disney Elementary will start offering English and Spanish instruction in pre-K, with 40 slots initially available.
TPS has steadily expanded its multilingual programs over the past several years and currently has language programs at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School, Skelly Elementary School, Sequoyah Elementary School, Springdale Elementary School, Celia Clinton Elementary School, Dual Language Academy, Henry Zarrow International and Eisenhower International.