and Maintenance of Two-Way Immersion Programs: Advice from Practitioners
As an effective and increasingly popular educational approach, two-way
immersion (TWI) programs have grown remarkably in the past 15 years. CREDE's
Immersion" project, conducted at the Center for Applied Linguistics,
has kept track of TWI growth and determined effective program implementation
practices. Information on TWI programs is published online in the Directory
of Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Programs in the United States (2000)
The Directory provides detailed program and demographic information for
250+ programs that a) provide content and literacy in English and a minority
language, b) integrate students from the two language groups for at least
half of the school day, and c) have a roughly equal balance of language
majority and language minority students. To collect this information,
CREDE researchers sent out questionnaires to the primary contacts for
these TWI programs (principals, bilingual coordinators, or teachers),
which included open-ended issues, such as:
- What are the most important factors in the success of your program?
- What challenges have you faced while establishing your program? How
have you dealt with them?
- What advice can you offer new two-way programs that are starting up?
This brief will summarize the responses given to these questions and
provide recommendations supported by CREDE's research and technical assistance.
Most respondents suggested allotting at least one year to plan for the
program. Specific suggestions included establishing a planning committee
with representatives of the administration, teachers, parents, and community;
and keeping the overall goals of the program and the long-range program
design in mind throughout the planning process. During the planning phase,
the following tasks need to be accomplished:
- Studying the area's demographics and identifying the needs of parents
and children in the community
- Familiarizing staff, administration, and prospective parents with
research on TWI and other relevant topics, such as second language acquisition,
biliteracy development, and sheltered instruction
- Choosing a program model, making curriculum decisions, and developing
or translating materials if necessary
- Choosing student assessment instruments and setting schedules for
state-mandated and local tests
- Establishing criteria for accepting students into the program
- Selecting staff and planning staff development
Other activities are not essential but certainly aid in program design
and implementation, such as:
- Visiting and forming partnerships with other TWI sites to share ideas
for curriculum, scheduling, and materials
- Attending conferences, such as those sponsored by the National Association
for Bilingual Education
- Marketing the program in preschools, community centers, and at community
events using professional brochures
Furthermore, successful programs incorporate ongoing follow-up and flexibility
to improve and refine the original plan. Therefore, mechanisms are needed
to evaluate the outcomes of planning decisions, so all stakeholders (teachers,
administrators, parents) agree on the procedures to follow if part of
the program does not work as planned.
Curriculum and Instruction
One basic decision all new TWI programs face is the selection of a program
modelin particular, the amount of instruction delivered in each
language at each grade level. Several factors to consider are the needs
of the student population, the language capabilities of the teachers and
support staff, the interests and concerns of parents, and the political
climate in the community. Equally important is model fidelitythe
extent to which all TWI teachers understand and comply with the model.
Faithfully applying the selected model to classroom instruction "ensures
articulation between grades and continuity, allowing for development of
skills," according to one respondent. Regardless of the program model,
it is recommended that the minority language be used for at least 50%
of instructional time.
Within the classroom, separation of languages is essential: by time block,
subject, day, teacher, or some combination. English is the predominant
language in the U.S., so promoting the use of the minority language is
often challenging, but can be done through after-school activities and
homework help networks that communicate in the minority language.
Finally, it is important to invest time and money in procuring high quality
materials in both English and the minority language. These should reflect
a multicultural curriculum to promote the TWI goal of cross-cultural understanding.
Student Assessment and Program Evaluation
Respondents suggested the following guidelines for assessing and evaluating
the students and the program. First, be mindful of state and district
standards and testing requirements, and always set high academic standards
for students of both language groups. Second, establish clear program
goals, policies, and outcome objectives, and explain these to students,
parents, and the larger school community. Finally, measure the success
of these goals and objectives by using multiple criteria (e.g., standardized
tests and teacher-developed assessment measures).
It is important to collect these measures longitudinally, so the development
of students' abilities in various domains can be assessed accurately.
It will take several years of data collection, however, to determine program
effectiveness and student achievement, or to compare performance at a
given grade level. Moreover, the program model may impact initial test
scores. For example, in a 90/10 (90% of instruction in minority language,
10% in English) program, it would not be surprising to find low scores
on standardized English assessments in the primary grades. In such a case,
standardized English test scores from the upper elementary grades would
be a better indicator of program effectiveness.
Teachers with a strong understanding of and commitment to the program's
philosophy and goals are the backbone of TWI programs. They should be
well trained in second language acquisition and sheltered instruction.
If teachers with ESL or bilingual endorsements are in short supply, the
district could offer credentialing classes. A teacher exchange program
with other countries can also help locate teachers proficient in the minority
It is beneficial to identify at least two teachers for each grade level,
and to have a teacher and an instructional assistant in each classroom.
If bilingual specialty teachers (as for music or art) cannot be hired,
bilingual instructional assistants can provide support in those monolingual
English settings. Because of teacher turnover, it is ideal to hire teachers
who are qualified to teach in both languages, so that they can provide
instruction in either language as needed.
Prior to implementation, intensive staff development that covers the
philosophy and theory of TWI education and effective teaching strategies
should be provided. Professional development should be ongoing. Every
year, the program must invest time and funds for staff to learn new teaching
methods, review current research, design curricula, and plan for articulation.
TWI staff should meet at least once a month to discuss program-specific
If the program is a strand within a school, there are additional considerations.
Maintaining staff cohesion across the TWI program and other school programs
is critical. Providing all staff with frequent updates on the TWI program
and helping TWI teachers integrate with the school community are ways
to promote staff unity.
Size and Growth of the Program
Many respondents suggested starting a program at kindergarten (K), or
K and first grade, and adding one grade level each year. It is important
to recruit at least two classes of students at the K level, so if attrition
occurs, there will be enough students for at least one class in the upper
elementary grades. If maintaining a balance of language groups is a problem
because of neighborhood demographics, consider becoming a magnet program,
busing students from other areas, or establishing multi-age classrooms.
It is also important to consider planning for a program that continues
beyond the elementary level.
Because it is challenging to run a program-within-a-school, phasing the
TWI program into the school site can help administrators reduce miscommunication
and unequal allocation of resources. A program coordinator (full-time
and on-site, if possible) can be instrumental in coordinating program
policies, liaising with other programs and the administration, developing
curriculum, working with parents, and so forth.
Many respondents also advise patience: planning and getting the support
of school officials and parents, invaluable to program success, can take
a year or longer. However, one respondent from a Navajo program cautioned
that when languages are endangered, it is necessary to press ahead quickly
for fear of language loss in a community.
Parental Involvement and District Support
Parents are vital to TWI program success, as supporters of their child
and as advocates of the program. It is important to involve parents from
the start, and to encourage them to volunteer in the classroom and learn
as much as they can about TWI. Some schools offer language classes to
parents to help them develop bilingualism along with their children. Many
respondents suggested empowering parents as spokespeople to reach out
to parents of prospective TWI students.
Parents and teachers should meet frequently to discuss program design
and theory, performance expectations, and the children's progress. Although
parents should be encouraged to express their concerns, one project director
wrote, "Be fair and firm in establishing guidelines for this program and
maintaining the program integrity," and recommended weighing parents'
requests against what is possible or necessary for the program's overall
Administrative and community support were mentioned frequently as important
factors in TWI success. Not every program exists in a highly supportive
district, so practitioners should evaluate whether enough administrative
and community support exists to sustain the program. As one respondent
from a decade-old program wrote, "Carefully consider long-range implications
and ponder long-term odds of program stability with or without 'system'
Representatives of the district, the site administration, and the community
should participate in the planning process. This is the best way to gauge
what the constituents will support in the future. Regardless of the level
of enthusiasm, all parties should commit to helping the program succeed
and to supporting it with similar resources given to other district programs.
It is also helpful to hold regular meetings with these constituents to
maintain open and honest communication.
When establishing a two-way immersion program, designing curricula, planning
for assessment and evaluation, identifying and training teachers, recruiting
and involving families, garnering district support, and fostering long-term
growth are all tasks that implementers face in the planning stages and
beyond. The number and complexity of these tasks may seem daunting, but
the lessons learned from established TWI programs will facilitate the
process for those who are just starting out.
For more information, contact Elizabeth
Howard, Center for Applied Linguistics, 4646 40th Street NW, Washington,
DC 20016, (202) 362-0700. For a description of this CREDE project and
links to other documents, visit www.crede.ucsc.edu/Programs/Program1/Project1_2.html
This work is supported under the Educational Research
and Development Center Program (Cooperative Agreement No. R306A60001-96),
administered by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI),
U.S. Deparment of Education. The findings and opinions expressed here
do not necessarily reflect the position or policies of OERI.
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