School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

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School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages
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Photo: Community leaders meeting to begin the process around creating a plan for multilingual pathways

Source: Santa Barbara Unified School District

Santa Barbara school officials have taken to heart the call to action from state education leaders to join them on the road to a multilingual California. 

The Global California 2030 initiative challenges state schools to develop opportunities for students to acquire multiple languages that will prepare them for the 21st century economy, broaden their perspective and understanding of the world, and strengthen the diversity of backgrounds and languages that make California’s culture and economy vibrant and dynamic.

Santa Barbara Unified School District leaders have assembled a group of community members, parents, educators and other stakeholders to develop a Comprehensive Plan for Multilingual Pathways. The goal is to create offerings around multi-language acquisition programs districtwide for all students, as well as to strengthen existing programs for English learners in a way that respects and reinforces the cultural and linguistic resources they bring to the classroom.

The initiative was authored by former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and is now supported by Tony Thurmond,  who was elected to the post in 2018. Thurmond, who was in Santa Barbara recently to speak to local schools administrators, said he is particularly interested in dual language immersion models.

“We are working on getting more funding so we can recruit more bilingual educators and do more training and more professional development,” Thurmond said following a brief visit to San Marcos High School.

Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka is a strong advocate of the initiative. Matsuoka said as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, students with world language and cultural fluency will be better equipped to succeed in a diverse 21st century economy. “This is our opportunity to lead Santa Barbara toward connecting to the larger ecosystem in education and in the world.”

The local plan will be developed over the next several months and will include input from educators, school board members, parents, business leaders and other stakeholders. The group will explore a variety of options, including a dual language immersion model, expanded world language course offerings, and a revamping of the district’s English Language Learner program. The plan will go before the school board for review and approval.

"There is a moral imperative to ensure that our schools are responsive to all students in the  community,” said Santa Barbara Unified Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Raul Ramirez. “Historically, our emergent multilingual students have not achieved at levels that have allowed them to enter fully prepared into the world of higher education and work.  Our district now has the unique opportunity to understand how to receive our students.”   

Maria Larios-Horton, director of English Learner and Parent Engagement Programs, said the research is clear that speaking two or more languages has many benefits, and that honoring a child’s first language is critical to their educational success. At the district’s elementary level, 65 percent of students are English learners. “I’m so looking forward to building a plan that honors every part of our students’ identities, and the positive impact research has affirmed it will have in their lives and therefore our community.”

The challenge set forth by Global California 2030 is a significant one. According to its mission;  “By 2030, we want half of all K–12 students to participate in programs leading to proficiency in two or more languages, either through a class, a program, or an experience. By 2040, we want three out of four students to be proficient in two or more languages, earning them a State Seal of Biliteracy.” 

The initiative came on the heels of state voters’ overwhelming approval of Proposition 58 in 2016. That measure repealed bilingual education restrictions enacted by Proposition 227 in 1998. 

California’s K-12 system is by far the biggest and most diverse in the nation, with 6.2 million students, 40 percent of whom come to school with knowledge and experience in at least two languages.

“Studies have found that speaking two or more languages has many benefits. It strengthens memory and cognitive processes, improves speakers’ ability in their first language, expands cultural knowledge and understanding, builds self-confidence, and even delays the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia,” state Department of Education officials wrote in the initiative. 

“I am very excited about the coming months as we create the foundation for the Multilingual Pathways program,” said Santa Barbara Unified School District board member Rose Muñoz, adding that she is impressed by the district’s commitment to expose students to multiple languages and diverse cultures all through their educational career.

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Red Creek Sep 04, 2019 08:35 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

Pacheco Elementary in San Luis Obispo School District has had a Two Way Immersion Program (dual immersion) for many years. Students learn English in am (or pm) and reverses in afternoon. Parents can opt in or out of the program for their children, with the goal being fluency and literacy in both languages by end of 6th grade. It would be a good model for SB School District to check out .

a-1571642826 Sep 04, 2019 02:33 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

SB Unified has proven to taxpayers and parents it canNOT successfully teach K-6 students in Nakisha, and Adelante Caesar Chavez has proven itself a 17-year failure despite name change. Prove first that District Administrators can handle instruction in English before giving these over compensated incompetents Administrators yet another excuse.

a-1571642826 Sep 03, 2019 10:51 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

This seems so weird to me because when I was a kid, admittedly a child of immigrants, foreign language classes were easy to get. I took French, then Latin, which was probably the most useful language ever, since Italian, Portuguese, French and Spanish are all easy to pick up from a solid Latin base. I also took German, and learned some Dutch from business, which was really easy with German as a base. Through studying other languages, I also learned a lot about why English is the way it is now. I grew up outside of California, in a place not known to be cosmopolitan and progressive. I was therefore surprised when my California kid struggled to get foreign language classes here, taking an immersive in French and then Japanese through City College while at SBJHS and SBHS. He took German while a full-time student at SBCC, but had to hunt to get those classes. It does feel to me that even though English is now the international language of business and diplomacy (used to be French), our kids really should be learning other languages. You also learn so much history when you learn languages. Like did you know the reason German is easy for English speakers to pick up is because the Saxon hordes (pre-Germans) invaded England in the 5th and 6th centuries, and installed their tongue on the conquered population? After the later Norman conquest in 1066, that Saxon-based language evolved in England as a very bastardized form of the original ancient German, cutoff from its origin, and invented new forms. We're now speaking the evolved language those Saxons left behind in England. Same for France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal - they're all speaking modern descendants of ancient Latin from prior Roman conquest when they were but far-flung provinces populated largely by Celts. They've all put their own accent, phrases, and colloquialisms on ancient Latin, of course. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in 400 AD, they have each evolved Latin into 4 modern languages, spoken worldwide. It's hardly dead at all when one thinks of Latin like that, and the enormous mark those Romans left in terms of speakers worldwide of these modern descendants of their original language. Think of the fun your kid would have learning about the world by exploring languages, and how they came to be!

a-1571642826 Sep 04, 2019 03:26 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

Start with English. Master English First, the international language. Next add Chinese to prepare to communicate with billions, and to understand the mindset of China. No need to prioritize learning Spanish. No teacher on SBUnified payroll has the essential leadership support from principal or bloated District to teach K-6 kids who deserve better. All kids have is time that is wasted by SBUnified self-serving administrators and Trustees.

2contango Sep 04, 2019 09:34 AM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

I would hope that the choice of a second language would be up to students and their parents, not district officials. And I would hope that schools dedicate resources to providing a broad selection of language courses like independent schools here do. This is a great opportunity for parents and students to become more proactive in curriculum decisions.

negirl Sep 03, 2019 08:41 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

So... WHY does the school district NOT fund a Spanish teacher for an elementary IB school (that has a requirement of providing a second language))? Hmmmmm.... not sure I believe the district is serious about this..... Actually, I’m not sue I believe ANYTHING this superintendent and board says... And I do believe that ALL of our students should know more than one language!

CoastWatch Sep 03, 2019 07:23 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

How about this idea...? Strive for a 90% High School graduation proficiency ... EVEN 75% ! How about PREPARING these students of 2030 to have a grasp of basic math, geography and reading comprehension...???

a-1571642826 Sep 03, 2019 07:46 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

I don't agree with ONLY catering to the weakest link in the chain. Keeping graduation rate is still a goal, must that mean that we abandon plans to enrich the education of those willing to learn? The sad and awful truth is that we can only do so much for students who don't care to learn and can't be convinced otherwise (regardless of reason behind these attitudes). At some point there are quickly diminishing returns to the effort put into saving every student.

sbdude Sep 03, 2019 04:45 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

If they want to prepare their kids for a 21st century global economy they should be stressing Mandarin, Japanese, German, Hindi, and French. Together with English, these languages will dominate international relations and commerce for the remainder of the century.

a-1571642826 Sep 03, 2019 03:28 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

They taught us a couple songs in Spanish when I was in 5th grade at Roosevelt. "Bate, bate, chocolate" and something about "una gallina" (chicken) always stuck with me. It wasn't until Jr. High and High School that I took Latin and Spanish. Then there was an intensive summer school course in French at SBCC. Funnily enough, most of what I can recall now in a foreign language is Bahasa Indonesia, because I spent time there and spoke the language nearly every day. A lot depends on who is teaching and methods thereof. Also: if you don't practice the language, the left hemi-sphere of your brain doesn't retain it well.

a-1571642826 Sep 04, 2019 03:36 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

Every child requires an actively involved parent or grandparent. Never leave a dependent alone in the hospital or at school. An adult focused on you, makes a difference in the life of a kid. BIG THANKS to Big Brothers, Big Sisters, grandparents, relatives and anyone who commits to a kid, who encourages, mentors and is trusted.

PitMix Sep 04, 2019 11:05 AM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

My point is: even if the schools are able to end hunger for the kids, coming from a family where hunger is an issue probably means that getting a good education is not the parents highest priority. And having parental involvement is critical to getting a good education. Schools cannot solve these social problems.

a-1571642826 Sep 03, 2019 04:39 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

The majority of kids in Goleta schools qualify for free meals at school. At Goleta Valley Junior High the numbers are so high that they offer meals to every kid at the school, regardless of need. Yes, it must be very challenging to focus on school when you're hungry but hunger has apparently received adequate resources from schools.

a-1571642826 Sep 03, 2019 04:21 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

You would benefit from a language enrichment class so you can go beyond 'crap'. I agree with the suggestion to include Chinese and Spanish. I think they should look at offering Latin also. I took 2 years of Latin and always regretted not continuing. I'd also suggest offering language study in the after school programs.

PitMix Sep 03, 2019 04:04 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

It is probably more accurate to say that they can't teach the basics to kids that come to school with problems at home, but that was probably always the case. The kids who came to school reading and knowing their numbers because someone had worked with them on this, and who get into the GATE classes, are probably doing just fine and going on to good colleges. The problem that schools have is in trying to educate while they are addressing social problems. Even our local schools have to provide food to make sure their students have had enough to eat. If you are a kid coming to school hungry, math and english are probably not your biggest problems.

a-1571642826 Sep 03, 2019 02:07 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

It is dumb that we haven't already been doing this. It's so much easier to acquire languages when one is young. Other countries do it. Surely our children and teachers are just as capable as everyone in those other countries.

a-1571642826 Sep 03, 2019 11:37 AM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

Every other advanced nation fosters multilingual education for their youth. At the very least, kids in California should be taught Spanish beginning in Kindergarten. Most private schools already do this.

2contango Sep 03, 2019 11:13 AM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

I'd suggest Standard Chinese (Mandarin) as the second language considering it is the most spoken language in the world with 1.3 billion native speakers. Or Hindi, which has over 300 million speakers.

a-1571642826 Sep 04, 2019 03:41 PM
School District Plans to Teach Students Multiple Languages

Plus, beyond teaching Manderan Contango, how about an exchange program with schools in LA and SF for practice immersion and relationship building.? Without practice a foreign language is harder to learn. We’re not Europe but we do have many clusters of foreign language dominant areas.

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