Linsey Silver Testimony – DCPS Public Budget Hearing – November 27, 2018

Chancellor Alexander and officials of DC Public Schools thank you for allowing me to testify today.

My name is Linsey Silver and I am the Director of Teaching and Learning at the DC Language Immersion Project ( ) and 10 year parent at Tyler Elementary. DC Immersion is a non-profit that works toward a quality multilingual education for every child in the nation’s capital to become an empathetic citizen of the world, and for the District and its future workforce to compete successfully in the global marketplace. To meet this vision we engage families, support educators, research best practices and advocate for a systemic approach to equitably increasing opportunity and strengthening communities through multilingual education.

I once again want to thank DCPS for including the expansion of multilingual programs in its strategic goals. The need for equitable expansion of multilingual programs and increasing pipelines to source bilingual and diverse teachers is reinforced daily by research findings and civil action.
DCPS drive for equity is obviously at the forefront of this. By opening the first dual language program east of the river in a primarily African American neighborhood with few English language learners, DCPS positioned itself to become a national model on equity of access to these achievement and opportunity-boosting programs for all students. DC, together with New York and Florida, has one of the highest densities of English language learners and DCPS is positioned to lead by meeting the needs of this population with multilingual programs. To lead, DCPS must be bold and act promptly. DCPS is falling behind its peers with similar percentages of Latino and English learners. And the increase in the desirability of bilingual employees is putting children east of the river, and in particular Ward 8 where there are no dual language programs at an even greater disadvantage, faster. Demand for multilingual employees in the DC area doubled over the last 5 years, yet less than 7.5% of our students are on a path to becoming truly proficient in more than one language.

A well funded, comprehensive, long term and evidence-based detailed plan on expanding multilingual education should lead the way and be a sustained effort.

Many states and districts can provide us a framework from which to lead in the District.
The state of Delaware who has 16.2% Latino and 7.8% English language learners, has taken an approach that is both comprehensive and comprehensively funded. Since the announcement of its World Language Expansion Initiative in 2012, Delaware has allocated to its Department of Education close to $2 million each year to “evaluating and implementing additional foreign language offerings in public schools” which include the expansion of dual language programs and other initiatives to support language education. Delaware has 137,000 students.
In Utah, the Legislature created and funds statutes that provide each qualifying dual language school up to $18,000/year for up to six years. The total budget in Utah is $3,556,000 where the Utah runs more than 160 DL programs serving over 25,000 students.
In Portland the most recent studies on the cost of dual language show a cost of ~$100 per student that was linked to higher ELA performance. While not wholly or immediately transferable the findings were that “with modest investments at the central office level, concentrated on supporting high-quality dual langua ge instruction through professional development and curriculum support.” allocating funds for the systemic implementation of dual language can have a positive effect on the academic gains of all students and sub-groups.

In the long term, dual language programs in the district operate on or below the DCPS yearly operating budget average (see chart below referring to 2014 data). However, in the implementation phase, new dual language programs, like any other new type of programming, require additional funding, mainly for professional development including education on what dual language is, and materials in the partner language.
The support and expansion of multilingual programs must have a dedicated budget line with a minimum of a five-year horizon.
In August of 2016, DC Immersion met with DCPS Office of Planning on the strategic planning for the expansion of dual language programs that was announced earlier that year. DC Immersion was told no specific resources had been set aside for the development of that strategic plan. Now two years later, we have still yet to see such a plan.

Initiatives that are so effective in narrowing the achievement and opportunity gaps need to be given the financial stability to be deliberate and sustainable. To solidify DCPS’ commitment to its strategic priority, DCPS needs to build into its budget a clear line item related to multilingual education, not only for the planning phase but for the expansion of new programs and the support of the existing programs.

While this detailed plan is being developed, it is important not to miss the opportunity to leverage existing community support for the expansion of these programs where it exists, as, once missed, recreating community support is costly, time consuming and often not possible.
Also, while the details of the plan are continuing to be worked out, we believe it is in the interest of equity, diversity and inclusive learning to prioritize expanding the number of multilingual program seats by ensuring DCPS current strand programs become whole school. Please refer to our Strand v. Whole School Concept Note in Appendix II.

– Multilingual education is proven to increase achievement and narrow the opportunity gap. – Educating children in a context where two cultures are on the same level helps to systematically interrupt institutional bias.
– Expanding multilingual education options where access is currently profoundly inequitable will promote equity across DCPS.
– Our segregated school system worsens institutional bias. UCLA’s Civil Rights Project argues
that the expansion of dual language programs could be used as a tool to integrate DC schools “The positive integration of the growing immigrant communities with the black and white communities of the city should be an important part of education planning giving the demographic trends of the metro region. There should, for example, be a major focus on dual language immersion schools.” 5

– Improving teacher (and administrator!) pipelines for bilingual education translates in access to
currently inaccessible pools of talented teachers, better onboarding and support for teachers in dual language programs, and therefore improved retention rates.
– Overtime, improving teacher and administrator pipelines for bilingual education will result in a stronger and more diverse leadership. ENSURE EXCELLENT SCHOOLS
– Due to the demand for dual language programs, expanding the number of dual language seats is going to have a significant, immediate effect on enrollment.
– Expanding the number of dual language programs is also going to have a significant effect on re-enrollment, as students in dual language programs tend to have much lower mobility rates.
– According to longitudinal studies in North Carolina, dual language programs also have a statistically significant impact on attendance.

– Given the proven effect of dual language programs on developing students’ executive
function, expanding multilingual programs will have beneficial effects on decision making and behavior in general.
– The context of dual language programs directly stimulates empathy which is key to social emotional learning.
– Bilingualism directly expands access to college, as knowledge of a second language is increasingly a requirement in college admissions.
– Expanding multilingual programs is an obvious way to strengthen instruction for English learners. It is also the most effective. ENGAGE FAMILIES
– Having multilingual staff, as is necessary in multilingual programs, improves communication with a growing number of District families who do not speak English.
– What better way of involving families from the very beginning and showing them their input is being valued than to meet their demand for more multilingual programs. Make full use of Title I and Title III funding
New budget sources need to be identified to expand multilingual programs to neighborhoods where English learners are not prevalent, as the current Title III federal dollars will not be available for programs that do not serve English learners. We believe Title I funds can and should be used to expand multilingual programs in Title I communities.
● Significant investments will need to be made upfront and are justified in the context of long term programmatic changes particularly at the middle and high school level. See example from Oakland School District.6
● While existing dual language programs currently operate at or below the DCPS yearly operating budget average7, both new and current dual language programs require additional funding on an ongoing basis to provide for expenses such as professional development and materials in the partner language.
● funding on resources specific to school population, with an emphasis on one-way programs and targeted parental engagement
● Important decisions regarding DCPS’ organizational structure need to be made early on in the process to ensure budgets for the expansion of multilingual education are allocated to the entity that can most effectively support all aspects of DCPS’ strategic priority.
Increasing Dual Language programs is a cost efficient way of increasing achievement for all our District students. DC Immersion stands ready to assist DC Public Schools.

High stakes high returns decision by the Oakland School District to open a dedicated dual language middle school for 75 students during a $30 million budget shortfall. &cmpid=twitter-premium?cmpid=twitter-premium#photo-13859462 See our research here
A comprehensive strategic plan on the expansion of multilingual education in the District
DC Public School’s detailed plan on how to better support and expand multilingual education in the District needs to be comprehensive, long term and based on evidence from states and school districts who have already done this. It should be based on thorough, longitudinal analysis of existing DC-wide data to include data on demand across all types of programming, enrollment trends in existing dual language programs, analysis of skills gap as it relates to linguistic and cultural competence, and data on current partner language assessments. DC Immersion has begun parts of this analysis in partnership with research institutes and DC area universities.
A strategic plan for expanding dual language programs requires a great deal of prior knowledge, willing partners and human resources and needs to approach a number of issues including the following:
– analysis of existing dual language models and determination of most suited models for DC’s different demographics;
– set of articulated pathways to sourcing teachers, including collaboration with OSSE on licensing requirements and professional development, collaboration with Embassies and cultural institutes on teacher exchanges, understanding and leveraging currently underutilized linguistic skills of existing DCPS teachers;
– analysis of national best practices on middle and high school models and possible DC applications; – DC wide agreement on partner language assessment and State wide collection of data relating to partner language assessment; – leveraging know how and exploring forms of collaboration with charter sector;
– long term professional development plan for administrators, teachers and staff;
– access to federal and local funding streams for planning and implementation of dual language programs (school turnaround, voluntary and community-led desegregation efforts, social impact bonds, …); – DCPS organizational structure changes to support and oversee expansion;
– comprehensive outreach to families and communities including those which have traditionally been left out of the dual language conversation; – development of dual language standards in collaboration with SBOE;
– garnering political support on plan’s ramp-up speed and geography (Mayor, DC Council, ANCs);
– engaging all stakeholders (local universities, teacher union, DCPL, publishers, students, parents, civic associations, media, …) and working across local government agencies (CFO, DMPED, DOES, WIC, MOLA, …) and federal ones; and
– a detailed and adequate five-year budget, broken down by central administration, school support and local school, with projections for different implementation speeds and other variables. APPENDIX II
Strand v. Whole School Dual Language Programs Concept Note
DCPS’ four strand programs – Tyler, Cleveland, Marie Reed and Powell – are at a crossroad. Historically, other strand programs (SWS, Logan Montessori, etc.) have eventually moved on to whole school programs. DC Immersion believes making the existing dual language strand programs into whole school programs presents 6 critical advantages for DCPS: 1. Rapid increase in highly desirable dual language program seats 2. Increase in achievement
3. Significant improvement in unsustainable school culture issues 4. More efficient use of school based resources
5. Equity of access
6. Clearer and more robust feeders

Increase in desirable dual language program seats
Data from the 2017-18 My School DC lottery published by the DC Public Charter School Board shows a further increase in demand for dual language programs, and waitlists of over 1,000 for all bar one PCS dual language programs, way longer than all other types of program, bar one exception. Unfortunately, we do not have access to DCPS data, but we assume it is similar. Demand for dual language programs far outweighs spaces. Of the different ways for DCPS to capitalize on student enrollment and retention through desirability of dual language programs, turning strands into whole school programs is the most logical and efficient. This must be a priority also due to the problematic school culture issues that are currently attributed to dual language rather than to the inherent dynamics of strand programs. This misattribution of the causes of the dysfunction confuse the issue and taint the conversation around further expanding dual language programs. Increase in achievement

There is little doubt in the academic and research communities about the positive impact of dual language education on achievement. DC Immersion is partnering with University of Maryland on longitudinal research specific to achievement in DC dual language programs. In the meantime, DCPS can rely on its internal data on achievement in these programs to support the need to expand dual language programs to whole school. Additionally, research shows that the benefits of dual language are independent of language spoken at home or socioeconomic status, making the case for expansion to primarily English speaking populations even stronger. The additional opportunity brought by biliteracy is an added incentive. Improvement in school culture

School culture within at least two of the four schools with a dual language strand is near breaking point with physical and verbal aggression and divisiveness. The strand model creates a competition for the emotional, financial, and space resources of a school. The inherent internal ranking of differing programs within the same building and under the same administration create both real and perceived division which adversely affects school culture. A whole school approach would allow shared vision and goals for the school, strengthening every aspect of the community. Additionally, we know anecdotally that a significant number of students in the English only strand were on the waitlist for the dual language program and less satisfied and less attached to the school as a result of being matched in the English only program. In at least one of the strand schools, a select number of students are permitted to move from the English only program into the dual language program between years at the early grades. This further exacerbates the “them and us” feeling.

Efficient use of school resources
A dual language strand model unnecessarily diverts valuable time and energy away from education and precludes the ability to create a more visible and tangible immersive environment benefiting all children. To emerge as truly bilingual and bi-literate, students need context, exposure and greater opportunity than the strand model allows. Examples are ● Signage and common spaces curated in 2 languages
● Out of time programming offerings in target language
● Assemblies and field trips offering target language exposure throughout the city (currently in the
strand model all field trips must be parallel between programs limiting immersion possibilities)

Equity of Access
Some strand programs are racially and socioeconomically segregated, and at least one school with a dual language program intentionally funnels students who receive special education services into its English only program. We know from initial findings on research by the University of Maryland Foreign Language Center, that dual language programs bring socio-economic and racial diversity to classes and schools. We also know that students that receive special education services can be effectively provided those services in the context of a dual language program. Expanding strands to whole school presents the opportunity to include the African American community traditionally left out of the conversation surrounding dual language and bilingualism. It also presents the opportunity to include students that receive special education services and more English Language Learners who rely on dual language programs to narrow the achievement gap. DCPS has a chance to be a national leader in education equity. Clearer and more robust feeders
By doubling the number of students in dual language programs at schools that already have a dual language strand, DCPS can create clearer and more robust feeders. Additionally, strand programs expanding at the lower grades can bolster world language learning for students in upper grades by creating an environment with greater emphasis on the target language. These older students can be pioneers in re-envisioned feeder systems.
DC Immersion would like to assist DCPS in the transition from strands to whole school programs. Some of the initiatives we see as crucial in advance and throughout the transition are:
– Recruitment and training of dual language ambassadors (along the lines of the successful STEM ambassadors model) to better inform communities in the English only strands about the reasons for the transition both for prospective students and for current students and involve these communities in activities regarding dual language education.
– Professional Development of school leadership, teachers and staff on rationale for transition and tools and supports to ensure a successful transition.
– Community outreach to prospective parents and community at large to educate about dual language programs and alternatives in the unlikely event they prospective parents were not keen on a dual language program (DCPS must have better data on this but DC Immersion believes this eventuality is remote if proper community engagement and education is done around the transition).


Bilingual education benefits all students
In response to a recent article suggesting that the rising popularity of dual language programs could leave Latinos behind, we feel data, research and a broader perspective are needed. This complex topic cannot be reduced to Latinos versus rest of DC residents, nor can it make abstraction from the demographics and segregated geography of the District. The DC Language Immersion Project advocates for bilingual education for everybody , including but not limited to English language learners who are Latinos. We advocate for bilingual education to be systemically integrated into DC’s strategic education plan and this is why.
1. All kids benefit from learning in two languages, regardless of the language spoken at home
Sound longitudinal research shows that by 8th grade children in dual language programs outperform their peers in English reading by an entire school year, regardless of the language spoken at home . That is to say that bilingual education boosts English language learners’ proficiency in English reading just as much as English native speakers’ proficiency in English reading . On the basis of this research, it does not make equitable sense to prioritize one population over another on the basis of language spoken at home or ability to speak English.
2. Linguistic and cultural heritage matter and so do linguistic and cultural understanding
It is crucial that children who speak a language other than English be allowed to retain that language, particularly if their families do not speak English, as language is the basis of close family ties and strong sense of identity . But linguistic and cultural understanding are also the basis of mutual respect and social cohesion. In an increasingly diverse and multilingual District of Columbia, learning in a context in which two languages and cultures have equal footing not only empowers and keeps safe the students who speak languages other than English, but also affects the ability of our native English speakers to engage respectfully with other communities. All students will be more likely
to “see the absurdity in the rants of xenophobes and racists” . Moreover, the notion that the multicultural experience afforded by bilingual education should primarily be available to the kids who somehow already have it is inequitable.
3. Spanish is an important language in this region and country but the District should not be limited by it
While Spanish speakers are an important and growing demographic in the District, not all Latinos are English language learners and not all English language learners in the District are Spanish speakers. Among the region’s English language learners there are significant populations of speakers of Amharic, French, Tagalog, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese and increasingly others. Moreover, the District has important and growing population of emerging bilinguals who might speak English well enough but might be at risk of losing a valuable home language. And then there are entire communities for whom a particular language is an integral part of their heritage, despite their limited ability to speak such language.
For complete article and references please see
4. If the District of Columbia wants to be a global hub, it needs all the bilingual education it can get
The benefits of bilingual education expand well beyond achievement on standardized testing. Bilingual education has positive effects on cognition, executive functioning (aka decision making and behavior) and promotes greater tolerance. Bilinguals command higher salaries and are increasingly in demand in DC’s workforce . In fact, the District of Columbia as a whole has a lot to gain from broadly expanding bilingual education. 5. Schools where half of the students speak the partner language are only one of many successful model
While Two Way Immersion , is desirable and somewhat easier to implement, it should not be held as the golden standard. The District is home to shining examples of successful One Way
Immersion programs, where most of the students are native English speakers, and there are entire states that are successfully pulling off State wide implementation of bilingual education through One Way Immersion. In a highly segregated District of Columbia, stating that One Way Immersion is not effective or desirable, is not only incorrect but ignores the geography and demographics of the District and amounts to say that there should be no bilingual education in approximately half of our city. 6. Last but not least, bilingual education is a gap closing strategy
Despite recent gains in PARCC scores, the achievement gap in the District is widening. Proven strategies that help narrow the achievement gap should be an integral part of the District’s education plan and should be available to students with the lowest proficiencies as a matter of priority.
We believe all students benefit from the multiple advantages of bilingual education and that “there is much to be gained from coming together with a unified voice in support of bilingual and immersion education.” Pitting one population against another on the basis of language spoken at home is not only a slippery slope in these tense racial times but is not backed by research. Instead, the District should be focusing on how to build a bilingual education system where all students have access to the benefits of dual language immersion programs, and where bilingual education is used as a tool to narrow the achievement gap and desegregate our schools.

Published by Suzanne Wells

I work at EPA, and have a son and a daughter. I commute just about everywhere by bike. I like to volunteer in my community, and to knit.


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