Notes from Ward 6 Speaks – A Community Forum on Language Immersion Programs

Ward 6 Speaks

A Community Forum on Language Immersion Programs

June 11, 2015

Tyler Elementary School

1001 G St., SE, Washington, DC


Ward 6 Speaks was sponsored by the DC Language Immersion Project ( and the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization ( The goals of the evening were for the attendees to leave knowing more about language immersion programs than they knew before coming to the forum, and for them to be able to use what they learn to have further conversations about language immersion programs in Ward 6.

Principal of Tyler Elementary, Mitchell Brunson, welcomed the audience to Tyler and to the evening’s program.

There was a showing of the video Lead with Languages.

Vanessa Bertelli, co-founder of the DC Language Immersion Project, introduced the panelists.

Dr. Robert Slater, Co-Director of American Councils Rsearch Center at American Councils for International Education

Dr. Slater discussed a major, federally-funded study on language immersion programs that is on students in Portland, OR.  This study is looking at the relationship between language immersion programs and academic performance in students in grades K through 8th.  Currently the study is in its third year.  The Portland study is important because most studies to date on language immersion programs have looked at a group of students who self-select for language immersion programs.  There is a random assignment of students into the language immersion programs in Portland, and therefore, the Portland study eliminates selection bias.  In Portland, 4,500 students are in language immersion programs, and 45% of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch.


Research to date has shown cognitive benefits from being in language immersion programs, and the studies suggest language immersion programs have the potential to close the achievement gaps.  Individuals with the ability to speak two or more languages are generally higher academic achievers and have higher earning powers.

The Portland study is looking at student achievement in math, reading, attendance, and retention.  To date, the Portland study is showing positive effects in reading in grades 4 and 6; positive attendance effects in grades 1, 5, and 7.  To date, there have not been positive effects shown for math.  In Portland, families in language immersion programs tend to stay in the school district beyond 1st grade.

Language immersion programs are not panaceas for education.  It takes hard work, including a focus on teacher development.  It is a potentially powerful tool when done right.  It is important to be careful about expansion.  Starting a lot of language immersion programs without the proper support will likely not result in intended benefits.

Pearl You, Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School

Ms. You discussed the highlights, challenges, and next steps facing Yu Ying.  Yu Ying has been in existence for seven years.  It is an International Bacaulaureate school.  39% of the students are African American, 38% White, 6% Hispanic, and 3% Chinese.  The school generally scores in the top 10 on the DC Comprehensive Assessment Test (DC CAS) among all the charter schools.

Yu Ying has a Chinese Literacy Program.  They work in writing, guided reading, listen to reading, read to self, and work hard.

Yu Ying provides home resource support, and a parent portal to help families who don’t speak Chinese at home.

Teacher training consists of 1) pre-service/practicums, internships, student learning; 2) novice/mentor program; and 3) in-service.

Challenges include teacher recruitment, training and retention.  Teachers coming from China have litter experience working with American students or the American pedagogy.  They have been successful hiring students from NYC and University of Maryland.

Sara Arranz and Mieya Timmons, Cleveland Elementary School

Sara discussed the student population at Cleveland Elementary.  51% of the students are at-risk, and 66% of the students are black and 29% Hispanic.

Sara teaches “in” Spanish.  You must respect the “silent” period when children are learning the language.  The second language must be embedded in the content.  There must be a commitment and resources.  The children need a lot of exposure to the second language.  There is a lot of repetition.  You have to simplify the instruction.  They use a project-based approach with a lot of visuals and manipulations.

Where is the magic?  There is a tremendous amount of power in the community of parents, teachers, administrators and students working together.  The data are showing better performance.  Use a data wall, individual plan of work, and blended learning model.

Mieya spoke about the support for families that is provided at Cleveland.

Jimell Sanders, co-founder of DC Immersion Project

Ms. Sanders lives in Ward 7 in the Deanwood community, and is in-bounds for Houston Elementary.   She has a 21-month old child.

The DC Immersion Project wants to help ensure all Wards have the option of language immersion programs.  She suggested getting in contact with other parents to find out if they are interested.  It is imperative that the principal be supportive.  You also need to educate teachers at the school.  It is a process; there must be multiple conversations in the community.  Talk with prospective and current parents in the community.  Language immersion programs take money.  The DC area has so many resources, e.g., organizations that could help support language immersion programs.  Ms. Sanders said it has taken about 18 months to begin the language immersion program at Houston Elementary.

Katarina Brito, DCPS Bilingual Program Developer, Language Acquisition Division

Bilingual language immersion programs were originally intended to serve English language learners, and getting them to learn English was the goal.

Bilingual instruction benefits all students.  DCPS has made great strides in language immersion offerings.  In 2003, there was one dual-language immersion program in DCPS with 400 students in grades pre-K to 6th.  In 2015 there are nine dual language programs serving 3000 students in grades preK-3 to 11th grade.

DCPS has also committed to Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES) where all students are exposed to one or more classes a week in another language.

DCPS has formed an Office of Global Education.

Soon there will be a focused middle school, McFarland, and high school, Roosevelt.  DCPS is starting a Seal of Bi-literacy for student who graduate with proficiency in a second language.

DCPS is exploring ways to bringing sustainable and carefully designed dual language programs to underserved communities.

DCPS is encouraging school leaders and communities to explore dual language; there need to be whole school community conversations.

DCPS has put in place a Dual Language Application.  It is a multi-year process.

Io Ken, 4th grade student at Tyler Elementary’s Spanish Immersion Program

Hola.  Me llamo Io y soy una estudiante en la escuela Tyler en la clase de cuarto grado.

Tengo una pregunta para ustedes.  Cuales son los beneficios de aprender un segundo idioma?

Voy a empezar con mis razones.

Primero, aprendiendo un segundo idioma puedo tener conversaciones con personas que no hablan mi idioma nativo.

Segundo, aprendiendo otro idioma como el español es mas fácil aprender un otro idioma similar.

Tercero, si sabes muchas idiomas puedes ir a otros países y hablar el idioma.  Por ejemplo, mi familia y yo vamos a viajar a Chile para seis meses.

Cuarto, saber otros idiomas puede ayudar con su confidencia.  Mi amiga Amina dice “aunque no lo dices supercorrecto, hay personas que no pueden decir “uno””!

Cinco, para muchas personas es “cool”!

Mas importante que todo, investigaciones científicas dicen que aprender un segundo idioma puede ayudar tu cerebro a ser mejor, mas rapido.

Yo no estoy aquí para disfrutar la atención, sino para asegurarme que todos niños en nuestro país puedan tener las mismas oportunidades y posibilidades que yo tengo en la programa de inmersión.  Un segundo idioma te ayuda a comprender ideas en una manera mejor.  Así que podemos ser como niños en muchísimos otros países del mundo que ya aprenden dos idiomas o mas.


(English Translation)

Hello.  My name is Io, and I am a student at Tyler Elementary in the 4th grade.
I asked myself a question, and maybe a question all of you could ask yourself.  What are the benefits of students learning another language?  Let me start with my reasons.

First, learning a second language can help you converse with people who don’t speak your native language.

Second, learning a second language, such as Spanish, can help you learn other similar languages.

Third, if you know multiple languages you can travel to other countries and speak the language.  For example, my family and I are moving to Chile for six months.

Fourth, learning other languages can boost you confidence.  My best friend Amina says, “Even if you mess up, some people can’t even say uno.”

Fifth, socially it’s cool.

But the most important reasons is that research shows learning a second language can help you organize your mind and process things better and faster.

I am here not for the attention, but to make sure that every kid can have the opportunities and possibilities I have in the dual-language program.  A second language helps you understand concepts better.  And we will be like kids all over the world that learn at least two languages.

CHPSPO Meeting Notes – June 16, 2015

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization

Jefferson Academy

June 16, 2015

1. Public Education Reform Amendment Act (PERRA) Roundtable (June 22)

We discussed the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences Summative Evaluation of the District of Columbia’s Public Schools. This evaluation was on the Public Education Reform Amendment Act (PERAA) of 2007 that gave control of the public schools to the mayor, established the office of Chancellor of DCPS, and established the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME), the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the State Board of Education (SBOE).

The report found significant areas of concern regarding 1) the lack of an entity that can support interagency coordinations, i.e., information sharing, collaboration and support, 2) the lack of data infrastructure that could support interagency coordination; and 3) lack of coordination between OSSE, SBOE and the DME. The report found coordination among DCPS and the charter schools “is also limited.”

Individual CHPSPO members are planning to submit written comments or testify regarding concerns with lack of accountability for the public charter schools, the need for open data, the need for a cross-sector task force that has “real teeth behind it,” and that public charter schools should be subject to FOIA requirements.

2. Ward 6 Education Town Hall meeting (June 24)

The State Board of Education was not asked to co-sponsor the Town Hall meeting that was scheduled by Councilmember Grosso.

Individuals are asked to RSVP and post topics they’d like to discuss online.

There is expected to be a discussion about the “tool” the Education Committee developed that set out criteria to determine the prioritization for school modernization funds. Concerns with the criteria dealing with enrollment were discussed. This criteria leads to investments in large, established schools, and delays investments in schools that are small, but trying to build their populations. There are significant concerns with the data that were used to populate the tool. The tool does not look at basic education specs, e.g., does the school have adequate lighting, are there science labs, are the acoustics adequate for learning, etc. Concern was expressed that there was not adequate public input into a tool that has such far reaching implications.

Topics also suggested for discussion were expansion of language immersion programs, and siting of new public charter schools.

3. Ward 6 Speaks

We discussed the Ward 6 Forum on Language Immersion that was held June 11. About 40 people attended the forum, and attendees felt the information provided by the panel on the positive impacts on student achievement was very informative. At the forum, there was discussion about the possibility

of expanding the Tyler Spanish Immersion program within the school, and prospective parent efforts to start a Mandarin Immersion program at Miner.

It was decided CHPSPO would establish a Language Immersion Committee to 1) share information among schools seeking to expand/establish language immersion programs, 2) to develop recommendations across Ward 6 regarding language immersion programs, and 3) to inform and support city-wide language immersion efforts.

The following volunteered to be members of the committee: Gimbiya Lin, Tammy Alexander, Erin Roth, and Suzanne Wells. We will seek additional members.

Next CHPSPO Meeting:  July 21, 2015

Upcoming Events

June 22 – Public Education Reform Amendment Act (PERRA), Roundtable Part II – 11am

This is the continuation of a public roundtable on the summative evaluation of public schools in the District of Columbia as required by the Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007. Copies of the National Academy of Sciences report can be found here. Contact Ade Adenariwo at by close of business Thursday, June 18 to testify.

June 24 – Education Committee Chairman David Grosso’s Ward 6 Education Town Hall together with Councilmember Charles Allen, 6:30-8:30pm, SW Library, 900 Wesley Place SW.

July 3 – 4th of July Parade, Barracks Row.  The Barracks Row 4th of July Parade falls on a Friday this year.   Contact Phil Guire  (  for more information on the parade.

July 8 – DC Council Roundtable: DGS Contracting and Procurement Practices for Constructing and Modernizing District of Columbia Public Schools, 11am, Room 500.  Contact Aukima Benjamin, staff assistant to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, at (202) 724-8062 or Persons representing organizations will have five minutes to present their testimony. Individuals will have three minutes to present their testimony.

Language Immersion In Urban Public Schools – December 4, 6-8 PM @ MLK Library

Language Immersion In Urban Public Schools: Exploring The Benefits & Challenges

(co-hosted by the DC Public Library, DC State Board of Education and the DC Language Immersion Project)

Thursday, Dec 4, 2014


MLK Library – 901 G St. NW

You are invited to join us for a panel discussion with a focus on the benefits and challenges of implementing language immersion programs in our public elementary schools – both charter and traditional public schools. This discussion is not only meant to highlight the overall value of language immersion but also is designed to be a forum that will engage all stakeholders in a way that will move toward collaborative strategic planning to expand language immersion offerings in public schools in the District of Columbia.


  • Marty Abbott – American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
  • Delores Millhouse and Gina Bowler – My Bilingual Child
  • Maquita Alexander –Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School
  • Lynn Fulton-Archer –World Language Immersion, Delaware Department of Education
  • Sally Schwartz – Globalize DC
  • Donna Sothern, Spanish Immersion Teacher – Cleveland Elementary, DC Public Schools



DC Language Immersion Project Flyer