The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

My quest to learn the musical instrument struck a chord much greater than the beautiful sound of a perfect stroke.
I decided to learn the guitar, but I walked away learning more about life
Bella Edmondson, Staff Editor • June 19, 2024
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Increase in Hispanics in Texas leads to dual-language schools

A group of first and second grade boys stand in front of Lakewood Elementary School in Dallas, only minutes after their school day has ended. The boys are engaging in impromptu wrestling matches and one-up competitions.

The group, a hearty mix of Caucasians and Hispanics, has one important thing in common: they share an elementary classroom where they’re learning two languages.

Jonathan Jungerman, 7, is one of the students enrolled in a dual literacy program at Lakewood Elementary. A first grade student, Jonathan spends three-quarters of his school day in classes taught in Spanish, with the remaining classes taught in English.

“Mi favorito clase es Miss Leal’s,” Jonathan said in reference to his class taught by Mabel Leal.

Recent census data shows that the Hispanic population in Texas has increased 41.8 percent since 2000. Subsequently, non-Hispanic parents are taking note of this population shift and opting to have their children instructed in both Spanish and English.

Jonathan’s mother, Dabney Jungerman, is one such parent. She enrolled her son when he was two years old in the Spanish Schoolhouse, a full-time program for preschoolers.

She then elected to enroll him in the dual literacy program at Lakewood when he began kindergarten.

“We live in a state that has a very high Spanish speaking population, so it makes sense for our kids to know Spanish,” Jungerman said.

According to the Texas Education Code, Chapter 29 says that the state requires students who are not fluent in English to take bilingual education courses.

But many schools, like Lakewood, are slowly turning their English as a second language (ESL) classes into dual literacy classes where Spanish speakers and English speakers are together learning both languages.

Mabel Leal, a first grade teacher at Lakewood and one of Jonathan’s favorite teachers, instructs her first grade class in both Spanish and English.

As a Hispanic, she says that she sees the dual literacy program as a huge asset to students.

“I think everybody should have the right to learn two languages; not just a privileged group,” Leal said. Leal says that her experience teaching the bilingual program has been very positive. She finds it rewarding to hear the English speaking children engage with Spanish.

“Listening or hearing the English speakers speak Spanish, just even if it’s one word or maybe not even speak but understand what you’re saying—that’s awesome,” Leal said.

Dr. Bill Pulte is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at SMU and has coordinated the teacher certification program in bilingual education at SMU since 1975.

He says that the number of districts in the state that are implementing dual literacy programs has tripled in recent years.

“Here in Dallas, what other type of setting or program can you think of where an English speaking child at the age of five or six could enroll in a program for free and come out proficient in let’s say Spanish? So I think that’s the main motivation for the parents of English speaking kids,” Pulte said.

In Leal’s class at Lakewood, like most dual literacy classes in the state, there exists an equal distribution of Spanish speakers and English speakers.

Some parents who speak both Spanish and English are opting for the dual literacy program in order to reinforce both languages spoken at home.

Elyse Calderon is a Caucasian woman married to a Hispanic man, both of whom are bilingual with Spanish and English spoken in their home. Calderon says that reinforcement of both languages was the primary motivation for enrolling her son, Matteo, 6, in the dual literacy program at Lakewood.

“We’re bilingual at the house, so it was like anything to keep that going when I’m not around. Really it’s just to keep the language alive and continue the work that we’ve already done,” Calderon said.

Richard Garcia has two children enrolled in the dual literacy program at Lakewood, Richard, 8 and Samuel, 7.

Both Garcia and his wife are bilingual Hispanics, but their mothers are Spanish speakers only. Garcia says that he wants his boys to be able to communicate with their grandmothers.

“That’s one of the things that we [he and his wife] agreed upon that when they grow up, they’re going to be fluent in Spanish,” Garcia said.

Julio Romero, a kindergarten teacher at Lakewood, says that the dual literacy program works best when the children have support at home to reinforce the dual language skills taught at school.

He says that children in Texas will naturally speak English with their peers.

“Kiddos, most of the time, are going to tend to speak English outside of the classroom. It’s not like they’re going to be teaching the other kids to be speaking Spanish,” Romero said. “It’s the other way around. They’re going to be learning and acquiring English more rapidly.”

Kristen Font enrolled her three daughters in the Spanish Schoolhouse for their preschool years to expose them to a second language from the earliest age possible.

“If you don’t have any Spanish in your home, you can’t provide that for them. I put them in so they could be fully immersed in it,” she said.

But Font says that she doesn’t see many children using Spanish outside of school unless another person is actively conversing with them.

She says that other parents she knows hire Spanish-speaking nannies as a way to expose their young children to the language.

Jungerman says that she sees one benefit of children learning a second language is an increase in academic test scores.

“If it was up to me, I would have every public school have dual literacy because there’s no downside,” Jungerman said.

Jungerman says that she sees society changing and thinks that people who don’t know a second language are less likely to venture out and live in another country. She plans on introducing her son Jonathan to a third language in a few years and is considering one of the Asian languages.

Pulte affirms that the benefits of dual literacy programs go beyond the individual child’s growth and development and extends into society.

“In the dual language program, kids will help each other. It creates a climate of cooperation that extends across the language boundaries and it really extends across cultural differences. And perhaps that bodes well for our society in the future where it’s going to be more and more important for members of different ethnic groups to cooperate and collaborate,” Pulte said.

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