On the 2010 ISATs, about 40% of Spanish-speaking students in the Two Way Immersion (TWI) program met standards in reading; the percent was 75% in math.

At Washington School, which has two strands of TWI and a high proportion of Spanish-speaking TWI students, Hispanic students failed to meet the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. The school is now on Year 2 Improvement status, and, as a result, is required to provide public school choice and supplemental education services this year.

Part of the dilemma is that federal law requires that the ISAT be given in English. Under the TWI model, Spanish-speaking students are initially taught core courses in their native language, rather than immersing them in English. Many students are thus not prepared to take the ISAT reading test in English in the early grade levels. Many school districts throughout the State face the same problem.

Board member Jerome Summers asked if it would be preferable to teach Spanish-speaking students English at the earlier grade levels and immerse them in English-language instruction.

Assistant Superintendent Susan Schultz responded, “If we taught them in English at these early levels and did not develop them in their native language, they are less likely to be successful in the middle school and beyond. We are seeing students that we have developed in their native language, that as they transition to English, they are stronger academically and they are doing well.

“Holding true to what our beliefs are, and what we’ve seen happening with our students, we are sticking with this program model because the results that we’re seeing with our students later on are outstanding,” she said.

Mike Robey, assistant superintendent, said, “It’s really about looking long-term at addressing their performance when they reach high school to get them college ready and move beyond.”

When asked by Mr. Summers what happens if the District failed to meet AYP for two or three years, Dr. Murphy responded, “Making AYP does not trump doing what’s best for any individual child.

“What you’re hearing all of us say is we absolutely believe this is the best program for the development of English language proficiency and academic skills in our limited English proficient students.”

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...