Where to find K12 curriculum in other languages

What schools are doing after they embrace dual-language immersion programs
By: | April 11, 2017

The challenge of finding curriculum materials in languages other than English is especially complex for districts embracing a growing trend: dual-language immersion programs, in which native English speakers join English language learners in studying academic subjects in two languages.

Nine years ago, Utah launched an ambitious effort to enroll thousands of students in dual-language immersion, in hopes of creating a bilingual generation. Today, the state—in collaboration with textbook publishers and overseas educators—is spending more than $3 million to develop curriculum, train teachers and create materials in six languages.

“It’s been a huge undertaking, and we have a huge team that works on it” says Gregg Roberts, dual language immersion specialist for the Utah State Board of Education. “Resources in Spanish are not a problem. However, try to go find a third-grade Portuguese literacy program or a second-grade French math lesson.”

In the Seattle Public Schools, which offer dual-language immersion programs in Spanish, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, teachers mine the internet for content that can be aligned with state standards and adapted for American students’ use.

And for some subjects, they have no choice but to create their own materials, says Michele Aoki, Seattle’s international education administrator.

“There’s not really anything about Washington state history in Japan” Aoki says. “These things are all going to be adapted locally.”

The growing interest in dual-language immersion programs suggests the once-hostile political attitude toward bilingual education is changing, scholars say. As the economy has globalized, more middle-class, English-speaking parents think bilingualism will give their children an edge in the job market.

Roberts expects enrollment in Utah’s dual-language immersion programs to reach 40,000 students next year, a 25 percent increase.

“There’s really a lot of momentum behind dual-immersion programs—English-speaking families wanting their kids in dual-language programs” says Ilana Umansky, an assistant professor in the University of Oregon’s School of Education. “The stigma attached to education in two languages is really diminishing very quickly.”

Deborah Yaffe is a freelance writer in New Jersey.