What Does the Research Say About Dual Language Immersion?

Dual language programs are the most impressive forms of education being offered in the United States, and there is a significant increase in demand for these programs throughout the country.  I thought I’d summarize the research about dual language programs in this blog post and include links to the longer research reports for parents who are interested in conducting their own analysis. We are excited about implementing a research-based dual language immersion program at Empower and will support parents and students every step of the way.

Summary of Research:

-Native English speakers often meet or exceed the performance of their peers participating in a monolingual program, with the added benefit of being bilingual.

-Students participating in dual language programs develop multicultural competencies along with social skills.

-Dual language programs are the most effective in closing the achievement gap.

-More English does not mean better results in English reading or writing, for both native English Speakers and native Spanish Speakers. Test results show that most dual language schools outperform their other demographically similar schools, the state, and local school district.

-There are additional cognitive benefits, including delayed onset of Alzheimer’s for bilingual children. Their brains are flexible and require increased levels of concentration not typical of a monolingual brain.


Excerpts from Research

Most Impressive Form of Education – Gets Results

Well-implemented two-way immersion programs are among the most impressive forms of education available in the United States. Students who participate in these programs gain grade level academic ability, well-developed language and literacy skills in two languages, and cross-cultural competence.” 1

 “ . . . high school students who participated in the two-way program achieved high levels of academic competence and motivation; developed ambitions to go to college and knowledge about how to pursue college; were proud to be bilingual and continued to use Spanish after they finished the program; and were very satisfied with the education they received in the two-way program.” 2

Strong Social Skills with Multicultural Values and Resiliency

“Second, the results point to the development of a sense of “resiliency” among the Hispanic, particularly ELL and low income, students. These students have developed or appear to possess many of the characteristics of “resilient” students, described

earlier in this report. These include certain internal traits, such as high self esteem, a motivation to study hard, and a belief in one’s academic competence; the perception of a positive school environment; a supportive family that places a high value on education and influences and monitors the education of their children; and a peer group that values education and does not use drugs.” 2

 “Bilingual kids are also better at “theory of mind” – the ability to imagine what others are thinking and feeling. Theory of mind is closely related to empathy – or “emotional intelligence,” as Howard Gardner put it – a trait that is essential in forming strong relationships and negotiating the social world. Because our personal and professional lives depend to such a great extent on interpersonal relationships, an advanced theory of mind is, to a great extent, a recipe for happiness and success.” 6

Highly Effective for ALL students of ALL backgrounds

“Despite receiving instruction in English for no more than 50% of class time, Inter-American students consistently attain high levels of achievement in English reading and writing, math, science, and social studies. Especially compelling is the continued high achievement of low-income LEP students in English reading and writing as they progress through the grade levels. In addition, all students develop proficiency in Spanish .  . .both English-dominant and Spanish-dominant students learn another language with no negative consequences for their academic, linguistic, or intellectual development.”  3

“ . . .native English speakers, including African American students, not only scored higher than their monolingually educated peers, but they also acquired a second language for their lifelong use.” 5

The ONLY program for English learners that CLOSES THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP

“Enrichment dual language schooling closes the academic achievement gap in L2 and in

first language (L1) students initially below grade level, and for all categories of students participating in this program. This is the only program for English learners that fully closes the gap; in contrast, remedial models only partially close the gap.” 4


References for Further Reading:

1. Two-Way Immersion Education: The Basics



2.  Effects of an Elementary Dual Language Immersion School Program on Junior High School Achievement



3. Senesac, B. V. K. (2002). Two-way bilingual immersion: A portrait of

quality schooling. Bilingual Research Journal, 26(1), 1-26.


4.  The Astounding Effectiveness of Dual Language Education for All



5.  The Multiple Benefits of Dual Language



6.  Bilingualism Will Supercharge Your Baby’s Brain







Enrollment Process

Welcome to the Empower Charter School Family! Enrolling is easy, just fill out the enrollment form  here. 

Step 1- Complete enrollment form between Jan 1, 2014 and April 30, 2014. (Located here.)

Step 2- If any grade level receives more applications than we have space for, Empower will hold a public random drawing to determine admission for the impacted grade level.  More information is below relating to the details of the public random drawing.

Step 3- In May, we will contact you to let you know your child’s admission status. All children are admitted as space allows.

Step 4- We will contact you with dates and times of the annual orientation session, which every parent/guardian is required to attend. We will have a variety of dates/times available to accommodate a wide variety of schedules. The purpose of this session is to provide opportunities for families to ask questions and become familiar with the school facility and community.

Step 5-  After admission, a parent or guardian must complete and/or provide all documents required for enrollment in a public school including but not limited to immunization records, proof of residency, birth certificate, release of records, emergency medical information form, and a home language survey.

Step 6- After admission, for parents enrolling their child in the dual-language immersion program, the school will conduct an interview with student and parent. For students enrolling as Spanish speakers, a simple assessment may be given to determine their language proficiency. This meeting will explain what to expect from a child learning in two languages and will provide strategies to support the child. Many different appointment times will be offered to accommodate a wide range of schedules.

Step 7- After admission, the student and the parents must sign statements indicating that they are familiar with and agree to abide by all policies and procedures set forth in the Parent and Student Handbooks.

Details Regarding the Public Random Drawing


Admission preferences in the case of a public random drawing shall be given to the following students in the following order:

1. Residents within the boundaries of San Diego Unified School District

  • Siblings of current students
  • Children of founding members or founding trustees of the Charter School (not to exceed 10% of total enrollment)
  • Children of current full-time staff members
  • To maintain and strengthen the dual immersion model, Spanish-speaking students will be recruited and will be given preferential admission up to 50% of the positions available in each grade.
  • All other in-district students

2. Residents outside the boundaries of San Diego Unified School District

  • Siblings of current students
  • Children of founding members or founding trustees of the Charter School (not to exceed 10% of total enrollment)
  • Children of current full-time staff members
  • To maintain and strengthen the dual immersion model, Spanish-speaking students will be recruited and will be given preferential admission up to 50% of the positions available in each grade.
  • All other out-of-district students

3. All other students as permitted by law

Rules and Procedures for Public Random Lottery

• All interested parties will know, prior to the holding of the lottery, how many openings are available in the school for each Spanish pathway and in the different grades served by the school.

• The lottery will take place on the school’s campus in a facility large enough to allow all interested parties to observe the drawing, or at another public venue near the school large enough to accommodate all interested parties.

• Interested parties will complete an enrollment form during the Open Enrollment Period from Jan 1st-April 30th in order to participate in the lottery, if one is needed.

• The lottery will take place on a weekday evening or other time when most interested parties are available, within 30 days of closing the open enrollment period.

• The lottery shall draw names from pools of ballots differentiated by grade level and Spanish pathway desired.

• Applicants will be admitted in the order their names are drawn at random.

• Grade level vacancies are filled in priority order.

• Once capacity has been reach for a grade, the names are placed on a waiting list in the order in which they were drawn.

• An adult citizen of good standing, not otherwise employed by the School, will testify in writing, under penalty of perjury, that he or she personally witnessed the lottery pursuant to the above, and that it was random, public and fairly executed as described above. This documentation will be on file in the ECS main office and available upon request.

• All applicants who are admitted to the school will receive notification in writing by U.S. mail and will receive five business days to respond to the Office Manager either in writing, in person or by phone, fax or e-mail of their intention to accept or decline the offer for enrollment. If there is no response after five business days, a phone call will be made to the prospective applicant on two separate occasions and then the vacancies will be considered declined and the application will be withdrawn and will be offered to the next student on the waiting list.

• Vacancies that become available during the school year will be filled in order from the numbered applicants on the waiting list. In the event there are no applicants on the waiting list, new students may apply to enter the school. The parent/guardian of a new student after the school year has started will be required to attend one orientation/informational meeting with the Executive Director or another designated staff member to ensure communication of the school’s mission, educational program, and requirements.

• All waiting lists extinguish annually at the end of the School’s formal academic year, or as otherwise determined by the ECS Board of Trustees.

What Does a Day in the Life of an Empower Student Look Like?

A typical “Day in the Life of a First Grade Student at Empower Charter School” might look like this:

Marisol arrives 15 minutes before school starts on Monday. She bounces out of the car and through the front doors of Empower Charter School, where she makes her way out to the playground and joins the other first graders. She walks past students in other grade levels who gather at their designated areas, and notices the familiar sounds of Spanish and English sprinkled in their casual conversation.

Coming out to the playground Marisol sees her friends playing a game of Sharks and Minnows, facilitated by her friend’s mom.

“You got this, keep running!” Mrs. Mendez, the second grade teacher, cheers from the sidelines. Mrs. Mendez is outside every Monday morning to supervise kids who get there a little early, but who aren’t enrolled in the YMCA’s before school program. Tomorrow is Tuesday, which means it will be Marisol’s teacher, Mr. Esparza’s turn to supervise kids in the morning.

Marisol puts her backpack down and hurries to join the “minnows,” dashing from one side of the playground to the other, avoiding the “sharks” in their pursuit. Soon the whistle blows. Smiling and energized, Marisol picks up her backpack and watches for Mr. Esparza to walk her class inside.

Mr. Esparza uses a calm and quiet voice to focus the class. He reminds them in Spanish to take out their non-fiction books and last night’s research notes, quickly store their other belongings, and join him in their spots at the carpet. Marisol takes three books about whales out of her backpack, along with a stack of sticky notes where she made drawings to record her thinking as she read and studied pictures. She’s careful to model what she’s doing for Mark, her Language Arts partner who is just beginning to learn Spanish. He follows her example, and together, they make their way to the carpet.

Marisol is glad that Spanish Language Arts is first on the agenda because she loves the project she’s working on. She’s writing and illustrating her very own information book about whales. She started by selecting a non-fiction topic to write about. Mr. Esparza helped find books and information about her topic at her just-right reading level so that she could research to write her own book. Now Mr. Esparza is teaching Marisol and her friends how to read non-fiction books, take notes, and notice the structure of other authors’ work. These reading skills support their writing. After a lesson about how to organize research notes into categories that form chapters, Marisol and Mark take their clipboards and sticky notes and find a quiet corner in the classroom to try it themselves. Just before recess Mr. Esparza brings the class together and a few students share their work. Mr. Esparza tells them that on their return from recess, they will continue to read and research, adding information to the categories they made.

Marisol is ready to play! On the playground there are 2 facilitated games to choose from, each being run by a parent volunteer. Marisol decides to play wall ball, and almost before she knows it, she’s worn out and ready for reading time. Her class heads back inside, and she quickly settles into her spot in the classroom where books about whales and sticky notes await. In Spanish she reads and studies pictures and sentences, adding information to her categories as she goes, noticing that many of the published authors she reads use chapters, just like she plans to!

After Spanish Language Arts comes math in Spanish. Marisol’s class is working on building fluency with number pairs to ten, and they are exploring the question, “How many ways can we represent the number ten?”. Students work in small groups to count objects, draw models, write number sentences and finally play a game to help them understand ten and different ways to make it. Mr. Esparza has a group of students in a circle, practicing representing ten on whiteboards. Similar to before, the classroom continues to feel like a team as children work together, discuss, and make meaning through strategically designed experiences.

Marisol’s class heads to lunch first.  Mr. Esparza has taught them that making colorful plates with fruits and vegetables is really healthy, and Marisol likes trying to make her plate look like a rainbow. After eating, there is a little time for recess and she decides to play jump rope. The jump ropes are new, she had walked by the office the other day when the Director was thanking a man wearing a gym t-shirt for donating them.

After lunch, there’s just a little bit of math time left. This is when Marisol’s class practices writing about math in their math journals. They debrief the lesson they did before lunch, naming the big learning for the day, and then Mr. Esparza helps them to write about it in Spanish. Marisol likes her math journal; it’s a collection of important math words, ideas, and pictures that help her remember all she’s learned.

Next it’s time for Language Arts in English. Marisol finds her place at the carpet next to Mark, and Mr. Esparza teaches the class about the different sounds that “a” makes in English. There are 2, and they’re both different from how “a” sounds in Spanish! Mark models correct pronunciation of the sounds for Marisol as they practice. Next Marisol and Mark work together to read words with “a” and sort them by long or short sound. Then, Mr. Esparza guides the class to read them in a shared reading of a poem.

After that it’s back out to recess, and Marisol is glad! As a first grader it’s hard to sit through a long afternoon without getting tired. This time she plays a quick game of “Red Light, Green Light!” with her friends before coming inside to English Language Development. Since it’s the beginning of the school year and the first graders are just getting to know everyone, the class is working on greetings. Mr. Esparza has charted different greetings that people use in English. The class talks about when, how, and with whom to use the greetings. They make 2 concentric circles to practice: the outer circle rotates around the inner circle, and pairs of students practice greeting each other depending on a slightly different scenario that Mr. Esparza gives each time. It’s fun! They get to move, talk, and pretend!

Science (taught in Spanish) comes next, and Marisol is excited. This is certainly going to help her with the book she’s writing because Mr. Esparza thoughtfully made the class study of life science coincide with their non-fiction writing about living things. Mark is able to understand the lesson because most of the words are similar to their nonfiction study in Spanish Language Arts. Today the class is talking about survival needs, and tomorrow will connect survival needs with habitat. Marisol can’t wait to see how whales fit in!

The day is almost over. By now Marisol has exercised, practiced 2 languages, improved socialization skills, developed conceptual understanding across disciplines, made applications of those concepts, and had the opportunity to reflect on her learning across subjects. Before the class meeting at the end of the day, Mr. Esparza brings the class outside for Physical Education. Capitalizing on a love they’ve demonstrated, he is teaching students the rules and positions of a formal soccer game, and engaging them in structured play. After today’s game is over, Marisol is well-exercised and tired. The class comes in for a final class meeting, where Mr. Esparza is teaching students to become self-reflective. Marisol thinks about what she accomplished today and of what she feels most proud. She shares with others. As a class, they list today’s successes and Marisol and her friends set personal and classroom community goals for tomorrow.

What it takes to be a good parent

Do you know what it takes to be a good parent?

I don’t know many who would say there is a single definition all parents would agree upon. Mostly that is because there are so many different philosophies about parenting. There are those who swear by attachment parenting, and others who refute that approach as being too coddling. There are parents who feel that parenting properly means guiding your children every step of the way, pushing them to push themselves and at times making choices for them rather than letting them choose. There are parents who believe in the value of strict discipline, and others who focus more on positive reinforcement to the exclusion of punishment or negative reinforcement. And then there are a host of cultural and societal factors that play into determining what is considered to be right or wrong parenting. I think that most parents would agree though that consistency makes for good parenting, nurturing, addressing basic needs as best you can, and keeping your children safe from harm are also pretty universal concepts. However, here is something many parents forget when trying to define what help them be a good parent: self-care.



You can’t just decide you’re not hungry…

One of the biggest changes that occurs at the time of becoming a parent is the loss of freedom. For the first real time in most people lives they become accountable to someone else at all times. Being a parent means always having to plan and prepare for someone else’s needs first. You can’t just decide you don’t feel hungry and skip making a meal for your children, nor can you decide you want to sleep in and leave them to their own devices to get to school (well not in the beginning at least). Being a parent means that in the back of your mind you are always worrying about someone else, and often times you are doing so to the detriment of your own needs. Here’s the thing, if you are not well taken care of then you can’t really take care of others well. If you are tired, run down, dissatisfied, over-scheduled then you are exhausting precious resources just trying to get by. Those resources are not available for all the people you take care of, no matter what you may think. I constantly remind patients of mine who are caretakers (parents or other) that the first person whose needs they have to meet are their own. 



 Feeling-up to being a super hero?

If you are unconvinced at this point ask yourself the following question:When are you more patient? When you are well rested or tired and haggard from running 15 different errands? When are you more fun to be around? Or when are you able to truly enjoy and immerse yourself in play and activities with your children? Last question, when do you find yourself raising your voice or doling out a dozen unrealistic consequences? Most parents will say that they are at their best after having had some kind of down time, whether it be resting or doing something for themselves. They will also say that they are at their worst or least ideal when they are tired, when they feel like they have been carting their families around all day, or running errands without a break for fun. It is no wonder that evenings are so difficult in most households -everyone is tired and therefore everyone is at their worst.


So if you ever wonder what makes a good parent here is a little piece of advice, a good parent is, among other things, a parent who takes care of themselves as well as they take care of others. Take the time every day for yourself, whether it is for five minutes or two hours every little bit counts. Ask yourself what you have been missing the most: maybe it’s five minutes of peace at the start of your day, or 15 minutes to listen to some music, maybe (and this is a favorite assignment of  mine) it’s 30 minutes of down time when you step through the door at the end of the day before you have to start thinking about dinner, homework, art projects, bath time, bedtime routines and getting lunch ready for the next day. If you remain skeptical at this point, why not run an little experiment. Try taking those five, 15 or 30 minutes for the next week and see whether you like you parenting any better, maybe even ask the kids what they thought of daddy or mommy at the end of the week.

What is a charter school?

A charter school?! Sounds exciting. But what are they?

Charter schools are free, public schools that offer parents more choice in their child’s education. Charter schools have the freedom to operate with autonomy, but with that comes an increased level of accountability for showing students are successful. Charter schools mainly receive funding from the state and federal government, but often need to raise additional funds to support their educational program. (Have you noticed us bugging you to donate to our school?)

We noticed the Q & A below from another charter school’s website, and know you’ll find it helpful, too! 

What is a charter school?
A charter school is an independent public school that operates independently of the district board of education. In effect, a charter school is a one-school public school district. A group of people — educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs or others — write the charter plan describing the school’s guiding principles, governance structure, and applicable accountability measures. If the state approves the charter, the state funds the charter on a per pupil basis. In most cases charter schools operate under a clear agreement between the state and the school: increased autonomy in exchange for increased accountability. Because they are schools of choice, they are held to the highest level of accountability — consumer demand.*
Why are charter schools so popular?
Proponents believe charter schools provide better opportunities for child-centered education and more educational choices for their children. Operators have the opportunity and the incentive to create schools that provide new and better services to students. And charters, bound by the high standards they have set for themselves, inspire the rest of the system to work harder and be more responsive to the needs of the children.*
Do charter schools work?
Every charter is different, and may of them are new. But their general success is consistent. An August 2001 report from the Center for Education Reform found that in 65 research studies done on charter schools, 61 found that charters overall provided innovative, accountable and successful. To read CER’s 2003 summary of charter school research findings—overwhelmingly supporting the viability and success of charters—see What the Research Reveals About Charter Schools.*
How do charter schools differ from traditional public schools?
Charter schools operate from 3 basic principles:

Accountability: Charter schools are held accountable for how well they educate children in a safe and responsible environment, not for compliance with district and state regulations. They are judged on how well they meet the student achievement goals established by their charter, and how well they manage the fiscal and operational responsibilities entrusted to them. Charter schools must operate lawfully and responsibly, with the highest regard for equity and excellence. If they fail to deliver, they are closed.

Choice: Parents, teachers, community groups, organizations, or individuals interested in creating a additional educational opportunities for children can start charter schools. Local and state school boards, colleges and universities, and other community agencies can sponsor them. Students choose to attend, and teachers choose to teach at charter schools.

Autonomy: Charter schools are freed from the traditional bureaucracy and regulations that some feel divert a school’s energy and resources toward compliance rather than excellence. Proponents of charter schools argue that instead of jumping through procedural hoops and over paperwork hurdles, educators can focus on setting and reaching high academic standards for their students.*

What is the difference between charter schools and private voucher schools?
Voucher plans allow parents to use their tax dollars that would otherwise be used to educate their child in a public school and apply those dollars towards tuition at a private or religious school. These schools may charge some amount beyond the voucher and may not have to accept all applicants, depending on the voucher program guidelines. Charter schools, on the other hand, are public schools that allow parents to exercise an option to have their child educated at a school outside of the traditional district system. Charter schools must accept all students on first come-first served basis or by lottery and cannot charge tuition.*
Do charter schools take money from public schools?
Charter schools are public schools. When a child leaves for a charter school the money follows that child. Proponents say this benefits the public school system by instilling a sense of accountability into the system regarding its services to the student and parents and its fiscal obligations. For more information on common misconceptions surrounding charter schools, see CHARTER SCHOOLS: Six Common Criticisms from Opponents—and Proof That They are Unfounded.*
* “Closing the Achievement Gap.” PBS.org. 04 Aug 2009. PBS. 4 Aug 2009 <http://www.pbs.org/closingtheachievementgap/faq.html#q1>.
Translate »