What the Rising Popularity in Dual Language Programs Could Mean for Dual Language

January 16, 2015

By Amaya Garcia


Recently, Stanford University researchers Rachel Valentino and Sean Reardon examined the academic achievement of dual language learners enrolled in four types of instructional programs: English Immersion (EI), Transitional Bilingual (TB), Developmental Bilingual (DB), and Dual Immersion (DI). Their study provided a unique picture of how instructional program type influences DLLs’ ELA and Math achievement trajectory from kindergarten entry through middle school. Importantly, it also captures variations between students of different ethnicities (Latino and Chinese) and initial English proficiency levels.

After controlling for student background, and other factors, the researchers uncovered differences in students’ short- and long-term academic growth. At the end of second grade, the ELA scores of students enrolled in dual immersion programs were significantly lower than the scores of those enrolled in English immersion programs. However, as these students progressed through school, those in dual immersion and transitional bilingual began to outperform their peers enrolled in English immersion. Test score growth rates of students in DI programs also “far out-pace[d]” those of language learners in other programs.

Notably, different programs impacted Latino and Chinese students in distinct ways. Chinese students did well in both dual immersion and English immersion settings. Valentino and Reardon suggested that the lack of structural similarity between Chinese and English means more time spent on English instruction may be uniquely beneficial for these students. Or it could be that the implementation of Spanish and Chinese bilingual programs simply differs.