language learning

City to add or expand 40 dual-language programs

PHOTO: Jessica Glazer
Students in a Spanish-English dual language program at P.S. 103 Dos Puentes Elementary School.

Twenty-five schools will add dual-language programs this fall, and 15 more will expand their programs, Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Wednesday.

The programs will be supported by $1 million in federal funds, and will include instruction in French, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Japanese, Mandarin, and Spanish. The 25 new programs, part of Fariña’s broader effort to improve instruction for English language learners, will continue a steady expansion of dual-language offerings for the city.

Fariña has said for months that she planned to expand dual-language programs, but the announcement, made at the United Federation of Teachers headquarters, provided the first concrete details about the effort. Twenty-three of the 40 new and expanding programs are in elementary schools, 13 are in middle schools, and three will be in high schools, according to city officials. 

“My hope is to double and triple the number of schools involved in bilingualism and biculturalism,” Fariña said in September.

The city operates more than 480 bilingual programs, but only a subset of those are dual-language, in which instruction is in both English and the second language with the goal of making all students bilingual. Those programs have been increasing in popularity, especially among parents who otherwise might seek out gifted and talented programs for their students.

The city had 90 dual-language programs in 2011, added 33 more between 2011 and 2012, and another 29 opened in 2013, according to city reports. Still, the vast majority of the city’s English language learners, who account for one in seven students in the city school system, have been in classrooms that focus on English-language instruction. 

Fariña’s new director of the the office of English Language Learners, Milady Baez, is an expert in dual-language education, and the city agreed to increase enrollment in bilingual programs in a November pact with state officials.

The move comes as recent graduation rates from English language learners dropped from 41.5 percent to 32.5 percent from 2010 to 2014, even as overall graduation rates rose.

Here’s the list of schools launching or expanding their dual-language programs in fall 2015:


    • PS 333, the Museum School
    • PS 53, Basheer Quisim
    • The Family School
    • Samara Community School
    • PS 469
    • Bronx Aerospace High School
    • PS 721 Stephen McSweeney School
    • MS 223 The Laboratory of Finance and Technology
    • MS 390
    • PS 186 Walter J. Damrosch School


    • PS 319
    • PS 18, Edward Bush
    • PS 147 Isaac Remsen
    • PS 249 The Caton School
    • PS 375 Jackie Robinson School
    • PS 345 Patrolman Robert Bolden
    • PS 90 Edna Cohen School
    • IS 68 Isaac Bildersee
    • IS 228 David A. Booty
    • IS 281 Joseph Cavallaro
    • The School for International Studies


    • PS Anna Silver
    • The Bilingual Bicultural School
    • PS 206 Jose Celso Barbosa
    • Dos Puentes Elementary School
    • A. Philip Randolph Campus High School
    • MS 131
    • MS 319 Maria Teresa
    • MS 326 Writers Today & Leaders Tomorrow
    • PS 188 The Island School


    • PS 228 Early Childhood Magnet School of the Arts
    • PS 19 Marino Jeantet
    • PS 110
    • PS 212
    • Waterside School for Leadership
    • MS 72 Catherine & Count Basie
    • IS 230
    • PS 127 Aerospace Science Magnet

Staten Island

    • PS 22 Graniteville
    • IS 51 Edwin Markham

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Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.