Not in Westchester?
July 11, 2020

Schools

These third-graders in Port Chester Public Schools learn science in two languages.
These third-graders in Port Chester Public Schools learn science in two languages. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Port Chester School District

Students In This Westchester District Climb Academically As Bilingual

New English learners in a Westchester school district where 31 percent of children in the elementary schools come from two-language households, have a unique opportunity to learn their academic subjects in two languages.

The global-centric dual language program in Port Chester School District strives to give students the opportunity to gain proficiency in both English and Spanish.

District-wide, children in Port Chester's four elementary schools have the opportunity to be bilingual, bilateral and bicultural thanks to the new innovative program.

The Dual Language Academy is a Spanish-English two-way bilingual immersion program. Students learn all subjects in both languages and the program is designed to provide a structure for children from differing linguistic and cultural backgrounds to learn together. The Academy provides for academic excellence and high levels of language proficiency.

"The (program) gives students the opportunity to learn content areas in both languages. The program is designed to provide a structure for children from differing linguistic and cultural backgrounds to learn together in a collaborative environment," said Felipe Orozco, the district's director of ELL and Bilingual Programs.

While it is hard to tell the actual percentage of bilingual students, due to many of the district's students being from monolingual households, and in the continuum of becoming bilinguals, the ELL percentage which are students who speak a language other than English at home, at the elementary level is 31%, and if you add the dual language students from monolingual backgrounds, that amounts to about 37% of students in kindergarten through fifth grade, said Orozco.

Each of the three elementary schools offers students 50/50, Spanish- English Two-Way Dual Immersion program, while the fourth elementary school in the district, John F. Kennedy Magnet School currently runs a 90/10 One-Way Dual Immersion Program.

A challenge that bilingual teachers face while instructing new English language learners is when a child's academic performance in their native language falls below the grade-level expectation, according to Orozco.