Posted on May 18, 2023
Tags: ,
Categories: News from SDP

Gloria Casarez Elementary School will officially be paving the pathway for students to become biliterate and bilingual in English and Spanish. The District’s Dual Language program will be offered to incoming kindergarten students during the upcoming 2023-2024 school year.

“Being bilingual is such an advantage in today’s global society, and has a significant impact on a student’s social, emotional and academic development,” said Miulcaeli Batista, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Office of Multilingual Curriculum & Programs for the School District of Philadelphia. “This program affirms our commitment to excellence and equity in our schools, celebrates the diversity of our students and sees our students’ home language as assets when they come to our schools with a language other than English as their primary language.”

Beginning the 2023-2024 School Year, Casarez’s youngest learners can enroll in the District’s Dual Language Program, a free academic program designed for high academic achievement while developing cross-cultural and cross-linguistic competence. The program will start in kindergarten and follow students by adding an additional grade each year in order to provide a continuum of high-quality dual language learning. Students enrolled in the program will continue the dual-language for a minimum of five years in order to receive the full benefits of being bilingual.

“We are so excited to add the District’s Dual Language program to Casarez and better prepare students for the future,” said Casarez Principal Awilda Balbuena. “Learning a second language has many benefits and we are pleased to be one of the select schools that offers this language immersion opportunity to students in the District. For students to have the opportunity to graduate from our school and speak both English and Spanish is such a critical skill that supports college, career and beyond.”

The new program will be the District’s eighth Dual Language program, joining Alexander K. McClure Elementary School, Hon. Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary School, Bayard Taylor Elementary School, Lewis Elkin Elementary School, Southwark School, Cayuga Elementary School and William Cramp School. All schools currently have open enrollment for their Kindergarten students.

In January, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced the U.S. Department of education’s “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” initiative, emphasizing the need for schools to provide opportunities for students to learn multiple languages. Research shows that early exposure to multilingual programs positively impacts cognitive and social development.

Dual Language classes are composed of a balanced number of students in each class who are native Spanish speakers and native English speakers. Instruction is held in both languages by one or two teachers, who deliver the literacy and grade-level academic content standards in all subject areas. Students will also participate in specials, such as music, gym, art and digital literacy, which are only taught in English.

The District currently has more than 22,000 English Learners, a number that has consistently grown over the last five years. Spanish-speaking learners comprise more than 50 percent of that number. Programs like the District’s Dual Language offer our youngest learners the opportunity to maintain their native language, while also learning a new language.

The program is offered through the District’s Office of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs (OMCP), which oversees curriculum and programming for English Learners and bilingual schools and helps multilingual students and families navigate the enrollment process. This year, OMCP created a biliteracy curriculum as an additional tool to support teachers in the Dual Language program.

Families must apply for this program, which has limited space. In order to enroll a 2023-2024 kindergarten student in any of the Dual Language programs, or to get more information, please contact the participating school directly. To enroll at the Gloria Casarez School (800 E Ontario St, Philadelphia, PA 19134), please call 215-400-7160.