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Is it the end for dual language education in Delaware?

By Gabriel Pilonieta-Blanco
El Tiempo Hispano

Dual language education, Spanish and English in Lewis Elementary School in Wilmington could cease to be a reality.

WILMINGTON — Lewis Elementary has been a pioneer and unique in its type in Delaware’s public education system until the opening this year of the Las Americas ASPIRA Academy. Due to the low academic results obtained in these past years, Delaware’s Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery has launched a rescue plan within the Partnership Zone schools.

“Now I’m issuing a call to action so that all of our schools have the chance to be great. Each and every student must be given the opportunity to be ready for college and prepared to compete for the next generation of jobs,” Secretary Lowery said. “I am committed to working with the administrators, teachers, families and others in the inaugural Partnership Zone school communities to ensure we identify innovative strategies to improve outcomes for their students.”

In a news bulletin from the Secretary of Education it is said that “Lewis is a dual language elementary school in the Red Clay school district located in the Hilltop neighborhood right next to the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington Delaware.

“Dual language” means that students receive half of their instruction in English and the other half in Spanish. Lewis currently serves 438 students in grades K-5, 84% of which are low income, 83% Hispanic/Latino, and 66% ELL (Lewis’ dual-language program means students in its feeder pattern can opt-out and ELL students outside of its feeder pattern can opt-in without having to go through school choice, which likely explains some of these proportions).

According to the proposal handed in by Red Clay school district on November 17th, to improve the academic performance in that school with a majority of Hispanic population, it is essential to improve English skills in students. Without an improvement in the language, it is going to be very difficult for them to advance, said an administrator with whom El Tiempo Hispano talked.

Worries about Lewis’ low results are understandable, only 28% of the students pass the exam and this has caused alarm among the administrators, and although the parents are happy, if the results are not good, it is better to change the model; it is a matter of changing, not eliminating, they say.

I must point out that this article stems from a call that we received in which we were alerted about the elimination of Lewis’ bilingual program, no explanations. It’s the reason why we requested information from both the school district where Lewis belongs and from Delaware’s Department of Education.

We only received one answer from Ms. Noreen Lasorsa, Chief Officer of School Turnaround. She very kindly explained the part related to the Partnership Zone schools but could not explain under what arguments and who is suggesting dual teaching to be eliminated to improve the academic performance of Lewis’ students, or in what way the families, which this new plan affects or benefits, are going to be taken into consideration.

For such purpose we contacted Mr. Mervin Daugherty, Superintendent of Red Clay School District. Despite having waited for a week, we didn’t receive any answer up to this moment as we are writing this article.

As Lasorsa explained…

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