Dual Language Programming
BVSD views students’ languages and cultures as a resource. We recognize the importance of bilingualism and biculturalism and strive to ensure we have Spanish/English dual language programming options across our district to sharpen students' academic skills in both languages.
In alignment with our district vision, mission, and Strategic Plan, BVSD is committed to strengthening and expanding our dual language pathways so that students have the opportunity to achieve high levels of bilingualism and biliteracy, academic achievement, and sociocultural competence as they work toward graduation and college and career readiness.
The Boulder Valley School District believes:
- The multilingual identities of our students are a valued asset.
- Proficiency in multiple languages supports a student’s cognitive development, understanding of diverse cultures, and economic opportunities.
- A Seal of Biliteracy certification allows universities to give students credit and recognition for being bilingual.
- Multilingual skills build trust and understanding in our diverse community.
- There is high demand for employees to be fluent in more than one language in Colorado and throughout the world.
- Being multilingual is critical in enabling citizens of our city and state to participate effectively in a global political, social, and economic context.
Research is clear that Dual Language (DL) education offers powerful opportunities for students, their families, and their communities (Collier & Thomas, 2014). In fact, research has shown that DL education as an English Language Development (ELD) program model has the potential to fully close the academic and opportunity gaps for multilingual/English learners and other historically underserved student groups (Collier & Thomas, 2004, 2017; Lindholm-Leary, 2017).
In DL programs nationwide, Spanish speaking students developed strong English oral language skills, and even though only half or less than half of the instruction was delivered in English, Spanish speaking students learning English in DL programs mastered academic English skills better than those learning English in traditional ELD programs (August & Shanahan, 2010; Carrison, 2022; Lindholm-Leary, 2001; Thomas & Collier, 2012). Spanish speaking students were fluent in English by 3rd grade, and showed no significant differences in oral English proficiency when compared to Spanish speaking students in English-only instructional programs (Carrison, 2022).
Dual language programs also enhance and support learning for English dominant students. National research trends in Spanish/English DL programs indicate that all native English speakers entering DL programs in kindergarten continued to be fluent in English, and no evidence cited that participation in a DL program caused delay or interference in their oral English proficiency. And, they got the added benefit of learning Spanish.
State and federal standardized tests given in middle and high school demonstrate that the longer students are enrolled in DL programs, the greater their gains. Furthermore, once students learn to read well in any language, those skills transfer to the second language. Research shows that as much as 97% of Spanish reading transfers to English reading (Thonis, 1981). DL programs create an opportunity for all students to cross-learn and share languages and cultures with each other, resulting in the development of higher levels of bilingualism and biliteracy for all student groups.
The Center for Applied Linguistics’ Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education (2018) is based on current research and used as a foundational tool for BVSD’s DL programming. The Guiding Principles identify three foundational goals, or pillars, upon which dual language programs should be anchored: Bilingualism and Biliteracy, Academic Achievement, and Sociocultural Competence. Each program is designed with careful implementation of the Guiding Principles to promote rigorous instruction in two languages.
Definition of the Three Pillars of Dual Language Education:
Bilingualism & Biliteracy: At each grade level, students engage in academic tasks in all content areas in both program languages. Throughout their programming, students gain proficiency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in Spanish and English and graduate bilingual and biliterate.
Grade-Level Academic Achievement: Students achieve grade-level proficiency in both program languages in all content areas: literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, specials (music, art, & PE) and any other core content subjects.
Sociocultural Competence: Through this pillar, students learn about equity and social justice. They see similarities and differences among themselves and use them to learn from each other. Staff and students are led to accept, understand, value, embrace, notice inequalities, and work for equity (Tabaku, 2020).
A significant body of research has shown that there are cognitive, academic, sociocultural, and economic benefits that come with becoming bilingual and biliterate (Lachance, 2017). Being bilingual provides advantages in various areas, and is an asset that can benefit students learning English as an additional language, as well as native English speakers (Colorado Department of Education, 2023; NCELA, 2020). Additionally, learning other languages encourages active participation in an increasingly interdependent world.
Studies on multilingual learning have shown that:
The “additive bilingual” immersion setting in DL programs allows all students to learn two languages simultaneously without losing one language to learn another and can be a precondition for enhanced cognitive, linguistic, and academic growth (Cummins, 2001; Howard et al., 2005):
Students do not get confused between languages
Learning in one language does not impede learning in another
Learning a second language improves comprehension in the native language (Thomas & Collier, 2002).
The mental discipline of learning an additional language system increases intellectual flexibility and translates into higher achievement in all subject areas. The longer the exposure to additional languages, the more significant the cognitive advantages to the student (Genesee & Lindholm-Leary, 2010).
Knowledge of more than one language enables people to communicate in a variety of cultures and settings. A heightened level of multicultural awareness and communication skills foster intergroup contact and appreciation (Cummins, 1986; Howard et al., 2005).
Students studying two languages have a more positive self-concept and are more likely to remain in school and attend college than multilingual learners in English-only instruction (Thomas & Collier, 2002, 2017).
The Boulder Valley School District offers two-way Dual Language Programs (DL) in Spanish and English. Families can choose these programs so that their children learn in two languages simultaneously. Two-way DL programs are designed for two groups of students each with different home languages (in this case Spanish and non-Spanish speaking students) to learn together and from one another. Instruction is designed so that students receive supports in both languages. This allows them to understand and participate in the learning.
- PK-12 Pathways
- Elementary Programming
- BVSD Dual Language Elementary Schools
- BVSD Dual Language Middle Schools
- High School
BVSD has several pathways to support students in becoming bilingual and biliterate (Spanish/English), as well as earning the Seal of Biliteracy when they graduate high school. Both Spanish speaking and non-Spanish speaking students can begin DL programs at one of three dual language elementary schools starting in preschool or kindergarten. When moving to middle school, students can choose from three middle schools that have dual language strands. At this level, they can receive 3-4 of their classes in Spanish each year (Spanish language arts, Spanish content, and Spanish elective). Upon entering high school, students can take advanced Spanish coursework, including Spanish courses for college credit. Additional opportunities are currently in development at the high school level.
Dual Language (DL) Elementary school programming can be one-way or two-way. A one-way DL program only includes students who speak the target language of instruction, whereas a two-way program includes two balanced groups of students, one who speaks the target language and one who does not. All DL programs in BVSD are Spanish/English two-way programs and include a balance of students who speak Spanish at home and those who speak English, or sometimes another language, at home.
Within both one-way and two-way program models, time allocations are typically 90/10 or 50/50. The distinction between 50/50 and 90/10 is the amount of time allocated to each language at each grade level. The first number refers to the percentage of time spent in the additional language and the second number refers to the percentage of time spent in English in kindergarten. In the 90/10 model, each year, the percentage of instruction in Spanish decreases by 10% and the percentage of English increases by 10% so that by 4th grade, students spend 50% of their day in each language.
In BVSD DL programs, instruction in preschool is in Spanish 100% of the time, regardless of whether the school has a 90/10 or 50/50 time allocation. The language that content is taught in varies day to day and week to week, depending on grade level and school.
Choosing a DL program with a 90/10 time allocation
In the United States, more than 70% of DL programs implement a 90/10 time allocation (Carrison, 2022). The purpose of emphasizing Spanish instruction in the early grades is to give all students a jump-start on building a strong foundation in literacy skills and vocabulary in Spanish.
For students from Spanish speaking families, having 90% of their instruction in Spanish helps ensure they have a solid foundation of Spanish literacy and academic instruction as they learn and develop English. For many Spanish speaking students, the initial focus on Spanish literacy helps them gain the necessary language and vocabulary in their home language, which supports them as they transfer their knowledge to English literacy.
For students who begin a DL program already speaking English, having 90% of their instruction in Spanish helps them focus on the new language, providing them with a strong language, vocabulary, and academic foundation in Spanish. Building this strong Spanish foundation in their first few years of schooling helps support their development of high levels of proficiency in both languages as English literacy instruction is introduced.
Choosing a DL program with a 50/50 time allocation
When given a choice of time allocations, some families prefer the idea that their students receive half of their instruction in Spanish and half of their instruction in English starting in kindergarten. The potential benefits of a 50/50 time allocation are that it can ease concerns from Spanish-speaking families that their children will not learn English. It can also help English speaking families feel more comfortable that their children will not feel lost or confused being immersed in Spanish instruction all day in the earlier grades.
Both 90/10 and 50/50 models have been shown to yield strong results for students when well implemented and aligned to the three pillars of dual language.
BVSD has three two-way DL elementary schools that allow students to begin their DL education in preschool or kindergarten: Columbine Elementary, Escuela Bilingüe Pioneer, and University Hill Elementary. All students at Escuela Bilingüe Pioneer and University Hill Elementary are enrolled in the DL program. Columbine Elementary has a dual language strand as well as an English-only strand.
After 5th grade, students have the opportunity to continue their DL education in one of three middle schools: Angevine Middle School, Casey Middle School, and Manhattan Middle School of Arts and Academics. At each middle school, students can take Spanish language arts, a Spanish content class, and at least one Spanish elective in 6th - 8th grade.
In high school, BVSD is currently building pathways for students to take more advanced Spanish coursework in the following ways:
Concurrent Enrollment (partnerships with Front Range CC, Metro, CU)
High level HS courses (SLA, IB, AP Language and Culture and AP Literature, Boulder Technical Education Center: TEC)
Spanish content across grades 9-12
Spanish elective(s) across grades 9-12
- Enrollment to a Dual Language School
- Neighborhood School Registration
- Open Enrollment
Any student can apply for enrollment in BVSD's DL programs in preschool and kindergarten. This gives students ample opportunity to learn the partner languages (Spanish and English) within their PK–12 experience. If students are in first grade or older, families can contact the school directly to ask about enrollment. Spanish speaking students may enter DL programming at any grade level.
BVSD has two different types of enrollment depending on the school: Neighborhood School Registration and Open Enrollment. (Registration is the term used for Neighborhood Schools and Enrollment is used for non-neighborhood schools.) Enrollment at any of the DL programs follows the same processes.
Columbine Elementary and Angevine, Casey, and Manhattan Middle schools are neighborhood schools offering bilingual programming as well as monolingual English programming. An applicant living in the neighborhood or attendance area for any of these schools is guaranteed a seat at the school, though not necessarily in the DL program.
If interested in the DL program at one of these schools, please contact the school after registering. Neighborhood school enrollment starts in early January, if enrolling for the Fall, and is year-round for new students moving to the area during the school year. Please see the Online Registration website for more information.
If an applicant lives out of one of these particular neighborhood school attendance areas and they want to attend the school, the open enrollment process is available to them
Escuela Bilingüe Pioneer and University Hill Elementary schools are 100% open enrollment. This means that regardless of where a student lives, they are required to open enroll to be considered for a seat at these schools.
Families can also follow this process if they are interested in a school that is not 100% open enrollment, but they live outside of that school’s attendance area; this includes any family living outside of BVSD school boundaries.
Open Enrollment begins in November for August of the following school year. Please see the Open Enrollment for K-12 School website for more information.
Spanish speaking students new to BVSD may “open enroll” in the DL program at any time of year and at any grade level, and will be offered a seat if there is room available.
Students from English speaking homes seeking enrollment in DL programming after kindergarten, should contact the school directly to discuss the student’s Spanish proficiency levels and ask about the enrollment process.
Transportation to Open Enrollment Schools may be a possibility depending on address, qualifications, and availability. For families who are lower income and live beyond the designated walking distance from the school, transportation will be provided. Sometimes, if there is additional space on buses, other students who attend the school may get a seat. Please see the Transportation website for new riders to learn more.