Texas Border Business
Pharr, Texas – Several leaders from San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) visited the Rio Grande Valley to learn about PSJA ISD’s Dual Language Enrichment Program during a Learning Tour held Thursday, March 22.
First started in 1995, the PSJA Dual Language Enrichment Program’s mission is to help students develop biliteracy skills and maintain high levels of cognitive abilities. Since its creation, close to 1,000 students have graduated with Dual Language Bi-Literacy Seals on their high school diploma. This seal is given only to those students who complete the rigorous program helping them master both academic English and Spanish languages.
According to Yesenia Cordova, the Principal at Brackenridge High School in San Antonio, this is one of the many reasons SAISD is interested in learning how to implement a district-wide dual language program.
“As a district, we want to start pushing dual language district-wide,” said Cordova. “We currently have dual language classes at our district, but nowhere near this level. That is why we wanted to look at a district that has had a program for years and has established itself as a well-known Dual Language district.”
During the PSJA College for All Learning tour, visitors got to learn about the program from presentations by PSJA campus and district leaders. In addition to hearing speakers, educators had the opportunity to conduct numerous classroom visits to dual language classes and roundtable discussions.
“My favorite class today was Dual Language Mathematics,” shared Cordova. “I loved how the teacher connected the material he was teaching to the real world by bringing up the TSI.”
PSJA ISD currently has almost 16,000 elementary, middle school and high school students enrolled in the Program, according to PSJA Dual Language Enrichment Program Director Olivia Martinez.
Through a rigorous curriculum, students who participate in the program are academically instructed in English and Spanish, from Pre-Kinder to 12th grade. As a result, students can master both languages and enhance their education by developing the ability to fluently speak, read, write, and think critically in English and Spanish, which allows them to compete successfully in a global economy.
Most recently, PSJA ISD recently hired three teachers from China to expand its Dual Language Enrichment Program by teaching Mandarin Chinese at various district campuses including PSJA Southwest ECHS. Based on its successful implementation this school year, PSJA ISD hopes to expand the program to more schools.
In addition to minimizing language barriers, studies by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages show that the benefits of teaching children new languages at an early age can include: helping them develop cognitive skills as well as a greater understanding of different cultures and enhance their problem-solving and critical skills. Such skills can transcend beyond their secondary and post-secondary level of education, helping enhance students’ college and career prospects.
“We are aware that in this age being bilingual and billiterate is where the opportunities are for our kids,” shared Cordova who graduated from PSJA High School in 1989. “My advice is for students to take advantage of what they have here at PSJA like the dual language and early college program. These are opportunities we didn’t have growing up.”