By Ola Stepien
Chicago Public Schools offers to teach bilingual courses through the Transitional Bilingual Education Program and the Dual Language Program. Both programs do not receive the same treatment.
The Transitional Bilingual Education Program and Dual Language Program is that Bilingual Program eventually has students taking classes all in English. Meanwhile, the Dual Language Program has students learning both languages for the duration of their entire elementary education. The Dual Language Program is offered at 40 CPS schools, and they’re mainly in gentrified communities in the city. While the Dual Language Program serves English Learning (EL) students, the program takes place in schools where EL students are moving from, like Logan Square and Pilsen, due to the higher cost of living.
Nice White Parents, an investigative podcast from the New York Times by Chana Joffee-Walt, mentions how middle-class white parents promote and help create programs that will only benefit their children. One case was a French Dual Language Program in a neighborhood school where their children went, in a neighborhood school where the languages spoken were English, Spanish, and Arabic.
Read more: How is Illinois handling bilingual teacher vacancies?
According to the University of Chicago, 80% of CPS Students that are EL in kindergarten are fully proficient by the time they’re in the 8th grade. However, most CPS elementary schools that provided the Transitional Bilingual Education Program between 2017 and 2020 failed to meet the district’s expectations.
Teachers are entitled to offer instruction in students’ native languages, and schools need to have bilingual teachers and must serve students with disabilities. In addition, students must have connections with their teachers. According to Brookings Institution, when Latino students have Latino teachers- they take more advanced courses during their academic careers. When Black students have Black teachers- they perform better on math and English assessments.
Establishing a more diverse environment, especially with language learning, is crucial for students learning a second language. However, almost half of the teachers at CPS are white, not matching the race demographics of the students, creating a barrier between the teachers and the students. Yet, there could be light at the end of the tunnel with the new Chicago Bilingual Teacher Residency Program, a program trying to gain new teachers who are linguistically and racially diverse into the workforce.