Dual Language program reaches exciting new milestone

One of the most successful academic programs in our district is expanding. The Dual Language Spanish Immersion program, which began six years ago with a cohort of Thompson Elementary kindergarteners, will now be offered at Spanaway Middle School.

The expansion allows the incoming sixth graders who have been a part of the program since its inception to continue their journey into middle school.

Thompson uses what’s referred to as a 90/10 model as students start in the program. That means in kindergarten and first grade, approximately 90 percent of the students’ instruction is in Spanish and 10 percent is in English. As students transition to higher grades, more of the instruction shifts to English — an 80/20 model in 2nd grade, and then a 50/50 model in 3rd grade and beyond.

As Dual Language students move on to middle school, students will take math, language arts, and social studies classes in Spanish. Science classes and electives will be taught in English.

Thompson Elementary Principal Shelley Ramirez has been impressed with what she has seen from her school’s Dual Language students and she’s excited to see what they accomplish as they progress to middle school.

“It’s been amazing to see the progress these kiddos have made over the last six years. I remember the very first day they were sitting in those kinder rooms with eyes wide open! And today, they are proud and confident bilingual students,” she said. “I have no doubt they will go on to do great things in this world because of the skills they have gained in the dual language program.”

Ramirez and her team at Thompson have spent the last three years working with the team at Spanaway Middle School to prepare for a successful transition. SMS Principal Shannon Leatherwood said she’s thrilled to welcome the program to middle school.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of research and I know it’s the right thing for our kids, and it’s the right thing for our district,” she said.

Leatherwood said it is especially fitting that SMS is getting the district’s first class of Dual Language middle school students because the school is already so diverse.

“We’re known to be a culturally diverse school, and this just adds to that. It fits in perfectly, and we’re excited,” Leatherwood said.

As laid out in Bethel’s Dual Language Master Plan, the goal is for the program to eventually be available in all grade levels, from pre-K to high school.

While Spanaway Middle will now be home to an older group of Dual Language students, a younger cohort of preschoolers is also being brought into the program. Beginning this year, the program will feature a full day, transitional kindergarten Dual Language cohort. Over all grade levels, there are currently 256 students in Bethel’s Dual Language program, and there has a been a waitlist each year.

Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.