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Vol. 1 (2017)

Going Big!: The Case of a Large District’s Effort to Maximize the Benefits of Dual Language Programming for their Children

  • Craige Willey
  • James Kigamwa
June 20, 2017


Dual language (DL) programs have been held up as a promising means by which to reach student achievement goals across demographics (Collier & Thomas, 2004). Yet, the social and political risks associated with implementing DL programs are significant. This paper analyzes one large metropolitan school district’s rationale and preparedness for initiating its DL program, as well as the outcomes of its efforts to scale up the DL program to reach thousands of students, most of whom are children of color. The findings suggest that the district personnel used three pillars to rationalize their decision to implement their DL program: legal, research, and student demographics. In addition, the school district administrators, teachers, and parents showed varying levels of preparedness for the mass implementation of the DL program. While a young program with few quantitative data points to showcase its success, the qualitative data revealed that the program’s structure and professional development efforts for the teachers and principals benefited from a clear and ambitious vision and the unwavering support of the district’s executive leadership. In addition to the extensive data compiled from interviews with key stakeholders, case studies of two schools from the district are provided in order to highlight emergent tensions and showcase how the district’s efforts have materialized into intentional and dynamic DL learning environments.