Voices of Palm Beach County


South Grade Elementary Bilingual Program Supporter

What grades have dual language program? And how many students are in the program?

Answer: We have dual language program through k-5. Altogether there are about 180 students. From kindergarten to grade 3, each grade has 2 classes and 36 students. In grade 4 there are 16 and in Grade 5, 23 or 24. The number changes because some students are from migrant farmworkers’ families who travel to find work harvesting crops. A lot of students are undocumented Hispanic students. And some students are from Puerto Rico, they left home because of the hurricane last year and were put into the dual language program in South Grade.

The program is not big because it is hard to find teachers. A few years ago, the principle tried to have more dual language programs, he just couldn’t find the teaches who speak Spanish.

Can you describe your dual language program?

Answer: The way the program is set up is they spend one day learning the content in English, and the next they in Spanish. So, there is an English teacher and a Spanish teacher. Like as for math, one day in Spanish they learn how to add, the next day in English they learn how to subtract. They continue the curriculum but one day in English and one day in Spanish. The English teachers and the Spanish teachers have their own classroom. Usually the Spanish teacher have to work with additional resources in Spanish or have to translate some of the resources into Spanish.

Are the languages for instruction used equally or in varied percentages? What percentages?

Answer: Fifty to fifty, from Kindergarten to Grade 5.

How about the students? What languages do the speak at home?

Answer: There are Spanish speakers learning English and English speakers learning Spanish. You know some of the parents like their kids to be bilingual, so they try to put them in a dual language program so they learn both languages.

Do they use English or do they use Spanish more in after school program or during recess?

Answer: It depends on the students. If there is a new comer who did not speak English, other students will speak with him in Spanish. But I remember I had a little boy, blond, with blue eyes, his parents do not speak Spanish at all, I remember when he played soccer outside he would yell in Spanish, “Te daré la pelota por aquí,” meaning “I will give you the ball over here.” But he was in dual language since kindergarten. He knew Spanish already.

What language do you use to assess students? And what assessments you use?

Answer: Both. Our classroom teachers use both English and Spanish to assess the students. But the students also have to take FAS (Florida Standard Assessments), which assess students in English.

Just now you mentioned there are not enough teachers. What kind of teaches do you recruit?

Answer: South grade is a Title 1 school, so we recruit teachers working in that title environment, who know how to reach the needs of that population, and obviously they generally English or Spanish. For the Spanish teachers, the district gives them a test to see how well they read, write and speak in Spanish. For the dual language teachers, they have to pass that test.

How about parents? Are they involved in the programs or not?

Answer: Well, once a student is in a dual language program, their parents want them to stay in that program. There is no such special dual language program involvement. The parents are involved the same way the other parents are involved.

Angela Gonzales

Jupiter Elementary School ESOL Instructional Specialist

Could you please tell us more about yourself?

Answer: I am a ESOL instructional specialist, so I support different schools, one of the schools is Jupiter Elementary. I support all the grades for resources. I am bilingual, so I can support both language classrooms. I support teachers.

How many students are in bilingual education programs (in Palm Beach District)?

Answer: We have 6,500 students in dual language in the district.

How many students are in bilingual education program at Jupiter Elementary?

Answer: There are probably 80 at each grade’s level.

What grades have bilingual education programs?

Answer: K-5

Can you tell me if your bilingual education program is dual language/two-way immersion? Or maintenance / developmental bilingual education?

Answer: The bilingual education program in Jupiter Elementary is Spanish/English dual language program, there are both English speaking students and Spanish speaking students in the classroom.

How about the ratios of the two groups of students?

Answer: The goal is to have a 50:50, but it does not always work out that way.  It depends on the population, for most schools. Jupiter tends to have a lot of Hispanic students, but Jupiter they try to make it 50:50.

What is a typical day like for the students in the program?

Answer: For example, I am a second grader, I am gonna start on with my English teacher, and I am gonna go to her, and she is gonna teach me literacy, we have 90-minute literacy block and then do writing. Then, we go to lunch, have our fine arts in English. Then we are gonna switch, I am going to my Spanish teacher, I am gonna have Math and Science with her. The next day, I am gonna start off with my Spanish teacher, having 90-minute literacy block and writing instruction in Spanish, then switch, in the afternoon, I am gonna with my English teacher do Math and Science. 

So students have both languages every day in different subject areas, but they are getting literacy instruction in the other language every other day.

Will these students learn all subjects in both languages?

Answer: Yes, sometimes they do divide the social studies and science, maybe the Spanish teacher will teach the social studies and the English teacher will teach science. But, most of the time, students will learn all subjects in both languages.

How is the curriculum developed?

Answer: Literacy curriculum has been developed by the curriculum team of the central office of the school district. However, teachers do have the flexibility to adapt it.

Are the languages for instruction used equally or in varying percentages? What percentages?

Answer: English and Spanish instruction are used equally.

What languages do you assess students in and what assessments you use?

They get assessments in both languages. The state tests are only in English. Teachers use running records of both languages. Some of the tests are only available in English, some are in both. The math tests are available in both languages. Common assessments are all in English.

What assessments do you use?

Answer: There is a lot they use. One is an adapted technology test, for example, the Spanish classroom uses Istation, the English classroom uses Iready ….  FSA (Florida Standard Assessments) and the unit assessment are only in English. The math tests are adapted from a math curriculum.

What are the expectations for the teachers? What kind of teachers do you recruit?

Answer: They are trying to get the best candidates. Teachers should have high literacy in one language and able to teach that language in one subject.  Obviously, for dual language programs, teachers who can speak Spanish is preferred.

How do parents participate in the program? 

Answer: The school tries to teach parents about the different programs, different assessments.

They are trying to involve parents, but it’s hard.

Kimberly Thomasson

Principal of Gove Elementary School

Could you please tell us more about yourself?

Answer: I started my career as a teacher, I was a teacher here at Gove elementary school. We were at that time on a low performing list. Knowing that we had the majority of our ELLs that were Spanish speaking we wanted to do something to help. It was at the time when Thomas & Collier’s work of research was coming out, so we took a look at it and began to implement it. And I went on to the school district and I was a resource teacher and worked with the other school that started to implement a dual language program. Then by grew and grew and I became the instructional inspector working with our dual language schools. Then, I moved on to become the manager of the department, and here as the principal at Gove, being able to put it into action all those things that we can do.

How many bilingual education programs do you have in palm beach district?

Answer: We have 17 elementary schools, 4 middle schools, and 1 high school that implement the program. And we are in the process of growing that. What makes Gove different from other schools is that Gove is a full dual language school. Every student here learns two languages. And in the other school, it is a strand within the school. Some students are learning in that way, and other students are learning only in English.

How many students are there in your bilingual education program in Gove Elementary?

Answer: In Gove, students learn Spanish and English. we have, I am gonna to say, about 700 students. I have some ESD (English Skills Development) students and ELD (English Literacy Development) students that are in self-complete units. Depending on what their home language is, they are included in our classroom they have on their unit(5: 27). Everybody else participates in our program.

I have 733 students actually. That’s the number I watch because we are funded at the beginning of the year and they gave us so many teachers based on how many kids we have, but our kids came in later. We have got a lot of migrant students to come after the facts(6:06), you know, so the number continues to grow.

What grades have bilingual education programs?

Answer: We start in pre-kindergarten and at pre-k we do a 90:10 model, where 90% of their day is in Spanish and then 10% in English. In kindergarten we started with a 50:50 two-way immersion. So the students are grouped heterogeneously in classroom, and then they are instructed in both English and Spanish. Kindergarten and through 6th grade right now. I had a kind of reboot and start over again because they have been using a lot of English in the Spanish classroom and so I had to kind of restart.

Can you tell me if your bilingual education program is dual language/two way immersion? Or maintenance / developmental bilingual education?

Answer: So we are fully implemented in K, 1, 2, and 3, everybody is two way immersion. In fourth, fifth grade I have a group of students that are in a 50:50 model. And I have another group of students who learn mostly in English but have a block of the day in Spanish. So it’s been official research based(08:06), but it is a way for me to say that everybody learn some another language here…foreign language, ten piece. But as we are coming back to full implementation next year everybody in fourth grade and fifth grade would be completely 50: 50.  So we are a two-way immersion program.

What is a typical day like for the students in the program?

Answer: A typically day depends on what grades you are in. Right now for our students in kindergarten and first grade, a typically day is like, they arrive at school in the morning meeting because I think social emotional piece is important.  This is Monday and I come to school and I go to my English classroom and I do my morning meeting in English, then I have my language arts that have 90 minutes of language art instruction in English. Then I have math in English. And then I switch and I go to my Spanish classroom. I have science and social studies in Spanish. And I have 60 minutes of language arts at the end of the day in Spanish. Also in my day, I have lunch, I have fine art. So, I have that time also, some points during the day. Now tomorrow, when I come to school, I am gonna start in my Spanish classroom, and I am gonna do my morning meeting in Spanish, I am gonna have 90 minutes of Spanish, and then I am gonna have Science and Social Studies. And I switch and I go to my English classroom and I have math and I have 60 minutes of English language arts at the end of the day. So, we rotate every other day the languages we study in.

And starting in second grade, we do that by the week. So they stand a whole week having the 90 minutes literacy block in one language and the 60 minutes block in another different language. Then we change. Because at that level they are writing over several days, they are reading longer stories. So we are changing by the week. That’s language arts. Math is always taught in English. And Science and social studies are always taught in Spanish. But the content is integrated into the language arts instruction. So we may be reading about science topics in language arts so that we could get that language transfer and so that they understand vocabulary for science in English too.

How is the curriculum developed?

Answer: The curriculum. At palm beach county we are very blessed in that the instruction material department requires that anybody that has curriculum materials, they will be available in both languages. so we have science text books in Spanish and social studies materials in Spanish. We are currently using benchmark Advanced (Avanzada) for language arts, this is resource that work together with one another so that you have some of that cross-linguistic conversations with the kids and build into the materials. But yet both of them are authentic to the language development of each of the languages. So we might all be reading about adaptation. Third grade right now is doing animal adaptation. So we are all reading about the same theme, but we are reading in English and we are reading in Spanish. And any kind of the word is going to be authentic to the language. In English, for example, this week we read a particular story about polar bears that how their skin and their colors help them adapt), and then in Spanish we are reading about animal adaptation but we are reading stories about frogs or lizard. The stories are different but are the same theme, same topic.  It helps kids understand both languages and make these connections. And, teachers do spend time to talk about cognates, how we say that in English and how we say that in Spanish.

So, these are curriculum resources. Our teachers meet every other week in a professional learning community to kind of plan that out what they were doing at the grade level. The partner teachers work with one another to kind of really plan out, ok, this is the work, this is how it is doing, day by day. There was close cooperation between the teachers. Teachers can move the kids around based on kids’ need, they have the flexibility.

Are the languages for instruction used equally or in varied percentages? What percentages?

Answer: We do it 50: 50. But in Fourth Grade I have a group that use 20% of Spanish. Fourth grade and fifth grade. That is my little foreign language type, model that help everybody.

Why is it different for this group?

Answer: Because it is difficult when you don’t speak the language, like I was going to start learning in French, and now it would be difficult for me to start off in third or fourth grade, because what we are doing is the fourth grade content in that language. So we have the kind of speculation that the kids start in kindergarten, in first grade , if they do not have the other language. So for English language learners, they are coming from a Spanish language background. Then at any point of time this is the  best room meets(?) their need…(21:00)so all of our ELLs are within this program but we have to kind of start over because the kids do not have the foundation in the language to be able to operate at the grade level in the language.

They were students who joined the program from the fourth or fifth grade instead of in kindergarten, right?

Answer: Yeah. Some of them are that kind of kids. But some of them are kids that were here, because I wasn’t here and the principal before didn’t understand the program, they weren’t teaching them in Spanish, they were teaching them in English, so they didn’t get the foundation they needed to be successful.

What languages do you assess students in and what assessments you use?

Answer: We assess them in both languages. It depends on what kind of assessment you talk about. We have formative assessment that the teachers do in the classroom that, you know, if it is the Spanish classroom, it is in Spanish, if it is English classroom, it is in English. We have the computer program that we do, in English, we use “Iready” and we do “Iready” diagnostics. But in Spanish, we use “Istation” and we do “Istation”() diagnostics assessment in Spanish. The other, Benchmark, we use the assessment in both languages. They have unit assessment in both languages.  Now when it come to the state, the state only assesses the students in English. But our district does an assessment to determine their language proficiency. They started this year using Los LINKS en Español and so we gave that assessment to gather information of the students’ language proficiency in Spanish.

What are the expectations for the teachers?

Answer: I need to recruit teachers that are proficient in a language of instruction. And that is really important because there are a lot of people that speak Spanish but cannot actually teach in the language. Because we need to have somebody who knows where the accents go, and knows how to read and write in the language, and be able to teach. When teachers come, we have an assessment we do in the language. I look for teachers that are elementary certified and then they can pass the assessment. I have had many teachers that come from Puerto Rico and they are very proficient and excellent teachers. I also look for somebody who understand the work in this type of situation, because you have to work with a partner teacher very closely. It is like getting married to the person. For the next years they will have to be work well with others, so they need to understand that. And I try to get people who understand Spanish to some degree because it does help when you, you know, can have a conversation to understand what the kids are saying and help them to transfer.

Do all the English teachers understand Spanish?

Answer: No. not all. Some teachers know only English but understand the value of bilingual program. But if I can get people that understand I like that.

Do all Spanish teachers speak English?

Answer: Yes. All the Spanish teachers speak English to different degrees, some of them are better at English than others. Some of my teachers that come from Puerto Rico have their certificate and Florida recognizes their teaching certificate, so they don’t have to pass the assessment. So it really is beneficial. It is really good for the kids to think because “oh, she doesn’t speak Spanish (there should be English)” but now I actually have (thee teachers) that really speak Spanish, so it’s a good thing. But they all do speak English, to some degree.

How do parents participate in the program?

Answer: We do have some parents that only speak Spanish. And they do volunteer here with us in the Spanish classroom. That is a benefit. And many of my staff member speak Spanish so we are able to communicate with them and they provide us with that kind of assistance.  Our parents are participating in the program just as parents would participate in any programs. Because everything we do here is in two languages, but it is nice to be able to have our parents helping us in Spanish, because it helps them also to feel valued too that they can give us something because of the language they have.

Do you have any information about your bilingual education program(s) online? Can you tell me where I can find any additional information?

Answer: We have a website. I will send it to you in the email. I’ll send you a link to a website and the department of multicultural education at the school district has a portion of their website that is about dual language program and have a lot of information. In the past they also had the student date for dual language program here. I will send you that information in the email. And then there is a person at the district  Lisa Capra and I will put in her contact information. She can get you connected with all that is going on in the district level to support our dual language program. She is in charge of that now at the district.



What is the percentage of English speakers in your program?

Answer: At my school, I have about 25 percent of English speakers. That is because of the nature of my school. In other programs, like, we live in a city away from here, it is a bit more close to half and half, maybe a little more than 40% of the English speakers. And there are other programs that have more native English speakers than Spanish speakers. It depends on the demographic of the area.

How do you determine that the students are making progress in the second language?

Answer: Are you asking about language proficiency? OK. For students whose second language is English, we give the ACCESS assessment through WIDA. And we get scores on their language proficiency broken down into listening, speaking, reading and writing. So that helps us to know how our children are leaning English. We track that over time and we see how they are gaining English proficiency. For native English speakers that are learning Spanish, we are using Los LINKS Espanol, which gives us information about their literacy level in listening, speaking, reading and writing as well.

Do all dual language programs in Palm Beach use the same curriculum?

Answer: No. For math and science and social studies we do. We have the one curriculum the whole district uses. When it comes to the literacy, English literacy and Spanish literacy, there is a group of seven schools that are using the Benchmark that I talked about that we are using. And then other schools are doing Units of Study which is out of the teachers’ college in New York that the district has written to friend unit ?(36:13) that they are following. So right now in Palm Beach county we have several schools doing different things when it comes to the English language arts and Spanish language arts. But there are guidelines that we wrote for schools so as they began to implement the program they have listed things like the target, the outcome, and where you have flexibility and where you do not have flexibility. So you have flexibility to decide which content you are going to teach in the language arts. But language arts must be taught in English and in Spanish. So we have some school teaching math in Spanish and Science in English. So that decision is up to the school. The timing like how it works out, like I said we do in the little grades one day and one day and then a week and a week, that is the flexibility here at the school level as well.

Is there anything else you wish to add?

Answer: I think it’s a wonderful program. It builds confidence in our kids, being able to speak in two languages. My child, I have a son who is now twenty, and he went through the dual language program from the time he was in Kindergarten. And when he graduated high school he had a seal of biliteracy on his diplomat. So he earned the seal of biliteracy because he was biliterate in English and Spanish because of that education.

The benefits are great for the students. The other thing that you didn’t ask about is intervention. When kids are struggling, when they are not learning, we provide them intervention. What we do is that we look at their native language, for instance if they are Spanish speakers, and are struggling to read in Spanish, then we provide intervention in Spanish so we can get them on grade level in their first language, and then we move on to help continue to support them in the other language. That is the thing I find very important because once you have learnt how to read in your first language, then the next language would be easier.