Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD is among the few school districts selected to be part of the first-ever statewide dual language initiative — the Texas Effective Dual Language Framework — being developed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to increase dual language enrichment programs across the state.
As one of the few districts in the Rio Grande Valley and Texas to offer a districtwide Dual Language Enrichment Program, PSJA ISD will play a key role in helping develop a framework that will be used statewide.
The key goals of the new statewide dual language initiative include increasing dual language effectiveness, increasing the number of dual language pre-K through 12th-grade programs across the state, and reflecting on student outcomes of biliteracy, bilingualism, academic achievement in both languages, and social-cultural competence growth, according to TEA Dual Language Coordinator Dr. Xochitl Rocha.
As part of the initiative, leaders from TEA’s English Learner Support Division visited classrooms at Santos Livas Elementary and PSJA Memorial Early College High School in November 2021.
“We know that PSJA ISD has been the pioneer for dual language, so we wanted to bring them into the picture to collaborate and provide us feedback based on their experience to really refine the framework to be usable and manageable across the State of Texas,” Rocha said.
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. Through a rigorous curriculum, students who participate in the program receive academic instruction in English and Spanish from pre-K to 12th grade. Currently, there are more than 14,000 elementary, middle school, and high school students in the program.
“From this experience, we are also hoping to take our program to the next level,” said PSJA Dual Language Director Olivia Martinez. “In the RGV, most school districts offer dual language mostly up to middle school, but at PSJA ISD, our program is available all the way through high school to make sure students continue to develop cognitively, linguistically, and academically in both languages. Another aspect of our program is the social-cultural component to really help our students understand their roots, identity, language, and history — and why it’s important.”
In addition to receiving rigorous instruction, PSJA ISD students can graduate with a Bi-Literacy Seal on their high school diploma. This seal that officially certifies them as bilingual and bi-literate is nationally recognized by employers and education institutions.
As part of the district’s continuing commitment to support dual language education districtwide, the PSJA School Board unanimously passed a Dual Language Program Policy in 2020 to ensure that the program has the necessary support to continue developing students who achieve high academic standards in both languages. As part of the policy, PSJA ISD committed to continue hiring and retaining quality staff, funding appropriate professional development, and providing program facilities and instructional resources.
“It’s an honor to be part of this pilot. To be able to have TEA here wanting to learn from our PSJA teachers and principals confirms that we are the ‘standard’ of what can be possible when you emphasize and recognize the importance of a dual language curriculum and the pedagogy that goes along with it,” said PSJA Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. Arredondo. “The data in our district is very clear and consistent that our dual language students are among our top-performing students, often ranking in the top 10% of their class.”
About the PSJA ISD Dual Language Enrichment Program
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, over 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.
Each year, thousands of elementary, middle school, and high school students participate in the program.
In addition to learning a third language — Mandarin Chinese or Arabic — at select schools, all students who participate in the program are academically instructed in English and Spanish from pre-K to 12th grade. As a result, students 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.
To learn more about the PSJA Dual Language Enrichment Program, visit www.psjaisd.us/duallanguage.