Igone Arteagoitia

Igone Arteagoitia, project lead and research scientist for the Center for Applied Linguistics, speaks Friday about the school’s selection as a high achieving dual language immersion program.

ONTARIO — Four Rivers Community School has been identified as having a high-achieving dual language immersion program, and will be further studied for the next few years to determine the whys and hows of that success.

The announcement came during a celebration luncheon hosted by the public charter school on Friday, which invited stakeholders, board members and teachers (school was not in session Friday) to attend and get updated on the studies and research being performed.

The Center for Applied Linguistics is performing the study project, titled “Features of Dual Language Immersion in High Achieving Programs.” The nonprofit organization is based in Washington D.C., and it focuses on the fields of bilingual and dual language education, and English as a second language, among a host of other fields.

The Community School was selected as one of two high-achieving dual language programs in the state of Oregon, and will receive in-depth classroom observations and focus group interviews with relevant stakeholders.

The three-year study from the Center for Applied Linguistics is being funded through the International Research & Studies program of the U.S. Department of Education. To identify Four Rivers Community School, the center used academic achievement data obtained from the Oregon Department of Education from 23 elementary Dual Language Immersion programs in Oregon, according to the center’s webpage. Specifically, Four Rivers was selected based on the consistency it has showed in academic achievement measures in both languages “and for both native speakers of Spanish and English,” according to a summary of the study.

“This is one of the biggest events in the school’s history,” said Chelle Robbins, superintendent of the community school during the luncheon. “We’re really excited about this honor.”

Robins took a look at where the school had come from, with its 40 students attending classes in a warehouse to where it now sits with 320 total students, with an expected 345 next year, and with a waiting list of 130 to 140 students.

Robins went on to support one of the missions of the charter school in providing quality dual language programming.

“You don’t have to lose your first language to learn a second one,” she said.

This was a notion supported by Igone Arteagoitia, project lead and research scientist for CAL for the study.

Citing a 2017 report by the National Academies of Sciences, there is no discernible disparity in English literacy between students attending English-only and dual language program students.

However, a caveat.

“Keep in mind that these are long-term commitments,” Arteagoitia said.

The data has supported the fact that dual language students tend to lag behind their English-only program counterparts at the onset, but do catch up in later grades.

Still, the data of dual language immersion programs hasn’t been mapped out completely, Arteagoitia told the audience. Further research is still needed with more rigorous studies, the scientist said. Outcomes in the partner language (Spanish in this case), along with the trajectories of language and academic development in two program languages need to be researched.

Even so, Robins said the fact that the charter school was selected for research purposes is “exciting for us.”

As a final note, Robins gave a big kudos to teachers who made the success of the dual language immersion program a reality.

“You are changing lives,” she said.

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