Dual Language Immersion Schools

Since the passing of Proposition 227 (1998) in California, much has changed in the way we view English language learners and bilingualism in our public schools today. In 1998, Proposition 227 established English only instruction in schools for English language learners and many bilingual programs ceased to exist. The traditional bilingual programs existing before Proposition 227 were specifically designed for English language learners only, primarily native Spanish speakers. Although some of these bilingual programs included a heritage or primary language maintenance component, the ultimate goal was to have students learn English. Therefore, as students exited the primary grades, as early as third grade, Spanish instruction was replaced with English only instruction. Though this type of bilingual program is on the decline or no longer exists in most school districts, dual language immersion or two-way immersion programs/schools have grown in California at an exponential rate.

In November of 2016, voters in California overwhelmingly passed Proposition 58. This proposition, also known as the Multilingual Education for a 21st Century Economy Act, further established the existence of dual language programs for all students. It gave parents the freedom to voice and choose the best language acquisition program for their child. This proposition repealed Proposition 227 and increased the already growing number of dual language immersion programs that exist today. In California, there are dual language immersion programs for Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Vietnamese and many other target languages.

Dual language immersion programs are designed for students to learn two languages; one language does not replace the other. There is a great demand for these programs and there are long wait lists at these schools. In fact, many eager parents complete a preliminary application of interest when their child is not of school age to ensure a greater possibility of placement at the school. For many of these schools, admission is by lottery. Usually, these schools offer tours and information sessions throughout the school year for parents.  Upcoming school tours are often posted on their school websites.

Two-way immersion programs specifically enroll native English speakers and native speakers of the target language (e.g., Spanish). Ideally, each class is made up of 50% native English speakers and 50% native Spanish speakers. A great advantage of these programs is that the students come from varied backgrounds and socioeconomic status. Although most students live approximately 5-20 minutes away from the school, it is not uncommon to have students come from areas that are 30-60 minutes away.

The main goals for all dual language programs are for students to achieve strong levels of academic proficiency in both languages, English and the target language, and to value cultural diversity. Many programs exist at the elementary school level only because they are new, but there is an increasing number of established programs that continue to high school. Capistrano Unified School District has three two-way immersion (Spanish) schools and one Mandarin immersion program that extend to high school. Each school has a designated middle school and high school. Another program exists in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. They also have a K-12 two-way (Spanish) immersion program for their students. Students enrolled in this program attend Gates Elementary School, Los Alisos Middle School and Laguna Hills High School. Their dual language program has an official partnership with the International Spanish Academies from the Embassy of Spain; one of a very few recognized in the state.

Students enrolled in dual language immersion programs have the opportunity to earn a State Seal of Biliteracy Award. On October 8, 2011, Governor Brown approved bill AB815, State Seal of Biliteracy.  This bill established a uniform set of criteria for all California school districts recognizing students for their successful academic achievement in English and another world language(s). If the criteria is met, the State Seal of Biliteracy is recorded on the student’s high school diploma and/or transcripts. Previously, each school district used their own set of criteria for awarding the Seal of Biliteracy. More information and resources regarding this award can be found on the Californians Together website. Californians Together is a statewide coalition of advocates and other civil rights groups committed to securing equal access to underserved children in our schools.

For frequently asked questions about dual language immersion programs, please visit these two links:

CAL Two Way Immersion

CA Department of Education Multilingual FAQ

Districts with Dual Language Immersion Programs/Schools in Orange County, CA: Spanish programs listed unless otherwise noted. New schools launching programs in 2019-20 are asterisked. There are 28 school districts in Orange County. Not all are represented here.

Anaheim Elementary School District is the first Orange County school district to offer dual language programs in all 23 schools, beginning 2019-20, including the first Korean dual language immersion program in an Orange County School District.

Elementary Schools: *Barton, *Edison, *Franklin, *Gauer, *Guinn, *Henry, Juarez, Lincoln, *Loara, *Madison, Mann, *Marshall, *Olive Street, Orange Grove, Ponderosa, Price, *Revere, *Roosevelt, Ross, Stoddard, *Sunkist, *Westmont

Elementary School (Korean): *Thomas Jefferson

Anaheim Union High School District

Middle Schools: Brookhurst and Sycamore

High Schools: Anaheim and Savannah

High School (Vietnamese): *Magnolia

Brea Olinda Unified School District

Elementary School: *Arovista

Capistrano Unified School District

Elementary Schools: Las Palmas, *RH Dana, San Juan and Viejo

Elementary School (Mandarin): Bergeson

Middle Schools: Bernice Ayer, Fred Newhart and Marco Forster

Middle School (Mandarin): Fred Newhart

High School: Capistrano Valley, San Clemente and San Juan Hills

High School (Mandarin): Capistrano Valley

Fullerton School District

Elementary School: Raymond

Garden Grove Unified School District

Elementary School: Monroe, Russell

Elementary School (Vietnamese): John Murdy

Harbor City School District

Elementary School: Ladera Palma

Magnolia School District

Elementary School: Dr. Peter Marshall

Newport Mesa Unified School District

Elementary School: Whittier

Elementary School (Mandarin): College Park

Orange Unified School District

Elementary School: California

Elementary School (Mandarin): Fletcher

Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District

Elementary Schools: Glenview

Saddleback Valley Unified School District

Elementary School: Gates

Middle School: Los Alisos

High School: Laguna Hills

Santa Ana Unified School District

Elementary Schools: Jefferson, King, Lowell, Pio Pico and Romero-Cruz

Charter Schools, K-8: El Sol Academy and Orange County Educational Arts Academy

Middle Schools: Carr and McFadden

High School: Saddleback

Tustin Unified School District

Elementary School: Marjorie Veeh (moving to Thorman Elementary and will later turn into a K-8 International Academy)

Westminster School District is the very first California school district to offer a dual immersion program in Vietnamese.

Elementary School: Willmore

Elementary School (Vietnamese): DeMille