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 This proposition repealed Proposition 227 and increased the already growing numbers of dual language immersion programs that exist today.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. There are many programs in Orange County, CA, that extend to 12th grade. 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 now earn a State Seal of Biliteracy Award. On October 8, 2011, Governor Brown approved bill AB815, State Seal of Biliteracy, authored by Assemblymember Julia Brownley. 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:
For an extensive, but not a complete list of dual language immersion schools in California, please see: California Department of Education Programs Directory
New Dual Language Immersion Schools in Orange County, CA:
Garden Grove Unified School District launched their first Spanish dual immersion program in 2016-17 at Monroe Elementary Language Academy. In 2017-18, they launched their first Vietnamese dual immersion program at John Murdy Elementary School. In 2018-19, they are set to launch their third dual immersion program and second Spanish program at Russell Elementary Language Academy.
Westminster School District is the very first California school district to offer a dual immersion program in Vietnamese at DeMille Elementary School. The school welcomed their first kindergarten class in the fall of 2015-16. In 2016-17, the district launched their second dual language program in Spanish at Willmore Elementary School.
Newport Mesa Unified School District launched two dual immersion programs in the fall of 2015-16. College Park Elementary School offers Mandarin and Whittier Elementary School offers Spanish immersion.
Orange County’s first Korean dual immersion program began in the fall of 2013. Although the school went through several name changes, they were established in Lake Forest and were named the Orange County Language Academy, a Pathways Academy Charter School. It was a free public charter school that provided a 50/50 language model for instruction in Korean and English. They had to close their doors at the end of the 2015-16 academic year but have plans to continue as a home school program in 2016-17. Their Orange County Language Academy Facebook page still exists. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orange Unified School District added their first dual language immersion program in the fall of 2012. Their new Mandarin immersion program is at Fletcher Elementary School in Orange. The district also launched a Spanish immersion program at California Elementary School in the fall of 2015-16.
A new private immersion school in Costa Mesa, Renascence School International, opened its doors in the fall of 2011. This school focuses on the development of three languages: English, Spanish and Mandarin.
Districts with Established Dual Language Immersion Schools in Orange County, CA: Spanish programs listed unless otherwise noted.
Elementary Schools: Juarez, Lincoln, Mann, Palm Lane, Ponderosa and Price
Middle Schools: Brookhurst and Sycamore
High Schools: Anaheim and Savannah
Elementary Schools: Las Palmas, 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
Elementary School: Dr. Peter Marshall
Elementary School: Gates
Middle School: Los Alisos
High School: Laguna Hills
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