Language Partners

Bilingual programs get the royal treatment

PHOTO: Jessica Glazer
Queen Letizia of Spain speaks with Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña at Dos Puentes Elementary School.

It’s not often that an actual queen visits a city elementary school.

On Monday, Queen Letizia of Spain stopped by P.S. 103 Dos Puentes Elementary School, one of four city schools newly added to a network of U.S. schools with Spanish immersion programs. The visit, complete with balloons and a song-and-dance performance, added bit of royal flair to Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s continued focus on dual language programs and English language learners.

“My hope is to double and triple the number of schools involved in bilingualism and biculturalism,” the chancellor said. Specifically, Fariña said that she wants to add 40 new dual language programs across the city, though she didn’t provide a timeline for that plan.

One in seven students in the city school system—more than 159,000 students—is an English language learner, and those students tend to struggle on state exams. Only 3.4 percent passed this year’s state English exams, as opposed to 28.4 percent of all city students. Spanish is spoken by the largest share of those students, with two-thirds speaking the language at home.

Fariña, who frequently mentions her Spanish heritage, recently appointed Milady Baez to run the office of English language learners, which is now independent from the department that focuses on students with special needs. At events and press conferences, the chancellor has also mentioned the ways in which schools can better include parents who aren’t English-proficient.

In recent years, most English language learners have been in classrooms that focus on English-language instruction. But dual-language programs—in which some lessons are taught in English and other lessons are taught in another language, with the goal of students gaining fluency in both—have been increasing in popularity. City schools offer more than 480 bilingual programs with languages including Spanish, Mandarin or Arabic.

PHOTO: Jessica Glazer
Students dance during a ceremony with the Queen of Spain and the school chancellor.

With the increase in dual-language programs comes a shortage of good texts to use, which had been the case for Alida Grafals, an assistant principal at P.S. 75 Emily Dickinson in the Upper East Side. P.S. 75 became the first school in New York state to join the immersion program, known as the International Spanish Academies, in 2012.

“Getting resources in Spanish is very hard,” she said at the Monday event. After her school joined the network, the Spanish government paid for some of her staff to attend a conference and put the school in touch with suppliers to get classroom materials originally written in Spanish, not translated into the language.

“If we’re teaching Spanish, it shouldn’t be translated,” she said.

Ya-ning Hsu, a professor at the Teachers College at Columbia University who has spoken with the Department of Education about how best to run dual-language programs, noted that there are even fewer classroom resources for languages other than Spanish, like Chinese.

“Teachers have to write their own books for children to read,” Hsu said. “We need more manpower, more resources.”

M.S. 223, The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology; and M.S. M247 Dual Language Middle School in the Upper West Side were also added the program.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.