Program shows pride in diversity
EDWARDS – “Taking students twice as far.”That’s the motto of Berry Creek Middle School’s sixth grade dual-language program. According to teachers there, the program, a continuation of fifth grade studies in which students learned English and Spanish, is a premier educational experience.Goals for dual-language students includes 80 percent of students reaching proficient or advanced levels on the state reading and writing tests by the eighth grade; writing and speaking English and Spanish fluently; and understanding and embracing important aspects of different cultures. Fifty percent of the teachers in Berry Creek’s program are bilingual, with 54 years of combined teaching experience; 83 percent have master’s degrees in education or bilingual studies.
In addition to that, a part-time coordinator – Michele Rewold – was hired last spring. Rewold has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Spanish. She also has 10 years of bilingual-education experience. “I’m in the process of visiting other dual-language middle school around Colorado,” says Rewold, adding there are only four such programs in the state. “By continuing a dual-language program in the middle school, students will have the opportunity to continue their bilingual studies during their secondary education.”Seventy percent of the instruction for social studies, reading and language is in English and 30 percent, in Spanish. Students also work together in small groups and teachers help with homework three days a week. Carmen Gregory, one of the program’s English teachers, says dual-language programs students get better grades than students in regular classrooms. “I have worked at schools with dual language before, and I feel the strategies and program we use here are the best. I love my job,” says Gregory. “Students in the program are able to make more connections in literature, they show great word usage skills and they have a liberal arts-type of well-roundedness about their knowledge.”
Not all sixth graders are in the program at Berry Creek Middle. “It’s more of a ‘school within a school’ program,'” says Mike Gass, the district’s director of secondary education. The program is expensive, which is one of the reasons why other district middle schools don’t host the program. Other reasons include the challenge of finding fluent and bi-literate teachers, and whether a school’s administrators want the program.”It’s a philosophical choice, and it’s somewhat costly,” says GassGass says teachers in the program at Berry Creek “don’t lower their expectation of students, and they do a great job of differentiating.”
“They’ve really become a model for our district in the way they’ve attacked what some people would perceive as a problem,” Gass says. “They’re very proud of their diversity.”Vail, Colorado