Bilingual Education

In MPS’s longstanding bilingual program, hundreds of scholars study in languages apart from English | WUWM 89.7 FM

In Milwaukee Public Colleges, about 7,000 college students spend a lot of their time studying in a language apart from English. The district has an array of bilingual, twin language and language immersion faculties.

On a current morning at H.W. Longfellow Elementary on the close to south facet, first grade trainer Evadelia Aldape helps college students wrap up a phonics train on “a” and “o” sounds in Spanish.

“Árbol, a la, oficina,” Aldape says.

A couple of minutes later, the category switches to English to sing a track.

Longfellow is one among MPS’s 16 developmental bilingual faculties, that are geared towards English learners whose first language is Spanish. MPS enrolls about 10,000 English learners all through the district — greater than half are Spanish audio system.

Within the bilingual program at Longfellow, college students begin out with 90% of instruction in Spanish. Once they get to Aldape’s first grade classroom, 80% of instruction is in Spanish.

“We train about an hour of English a day after which the remaining is in Spanish,” Aldape says. “The topics which might be in English are largely well being, science and social research as a result of it lends itself to it. However our most important focus is to show studying and writing and math in Spanish.”


Spanish-language books fill the cabinets in first grade trainer Evadelia Aldape’s classroom.

Aldape generally wears totally different colour scarfs, as a visible cue for the language college students needs to be talking. Blue is for English, inexperienced is for Spanish.

English is phased in as college students grow old. Beginning in fourth or fifth grade, instruction is half in Spanish and half in English. It’s generally known as a developmental, or upkeep bilingual mannequin, the place the objective is to keep up the coed’s dwelling language as an alternative of phasing it out.

“The language is a part of the tradition of the kid,” says MPS Director of Bilingual Multicultural Training Lorena Gueny. “And we need to respect that tradition by respecting the language.”

MPS’ bilingual faculties are the results of mother or father and group activism 50 years in the past. Puerto Rico native Tony Baez was one of many Latino activists who pushed MPS to pay for bilingual schooling.

“The Latino group throughout this nation, not solely in Milwaukee [was saying] immigration is growing, and subsequently, you need to maintain language, and America needs to be bilingual like different international locations,” says Baez. “And also you solely do that, not by assimilating, however by rising their language, rising their tradition, recognizing that that is OK, that is stunning.”


Maria Orozco, a 3rd grade trainer at H.W. Longfellow College, works with a scholar. A few third of Longfellow’s roughly 700 college students are enrolled in bilingual lessons.

Utilizing federal grant funding, MPS had piloted bilingual applications at a couple of faculties beginning within the late Sixties. They included Vieau, Lincoln and South Division. Baez says in 1974, on the urging of the group, the district dedicated to increasing bilingual bicultural applications to serve extra English learners.

“And that grew to become the envy of New York, California, Texas,” stated Baez. “I nonetheless bear in mind folks coming right here and saying how did you guys do it?”

Baez says, in different states, college district leaders wished to make use of transitional bilingual faculties to assimilate Spanish audio system into all-English lessons. In distinction, MPS embraced developmental bilingual schooling, which goals to show college students 50% in English and 50% in Spanish.

Now, the advantages of bilingualism are extra widely known.

“When youngsters are positioned in bilingual settings, they outperform monolingual college students academically, as a result of they’re capable of do teachers in two languages,” says UWM assistant professor and bilingual schooling skilled Tatiana Joseph. “However they’re additionally capable of assume in another way and course of in another way. And that impacts the mind in a great way.”

MPS later expanded its bilingual choices to English audio system, with language immersion and twin language faculties. The primary was German Immersion College, in 1977. French, Spanish and Italian adopted.


A 3rd grade bilingual classroom at H.W. Longfellow College has directions in each Spanish and English.

“The entire applications we provide are about language acquisition. However the language acquisition is instructed in another way,” says MPS’s Lorena Gueny. “Within the immersion, they begin within the goal language. Whether it is French, they begin in French 100%.”

Then there are the dual-language faculties, often known as two-way bilingual. These are for each Spanish- and English-speaking college students.

In 1988, Fratney launched its dual-language program within the Riverwest neighborhood.

MPS Board President and former Fratney trainer Bob Peterson was concerned in that effort.

“I strongly assist bilingual faculties, usually, however I additionally assist built-in faculties,” Peterson says. “To perform that, one has a two-way bilingual program. The objective is to have 50% Spanish-speaking college students and 50% English-speaking college students, and so they can study from each other.”

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Milwaukee Public Colleges


These are the 21 MPS faculties with bilingual applications. The colleges in daring (Fratney, Riley, Hayes, Kagel and Lincoln) are two-way bilingual or twin language, which means they serve each native English and Spanish audio system. The others are one-way bilingual, geared towards English learners who converse Spanish as a primary language. This listing doesn’t embrace the language immersion faculties: German, French, Spanish and Italian. These faculties serve largely English audio system relatively than English learners.

In 2020, MPS began providing highschool college students the chance to earn a Seal of Biliteracy by demonstrating proficiency in two languages. Milwaukee is one among simply 14 Wisconsin districts to supply that certificates.

Tony Baez, who not too long ago completed a stint on the MPS college board, has pushed for the district to develop bilingual applications in its predominately Black north facet faculties. Baez notes that bilingual faculties are clustered on the south facet, whereas most language immersion faculties are on the western fringe of Milwaukee, and serve a whiter scholar inhabitants.

“It is good for everyone, not only for Latino children,” Baez says. “If Milwaukee develops bilingual applications that attain everyone…the very act of studying a language will get children to confide in studying.”

Again at Longfellow college, eighth grader Estefany Rivera-Gomez says, because the daughter of Mexican immigrants, she didn’t study to talk English till she was in kindergarten.

“I really feel studying each English and Spanish makes me join extra to my tradition,” Rivera-Gomez says. “I really feel like if I had been to only be studying English, I might fall again in talking Spanish, and I might lose my tradition.”

Estefany is glad she goes to a faculty the place her first language of Spanish is seen as an asset, not a deficit.

Editor’s be aware: MPS is a monetary contributor to WUWM.

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