Dual Language Planning Updates

Our DL engagement process is ongoing. Want to connect for an update or to share your thoughts? Contact DCPS.Planning@dc.gov or (202) 821-6557.


This school year, DCPS opened three new Dual Language programs at Houston ES, MacFarland MS, and Roosevelt HS, bringing the total number of English/Spanish programs  in DCPS to 11. Through all our work engaging school communities over the past two years around dual language, we’ve heard demand from parents across the city for more language programming in DCPS. Some parents want more English/Spanish programs, some want a more equitable spread of programs across the city, others want to see new languages like Mandarin, French, or Arabic introduced.


Map of DCPS Dual Language Programs.

In the past, DCPS has generally opened new Dual Language (DL) programs one at a time, addressing needs and demand from school communities as they come. As you may notice in the map above, there is now a strong concentration of DL programs in Wards 1 and 4, an area there is also a high concentration of native Spanish speakers.

While opening in this cluster helps programs enroll a mix of native Spanish and native English speakers, it makes equity of access across the city difficult. Looking at the map above, if you’re a student in Ward 8 or 5 you’re looking at a lengthy commute if you’re able to get into a DL program. Having programs clustered in Columbia Heights / Petworth also makes it challenging to offer convenient feeder patterns for schools outside that hub.


Our goal through this process is to engage a wide range of stakeholders across the city and develop a multi-year plan for dual language going forward. In particular, we want to address equity of access and complete feeder patterns (referenced above). We’re talking with parents who have kids in DL, parents who don’t, school leaders, staff, dual language experts, and community members and asking:

  • What’s going well with dual language now? What do you like about it or find appealing?
  • What do you want to see change going forward?
  • How do you think DCPS should expand dual language?

What we’ve done

  • One on one meetings or phone calls with 30 different parents and community members.
  • Larger community meetings at Takoma EC, Marie Reed ES, the Ward 5 Council on Education, Tubman ES, and the Ward 4 Education Alliance.
  • Conversations with dual language leaders and staff members at Oyster Adams, Tyler ES, CHEC, Powell, and Bancroft.
  • Looked at preliminary data on English Language Learner (ELL) and non-ELL performance in our dual language programs.
  • Spoke with a range of dual language researchers and other school districts and states across the country with successful DL programs.

What we’ve heard

  • Parents are interested in ways for their kids to learn another language. Many are excited about dual language specifically, but many are also open to alternative ways for students to learn a second language. This could include more intensive language study, or after school and summer programs.
  • Dual Language school leaders are bought into and excited about dual language, and want it to be available to more students across the city.
  • While parents are excited about language, there are reservations about adopting the program at their school because of what it would mean for the school culture and staff. Moving to DL often implies significant staff turnover to get the right number of bilingual educators.
  • Parents and staff want clear, logical feeder patterns so students can progress in dual language from elementary to middle to high school.
  • Parents, staff, and community members want students across the city to be able to access dual language programming more easily. They’ve pointed out the lack of DCPS programs in Wards 5 and 8 specifically.
  • Concerns about strand programs vs. whole school models. Some parents and community members feel strand programs can create divisions within one school community, while others feel it’s important to offer the option of a non-DL program in their neighborhood school.

Meeting Schedule

Interested in talking with us or want to schedule a larger meeting at your school community? You can always reach us at DCPS.Planning@dc.gov or (202) 821-6557, or feel free to join us at an upcoming meeting:

  • Oyster Adams Bilingual School (2801 Calvert St. NW) at 9am Friday, 11/4
  • Ward 8 Education Council house meeting – Monday, November 28th (Location TBD)
  • Miner Elementary School PTO – Monday, 12/5 at 6pm
  • Ward 7 Education Council (TBD)



DCPS Dual Language Planning

Over the past two months, the DCPS Planning Team has been meeting with stakeholders to discuss dual language in DCPS and possible ways to expand programming in the future. We’re meeting with parents, community members, school leaders, and dual language advocates to hear thoughts on what’s working, what’s not, and where DCPS should go next with dual language.

Last year we worked to open three new dual language programs at Roosevelt High School, MacFarland Middle School, and Houston Elementary School, making 11 total in DCPS. Still, we continue to hear demand from parents for more bilingual programs in more languages across the city. While we are not able to open a new dual language program at every school we hear support for it, our goal for this process is to develop a plan for expanding bilingual programming in a more systematic way over multiple years. This plan should lead to increased equity of access to dual language programs across the city and more complete feeder patterns, while taking into account the input of our stakeholders over the coming months.

We plan to continue engaging with folks over the coming months and develop some initial recommendations for next steps in late October/early November. Please see below for the presentation we used at a recent meeting with leaders of ward education concils, and as always, reach out to us with any questions or comments at DCPS.Planning@dc.gov.

DCPS Dual Language Planning


Dual Language Interview Series: Katarina Brito

In School Year 2016-2017, DCPS will have dual language at 11 schools with new programs at Houston Elementary School, MacFarland Middle School, and Roosevelt High School. We’ve heard a lot of interest from parents across the city about these programs, and will start sharing some information about plans to expand bilingual education at DCPS over the coming months.

We got to sit down with Katarina Brito, a Dual Language Developer in DCPS’ Language Acquisition Division, to talk about dual-language in DCPS! Katarina got her start with us after teaching in California and now works to provide high-quality bilingual education to a growing number of DC Public School students.


School Planning: What do Dual Language programs look like at DCPS?

Katarina Brito: All of our programs are Spanish-English dual language programs; they’re fifty-fifty models which mean that at least fifty percent of instruction is offered in the non-English language starting at kindergarten. Within the fifty-fifty model, there’s another model that is known as “two-way immersion”, where kids who speak both languages learn together in the classroom. There are also one-way programs, in which a majority of students speak English or the non-English language. In DCPS we have all of those models; Tyler Elementary has 90% English speaking kids and a few Spanish-speakers, Powell is 85% Spanish-speaking, and most of our other schools are a mix of Spanish- and English-dominant students – all with half of the instruction in English and half in Spanish.

One thing that’s important to emphasize is that our dual-language schools, no matter the model, all have the same four goals: bilingualism (speaking fluently in two languages), biliteracy (reading and writing in two languages), academic achievement, and cultural competency. Those are our driving forces whenever we’re making decisions. We ask ourselves, “How does this change that we’re making bring us closer to meeting or exceeding our goals?”

Within our schools we have a lot of variety. For example, a school might switch the language of instruction by week, day, half-day, or even classroom. We have a set of non-negotiables which makes sure we have stability in place to meet our goals. In fact, we were just complimented in an article in New America, which highlighted how the dual-language programs at DCPS are particularly responsive to their communities, which calls attention to why we have so many models across the District.

School Planning: Is there data that supports dual-language education models?

Katarina pointed us to some research done on elementary and middle school students, which shows that dual-language programs can provide major benefits for native English-speakers and non-native English-speakers. English Language Learners (ELLs) in dual-language tend to have higher test-scores than students in English-Only programs, and English dominant students in dual-language programs tend to perform at or above the level of peers in English-only classrooms. Additionally, dual-language students show higher rates of self-esteem and self-confidence, drop out of school at lower rates, and experience a smaller achievement gap between English-learners and English dominant students.



Thomas and Collier research results: 40,000 ELLs, proficiency on standardized tests in English. The arrow indicates at about 6th grade, English Language Learners in two-way bilingual immersion begin to perform better academically than the 50th percentile of native English speakers.

School Planning: How have parents and communities responded to Dual-Language?

KB: They’re hugely popular among both English Language Learners and English-dominant students. All of this information has come out on the benefits of bilingualism, and families, especially English-speaking families, are excited to immerse their children in such a program and to have their kids develop second-language proficiency.

We also have a sizable number of students who speak another language at home, like Vietnamese or Amharic, and they’re participating in the dual-language program as well, so they’re actually becoming trilingual.

School Planning: What are some of the biggest obstacles facing Dual-Language in DCPS?

KB: There are big obstacles, but there used to be huge obstacles. We’ve been able to find creative ways around staffing and now have no teaching vacancies in any of our schools. We’ve been able to make this possible through partnerships with foreign countries and recruiting from Puerto Rico and the rest of the US. DCPS is really building a name for itself, so people are coming to us after hearing about our programs. Materials are another issue because we’re working within a system that is designed for English instruction, so there’s a need to be creative to make sure we have appropriate and adequate materials in the non-English language.

Additionally, all of the DCPS Dual-Language schools have just been combined into one cluster, which means that they are grouped together and run by one superintendent. This means that all the DL schools can learn from each other, ask questions based on experience, and provide each other resources that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s been really powerful.

School Planning: Are DL programs being piloted anywhere else in the country?

KB: Yes. There’s a huge upswing of DL programs in the nation because of all the research and articles which have come out, proving the benefits of bilingualism. Places like Oregon, and North Carolina are on the cutting edge. In the state of Utah, the governor has committed to opening 100 dual language programs in the year and the state of Delaware is doing the same. California, Texas, and New Mexico all have strong programs as well. It’s popping up everywhere.

School Planning: How do dual-language programs integrate “cultural competency” in schools?

KB: Last year was our first year to offer the Seal of Biliteracy award to high school students who can prove bilingualism and biliteracy. To get the Seal, students have to prove that they’ve taken coursework in English, taken coursework in the non-English language, and have evidence of a cultural competency activity. For example, one recipient did an internship in Mandarin, one student did volunteer work in a French-speaking country, and another went to baseball camp in the Dominican Republic.

The award serves as well-earned recognition for these students that have continued their bilingualism beyond their dual-language programs. It really shows that these programs can have an impact beyond the years students are enrolled in DL programs. We want to keep kids motivated to pursue their dual-language fluency.

School Planning: Is there anything else you’d like the DCPS community to know about dual language programs?

KB: In 2005, there were maybe 500 kids in DL and this year we have 3000 plus. There’s a lot of talk about how there aren’t enough programs out there, but we’ve expanded six-fold. We also didn’t used to have early-childhood, we didn’t used to have high school or middle school programs and now we have it from Pre-K through 12th grades. We’ve grown a great deal over the past ten years and are continuing to explore where we go from here.

MacFarland and Roosevelt Community Cabinet Meeting Notes

Both the Roosevelt and the MacFarland Community Cabinets met the last week of June to wrap up a school year’s worth of work on their neighborhood schools. The Roosevelt Cabinet discussed a number of updates regarding school facilities, uniforms, and an introduction of new administrators. MacFarland Cabinet members discussed facility updates and weighed in on how MacFarland should brand and market itself as a neighborhood school with both dual language and comprehensive programs. It was especially helpful to have parent representatives from all DCPS elementary schools with both dual language and comprehensive tracks.

Principal James even closed us out with a nice little surprise! Much needed on an approximately one billion degree afternoon. Thank you to all our Cabinet members for a year of hard work — we can’t wait to see what the next year holds for your neighborhood schools! Find the Roosevelt notes HERE, and MacFarland notes HERE.

Welcome to MacFarland, Mr. Sanders!

MacFarland community members, we’ve got some exciting news on MacFarland leadership! As you may recall, Roosevelt Principal Aqueelha James will be Principal of MacFarland for the next two years with the support of a bilingual Assistant Principal. In early April DCPS asked a group of community members, parents, and MacFarland Community Cabinet members to meet the candidates for MacFarland AP and make a recommendation to the Chancellor. We’re happy to announce today that the panel’s recommendation, Mark Sanders, has accepted an offer to join MacFarland’s leadership team!

Mr. Sanders has a ten year track record of success as a bilingual educator, starting out as a Spanish teacher and serving as Assistant Principal at McKinley Tech High School and Powell Elementary School. He has a Masters in Education from Harvard University’s School Leadership Program and is a current Mary Jane Patterson Fellow at Woodson Senior High School.

Mark Sanders

The full announcement in English and Spanish is below. We’ll be announcing opportunities to meet your new MacFarland leadership team soon. Stay tuned!

050616 MacFarland AP announcement ENG050616 MacFarland AP announcement SPAN


MacFarland Leadership Announcement

Below is the letter  announcing MacFarland Middle School’s leadership structure from DCPS Chief of Schools John Davis. The full announcement was sent home to our feeder families last week; the key idea is that Roosevelt High School Planning Principal Aqueelha James will lead MacFarland during its first two years with the support of a bilingual, biliterate Assistant Principal with dual language expertise to oversee the day-to-day operations of the middle school. We’re excited to start enrollment on April 1st!

032116 MacFarland letter English032116 MacFarland letter Spanish