Cost and Alternatives

We compared the operational budgets of all elementary dual language programs (PCS and DCPS) with DCPS’ elementary school average. We found that all dual language programs, except three, have smaller operational budgets than the DCPS average.

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While some of these immersion programs might take advantage of additional money available for English Language Learners, examples like Tyler ES and Washington Yu Ying (where there are no substantial English Language Learners) show that these programs do not need to rely on ELL funding.

Here is the full presentation.

This is consistent with other states’ experiences. Delaware’s program budgets $1.9M per year over 10 years to implement immersion programs for 10,000 students. Utah budgets $2.4M per year to serve 25,000 students in dual language programs – less tan $100 per student.

In their book Dual Language Education for a Transformed World Thomas and Collier state “When comparing Dual Language (DL) classrooms to […] mainstream English classrooms [… c]ost for DL are less than for ESL-only because DL is a mainstream (not a separate remedial) program that is taught through two (rather than one) languages. Some extra cost may be needed for second language materials, but no additional classroom teachers are needed […]. ”

In comparison with FLES programs (Foreign Language in Elementary School), dual language immersion programs are less expensive, more impactful in terms of achievement and results on the District’s future workforce.

1. FLES is part of the answer in the short term because:
– Students from 1st grade onwards are too old to directly benefit from the introduction of a language immersion program in which children must be immersed before age 5 and which must be built from the bottom grades up, one year at a time.  Therefore, for older students FLES is the next best way of getting access to foreign languages.
– To maintain school cohesion when introducing language immersion, it is important that FLES programs in the partner language be made available to the older students.
2. FLES is not the answer in the long term because:
– FLES does not enable students to become bilingual and has much smaller effects on academic achievement and on career and college readiness.
– FLES is more expensive than immersion, as it requires additional staff positions.
– FLES is highly dependent on each school’s yearly operating budget and therefore is always at risk of being cut.
– FLES does not address student retention issues (implicit to language immersion is a long term commitment to the school or program)
– FLES is not the guaranteed enrollment booster that immersion is
– Therefore, ideally, FLES would be phased out as the immersion programs grow from the lower grades.
 While extending FLES programs to all DCPS elementary schools is a step in the right direction, as currently implemented, these programs have two major deficiencies:
– FLES is mandated only for 2nd to 5th graders, against all evidence on language acquisition, and
– FLES is often implemented in too short slots per week to make a real difference or even to qualify as a FLES program.  According to the definition by CAL, FLES is “A foreign language class taught at least 75 minutes per week […]”.