Parental demand for dual language programs in DC far exceeds the supply of these programs. The 2017-18 waitlist results published by DC Public Charter School Board show that out of the six elementary schools with the longest waitlist, five are dual language schools, with Elsie Whitlow Stokes PCS leading the pack with 1,600 children on the waitlist. [The numbers for DC Public Schools are harder to interpret but show a somewhat similar trend.]
This means best case scenario 1600, worst case scenario 10,000 frustrated families. While we do not know how these families are spread across the District (see our research on demand for dual language programs) and are working to increase access to information and research about these programs by communities across the District, we do know that:
- access to dual language programs is geographically inequitable
- only 8% of DC students are currently in a dual language program
- communities in all eight wards of the city are advocating for more dual language programs in their neighborhoods
- in communities where English only and dual language programs are both available within one school, dual language programs have twice as long a waitlist
- introducing a dual language program in a neighborhood school which previously did not have a waitlist, creates a waitlist
There are many reason DC parents value dual language programs. The reasons that are given to us in surveys revolve around greater opportunity and empathy for other cultures. By meeting DC parents’ demand for dual language programs, the District would end up with a better prepared workforce, more empathetic communities and less frustrated residents. What’s not to love?