By Taylor Mulcahey, The DC Line. Published February 3rd, 2020.
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Seeing a need to inform DC families, educators and lawmakers of the benefits and options for language learning, Bertelli went on to launch the DC Language Immersion Project in 2014 alongside Jimell Sanders, now chair of the organization’s board. In partnership with multiple DC agencies, the group sponsored the city’s fourth annual Multilingual Education Fair on Jan. 25, drawing 145 exhibitors and a daylong stream of families to the Roosevelt High School atrium.
Through her work with the DC Language Immersion Project, Bertelli has sought to overcome what she describes as a “patchy” understanding among DC stakeholders of the benefits of Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programs for students across racial, ethnic, linguistic and socio-economic backgrounds. The group’s website highlights research suggesting that these programs lead to higher achievement and greater access to jobs.
Though many focus on the benefits for children in English-speaking families, experts say that DLI programs are among the most effective interventions for English learners (ELs), increasing students’ English proficiency and closing the reading gap — facts that motivate Bertelli to continue her efforts.
“If you don’t understand the language spoken in a classroom, obviously you aren’t going to be able to learn,” said Bertelli. However, only 20% of ELs in DC are enrolled in one of about two dozen DLI programs in DC’s public and public charter school systems, according to the DC Language Immersion Project.
“This is egregious,” she added. “Something is not working in the way that we approach this problem.”
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