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Open Letter to DCPS Chancellor on Houston Elementary

Dear Chancellor,

Houston Elementary led the way in being the very first dual language program East of the River. DCPS listened to the wishes of the Deanwood community and in 2016 Houston Elementary enrolled an inaugural PK3 class of 30 students who would go onto learning in both English and Spanish. This fall, the program will enroll its first class of second graders.

Because the program at Houston serves a community which is almost entirely African American and low income, DCPS knew it had to be creative in the way it adapted a model traditionally intended for English learners and popular among communities with more access to resources and opportunity. To strengthen the program, last year, DCPS hired a dedicated dual language coordinator, and, to share the love of languages, Spanish classes for adults have been made available to the families of students. The uniqueness of the program at Houston has been written about in the national press and has been key to increasing enrollment at the severely under enrolled school.

Now, a wonderful opportunity presents itself to further strengthen and grow the dual language program through the selection of a new principal who throughly believes in the benefits of the program, understands the challenges, and has the experience to guide the school’s teachers and staff on the path forward. A key to the future success of the program at Houston is meeting the needs of all of its students, regardless of race, income, linguistic ability or special needs. A dual language program which includes students with special needs is best practice, and is possible even in low income communities, as demonstrated by P.S. 112 Jose Celso Barbosa Elementary School in East Harlem, New York City where over 40% of students have special needs, 80% are economically disadvantaged and 14% are homeless.

The current COVID-19 circumstances are accelerating reliance on distance learning. The new principal can harness these new tools to bring authentic content and resources to dual language programs in underserved communities where there are few speakers of the partner language.

Dual language programs are inequitably accessible to at black and risk students. By selecting a principal with extensive experience in bilingual education who firmly believes in the dual language model for all students, DCPS can increase equitable access to high-in-demand, opportunity-boosting programs for a growing number of students East of the river, regardless of socioeconomic status or ability.

We look forward to the entire Houston community growing under the dual language model, and stand ready to assist.

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