At its June 27 Board of Education meeting, Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD) highlighted its plans to launch a Vietnamese dual language immersion program beginning in the fall of the 2017-2018 school year. The program will be offered to all transitional kindergarten (TK) students at Murdy Elementary School, which has the highest percentage of native Vietnamese speakers.
During the board meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Sara Wescott introduced Michele Ho-Cao, a teacher at Allen Elementary School who has been selected as the Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) to work full-time on the development of standards-aligned instructional materials for the program as well as Van Anh Vu, a teacher at Murdy Elementary School who has been selected as the classroom teacher providing instruction in Vietnamese for the program. Murdy Elementary School Principal Marcie Griffith was also introduced and expressed strong support for the new program.
“We are all excited to offer our youngest students the opportunity to learn to read, speak, and write in both English and Vietnamese at a high academic level,” said Lan Nguyen, Board of Education President. “This student-centered program will give our students more opportunities for academic achievement and college and career readiness. We know that being bilingual gives job-seekers greater advantages in a whole host of professional career fields, including education, engineering, government, law, medicine, and many other 21st century industries.”
The Vietnamese Language teacher will teach Vietnamese early literacy, including phonics, reading, and writing. GGUSD is working with Dr. Natalie Tran with the National Resource Center for Asian Languages, who has already developed literacy curriculum that will be used in the program, to develop additional Vietnamese curriculum and collaborate with the other districts in the country that offer Vietnamese dual immersion programs. Other community consultants, including Vietnamese organizations and current and retired teachers of Vietnamese will contribute to the project.
“We are a district that is committed to bilingualism, biliteracy, and dual language education,” said Trustee Teri Rocco. “There are only a few Vietnamese dual immersion programs across the country and we are very fortunate to have highly-qualified, experienced teachers to help us build a successful program.”
“GGUSD will be the fourth district in the nation to launch a dual-immersion program in Vietnamese and we are excited to bring this program to our ethnically diverse communities,” said Trustee Walter Muneton.
The idea for a Vietnamese Dual Immersion program was explored in 2013 when the Board expressed an interest in expanding the district’s Heritage Language programs and contracted with the California Association of Bilingual Educators (CABE) to review the district’s language needs and make a recommendation on their findings.
“For several years, our district has been expanding its heritage language programs from kindergarten to high school” said Bob Harden, Board of Education vice president. “We want to be sure that the new Vietnamese dual immersion program will be sustainable and scalable so that we can offer this opportunity to students at multiple schools throughout the district.”
In their report, How to Best Preserve and Promote our Heritage Languages, CABE recommended the district first launch a Spanish Dual Language Program in the Fall of 2016 to meet the needs of the district’s largest student demographic and address the achievement gap among Latino students, followed by a Vietnamese Dual Language Program. GGUSD enjoys a collaborative relationship with CABE, which continues to advise the district on their heritage language and English Learner programs.
Research from Stanford University and other prestigious educational institutions has found that students in a dual immersion program often outperform students in English-only schools on reading, writing, and listening tests and possess higher levels of self-esteem and motivation.
GGUSD successfully opened Monroe Elementary Language Academy in September with 175 students learning English and Spanish and beginning their journey to become bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural. The program will begin its second year with full classes and an extensive waiting list of hopeful students.
“We know that a dual immersion program produces tremendous academic benefits like critical thinking skills and scholarly habits,” said Trustee Dina Nguyen. “The Board and district are committed to building a high quality Vietnamese program that meets the needs of our students and communities.”