West Putnam Elementary School has been awarded a $380,000 grant to expand its developing dual language immersion program, the state recently announced.

West Putnam was one of 27 schools and school districts in the state to receive a grant through the competitive grant process. Schools and districts could be awarded a grant of up to $400,000 to expand their dual language immersion programs or to establish a new one.

West Putnam was the only school in Tulare County to receive a grant. Two districts in the county were awarded a grant as Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District was awarded a $380,000 grant and Visalia Unified School District was awarded a $400,000 grant.

More than 100 schools and districts applied for the grant. “It was a very competitive grant,” West Putnam principal Patty Espinosa said. “I think it's great were were one of the districts selected.”

The Dual Language Immersion Grant was established by Assembly Bill 130 to expand access to dual language learning to English learners. The grant requires grantees to provide integrated language learning and academic instruction in elementary and secondary schools for native speakers of English and native speakers of another language to achieve proficiency in a first and second language and to promote understanding of different cultures.

West Putnam has had a dual language immersion program for four years now. The school now has 46 third graders who began in the program as kindergartners.

When the program began it was offered at the K-3 level. Since then the school has expanded it to also offer the program to preschoolers and to transitional kindergarten students so students will have two years in the program by the time they get to kindergarten.

Espinoza also said the school has worked hard to make sure the program maintained its sustainability through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools and districts received grants to expand or establish dual language immersion programs, so West Putnam will use the grant to continue to expand its program. West Putnam will use the grant to provide training for its teachers that's dual language immersion specific. “Professional development is huge that's specific to dual immersion,” Espinosa said.

Espinosa noted students in the program have two teachers, an English teacher and a Spanish teacher, but all the teachers are dual language immersion teachers. She said the teachers receive training in providing concepts that are similar in English and Spanish and that are specific to English and Spanish.

Espinosa added a team from the Teaching for Bi-literacy program also comes to the school to work with teachers.

The school will also use the grant to purchase bilingual library materials for classrooms.

I applaud these schools for taking the initiative to invest in their dual language immersion programs,” State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond said. “Schools with strong dual language immersion programs are proven to promote strong academic performance among students from all backgrounds and, in the end, prepare our students for college and careers in a highly competitive global marketplace where speaking more than one language is a critical skill.”

For more information regarding the grant, visit https://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr22/yr22rel51.asp.

The grant program will will fund the expansion or establishment of dual language immersion programs at 55 schools in the state. Grants can also be used for bilingual teacher recruitment, and family and student outreach.

For more information on the grant program or to view grant recipients, visit the following link: https://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr22/yr22rel51.asp For more information on multilingual education and dual language immersion programs, visit the following link: https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/el/er/multilingualedu.asp

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