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Thanks to McAllen ISD’s Dual Language Program, students in elementary school can actually earn credit toward their diploma years before they step into a high school.

That’s what happened to 36 students in the district. They earned one high school Languages Other Than English (LOTE) credit at the end of fifth grade this past spring. The students are now in their first year of middle school but already have credit toward their high school diploma.

This is the third year McAllen ISD students have had this opportunity. In 2020, 12 students earned the foreign-language credit and, in 2021, 13 students earned it, meaning 61 students have reached this goal in three years.

The criteria included participation in the Dual Language Program for five consecutive years, achieving meets standard or higher on the STAAR Reading and Math tests and scoring at a proficient level in the language-proficiency assessment in both English and Spanish.

In a dual-language classroom, students learn their lessons in two languages.

“The goal of the program is for the students to become bilingual, biliterate and bicultural by the end of their program participation,” Rocio Nava, McAllen ISD’s Director for Bilingual, ESL & Foreign Languages, said. “Being bilingual opens many doors for them in the career world. Additional benefits for them are to stay connected with their families and culture.”

The program began in 2013 at seven elementary schools. It has since expanded to the middle school and high school level. This seamless transition allows students to strengthen their biliteracy.

Part of the approach involves pairing up students based on their content and language ability to support each other.

“So the student that is more proficient in Spanish is going to support the one that is more proficient in English to develop the Spanish language as they acquire the academic content,” Nava explained, adding that the English-dominant student will, in turn, assist the Spanish-dominant partner in learning the content and developing their English language. “They will help each other out.”

The program is offered at Fields Elementary, Gonzalez Elementary, Jackson Elementary, McAuliffe Elementary, Milam Elementary, Perez Elementary, Sanchez Elementary, Fossum Middle School and Achieve Early College High School.

Participation in the Dual Language Program is free. Transportation is available. For more information, contact the Bilingual Department at 956-618-7338.

Parents living outside McAllen ISD’s boundaries may attend on an application basis. The district does not charge tuition for families living outside the boundaries.