Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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District 65 discusses bilingual Two-Way Immersion program benefits with parents

Edward Simon Cruz/The Daily Northwestern
Retired Chicago educator Isabel Tellez discussed the benefits of a “bilingual brain” at Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s TWI Night event on Thursday.

Seth Stern enrolled his son, a kindergartener, in the Two-Way Immersion program at Washington Elementary School for the 2023-24 school year. Now, Stern’s son learns alongside native Spanish speakers and receives instruction in both English and Spanish so he can eventually become proficient in both languages. 

Stern said his son is excited to go to school and has made a “diverse crew of friends.” 

“In addition to the educational component of TWI, the cultural component was important to us,” he said. 

Two families, including Stern’s, shared their experiences and provided feedback on Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s TWI program at the district’s TWI Night event at Oakton Elementary School Thursday evening.

District 65 offers TWI classes in five elementary schools and at the K-8 Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies, which is set to close after the 2025-26 school year. The district is expanding its Dual Language program, which includes TWI, to sixth-grade students at Bessie Rhodes in 2024-25.

Pending sufficient enrollment numbers and demand, all middle schools are set to have Dual Language programs for all grades by the 2029-30 school year.

District 65 Compliance Coordinator Kim Kelly and retired Chicago educator Isabel Tellez, a friend of Multilingual Program Director Amy Correa, led the event. 

Tellez showed parents a diagram showing that multilingual people have more gray brain matter, meaning their brains can process and store more information. 

She said families and educators should evaluate students’ learning progress through a “bilingual lens” by recognizing how they communicate across different languages. Assessment results in one language do not fully encapsulate a bilingual student’s knowledge or abilities, Tellez added. 

“(The tests are) comparing apples to oranges,” Tellez said. “They’re not the same.” 

Students can choose to take assessments in their preferred language, and the district is piloting Spanish proficiency assessments for teachers to use in classrooms, according to Kelly. 

Tellez said students in monolingual classrooms may outperform students in TWI classrooms on English achievement tests. She added that English learners generally need five to seven years to become fluent in another language. 

“It’s great that you’re starting so young, because by the time they get to seventh grade or eighth grade, they’re all proficient,” she said. “Then when they go to high school, they can start with (more advanced Spanish courses).” 

Tellez said families can support their children by communicating with them in their native languages, maintaining positive mindsets about bilingualism and learning and playing language games together. 

The district previously hosted two other TWI Night events in November and February.

The two families who attended Thursday’s event said they received little advance communication about it. 

According to Kelly, the district notified parents of the event through text messages, emails and announcements posted on the website and sent through teachers. 

Kelly said parents can contact her and her colleagues with concerns about communication or the future of the Dual Language program. 

“We want to get it right,” she said. 

Email: [email protected]

X: @edwardsimoncruz

Related Stories:

Bessie Rhodes parents concerned as D65 Dual Language expands

District 65 to begin closing Bessie Rhodes

District 65 talks Two-Way Immersion curriculum

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