The West Liberty Community School District’s Dual Language Program began in the fall of 1997 when the district received a five-year $1.7 million dollar federal Title VII grant from the United States Department of Education. A team of teachers, administrators, school board members, parents, and community members spent a year studying various program models and engaging in teacher training. Community meetings and pre-registration for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten were held.
The first year of implementation was in the fall of 1998 at grades pre-kindergarten and kindergarten with two classroom sections at each grade level. From 1999-2002, additional grade levels were added as the oldest group advanced to the next grade. In June 2002, after completion of the five-year grant, the program was established through third grade. From July 2002 to the present, the district has continued to support the program extending through 12th grade.
In 2007, West Liberty began a partnership with the International Spanish Academy, a part of the Ministry of Education of Spain. The elementary, middle school, and high school all became International Spanish academies and were the first in Iowa.
International Spanish Academies
The International Spanish Academies (ISAs)are educational centers encompassing all grade levels from pre-K through 12, known for their academic prestige. These schools implement any of the programs using content and Language Integrated (CLIL) methodology in Spanish (immersion, dual, bilingual). These centers sign an agreement with the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. The program is part of the activities organized by the Spanish Education Office in the U.S. and Canada in collaboration with North American education authorities. ISA-networked schools have access to the following benefits:
Spanish highly qualified visiting teachers
Language and Culture Assistants
Continuing education summer courses in Spain for teachers/administrators
Partnering with Spanish schools
In 2011, 13 students graduated from the Dual Language Program and received diplomas from the International Spanish Academy. This was the first graduating class and an important milestone for West Liberty Community Schools and the Dual Language program. These students went through many changes and were a part of many “trials and errors”. The program continues to graduate students each year.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 laid the legal foundation in providing equitable educational access for English language learners. Title VI of this Act forced public schools nationwide to examine policies of potential discrimination by stating the following: “No person shall, on the grounds of race, color or national origin, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal Financial assistance” (Teaching Diverse Learners, 2005).
The Bilingual Education Act of 1968
The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 focused specifically on English language learners. Congress mandated that schools provide bilingual education programs and endorsed funding of such initiatives. Districts were allowed to adapt bilingual programs to fit student needs, but each program was required to provide “full access to the learning environment, the curriculum, special services and assessment in a meaningful way” (Kipp, 2002).
Lau v. Nichols of 1974
Lau v. Nichols (1974), a precedent setting case heard before the United States Supreme Court, provided clearer interpretation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The issue to be decided was whether or not schools were meeting the intent of the law by treating all students the same, or whether special help must be provided to those students who did not understand English. In this situation, one thousand eight hundred Chinese students filed a class action suit against the San Francisco Unified School District claiming that no support programming was provided to allow them equal educational access. The Supreme Court decision sided with the students ruling that “…giving all students the same desks, books, teachers, and lessons does not mean that they have equal opportunity, especially if there are students who do not speak English”. (Teaching Diverse Learners, 2005).
Phyler v. Doe of 1982
Until this time, public schools considered it necessary to identify illegal aliens and justified the denial of educational access to undocumented persons. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that “Schools are not agencies or agents for enforcing immigration law” (Teaching Diverse Learners, 2005). Once again, schools were reminded that English language learners could not be discriminated against and that programming enabling access to education was required.
Executive Order 13166 of 2000
President Bush signed Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency” on August 11, 2000. This Executive Order required all entities receiving federal funding to “examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to those with limited English proficiency (LEP), and develop and implement a system to provide those services so LEP persons can have meaningful access to them” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2000). As a stricter enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this Order came complete with a Policy Guidance Document issued by the U. S. Department of Justice. Of particular note are the explicit compliance standards that recipients of federal funds must follow to ensure that all programs normally provided in English are accessible to English language learners without undue service discrimination.
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
This act makes student progress the sole determinant of a state’s allocation of federal funds and how those funds may be utilized. The Act targets all students, with Title III specifically pertaining to the educational progress of English language learners. Under Title III, all states must have English language proficiency standards and annual achievement objectives for increasing the English proficiency of English language learners. States must also administer English language tests that identify proficiency in reading, writing, listening, speaking, and comprehension. Keeping the intent of No Child Left Behind on student achievement, Title III also requires these proficiency standards to be directly linked to a state’s academic standards.