CPS investing in Spanish and the benefits of dual-language programs

CHICAGO — More than 400 million people in the world speak Spanish. Many schools nationwide are capitalizing on that and investing in dual-language programs.

In Chicago, kids are starting as early as pre-K and by the time they graduate high school, hundreds are earning the seal of biliteracy.

That seal was first kicked off in California in 2012. Jorge Macias, who runs the CPS Office of Language and Cultural Education, said it can get students early college credit.

“We have about 1,000 students annually who earn the seal of biliteracy,” Macias said.

And employers are taking that seal seriously.

More than 20 states have adopted it. CPS is hoping that by the year 2030 at least half of its graduates are eligible to earn one.

Many educators are eyeing the possibility of the U.S. following some of the trends seen internationally where, in many, cases people speak two, or more in some cases, languages.

But it will take some time. Critics argue focusing too much on language takes away from learning about subjects overall.

“There’s research that shows that they are more cognitively flexible,” Macias said. “They are able to understand ideas in a little bit more broad ways.”

The University of Chicago is researching how the bilingual programs at CPS are doing.

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