×

Most Hispanic US state weighs benefits of language programs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jacqueline Powell and her fourth grade classmates toiled over pencil and paper to write a letter in Spanish about what they did in class this year.

Powell explained the assignment in perfect Spanish before struggling to translate the words to end her sentence. The 10-year-old charter school student raised her forearms to her temples in a show of mental effort, making her large round glasses seesaw up and down.

That struggle, fought every week at the New Mexico International School in Albuquerque, has put her speaking ability far ahead of some of her high school peers. It has allowed her to speak in Spanish with her grandmother, who is from Chihuahua, Mexico, and she has fostered a secret language between her and her mom, whose husband and step children can’t speak Spanish.

While dual language programs are offered in thousands of schools across the U.S., New Mexico is the only state where the right to learn in Spanish is laid out in the constitution.

Dual language programs like the one at the New Mexico International School are championed by Hispanic parents who want their children to cultivate cultural roots. They are also seen by education experts as the best way for English learners to excel in K-12 schools.

The question for lawmakers in the nation’s most heavily Hispanic state is why New Mexico’s dual language programs aren’t being used by the students who most need them.

Legislative analysts are expected in the coming weeks to release a report that will highlight challenges facing dual language and other multicultural programs. It will include a look at decades-old trends such as a lack of oversight by education officials, declining participation, and a reduction in the number of multicultural programs, said Legislative Finance Committee spokesman Jon Courtney.

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *
   

COMMENTS

Starting at $3.69/week.

Subscribe Today