DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — From Hebrew to Haitian Creole, 40 new and expanded dual language programs will open across the city next September, as the city revamps the admissions process to the classes.
The programs — 11 of which are in Brooklyn, 10 in The Bronx, nine in Manhattan, eight in Queens and two in Staten Island — are each getting $25,000 in federally funded planning grants to help them launch. The vast majority of the programs are Spanish. More than half of them — 23 — are in elementary schools.
"We are joining the rest of the world in speaking two languages and being bicultural," Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told teachers and principals Wednesday at a professional development workshop at the United Federation of Teachers' Downtown Brooklyn offices.
She said she's seen a "tremendous desire" from parents over the past five years for such programs.
Dual language classes aim to be evenly split between native English speakers and native speakers of the second language. At some schools, kids spend half the day in each language, while other programs alternate days. Sometimes it depends on the subject: Some schools teach math, science and social studies in Chinese, for example, and then use English for art, gym and "English language arts."
The city already had more than 100 dual language programs before the expansion. Creating more of them is part of the DOE's efforts to meet state-mandated goals to improve education for non-English-speaking students.
The expansion comes as the DOE is changing its kindergarten admissions policies for dual language programs, because of new state regulations that require kids who are learning English to take a test before being placed.
After families receive a kindergarten offer to a school in April, those who want to be part of a dual language program at that school will now have to take the extra step of doing an in-person interview with their child.
"[English Language Learners] have to go to the school for an interview and take a test," said Milady Baez, who heads the DOE's new office for English Language Learners.
"For English-proficient speakers, we'd like them to make an appointment at the school, too," she said. "They should have an interview to make sure they're English proficient."
That extra assessment step means that families may not find out until later in the spring whether they are officially admitted to a dual language program, which might be challenging to parents who are also weighing charters, gifted and talented programs or dealing with waitlists, said Joyce Szuflita, a consultant with NYC School Help who advises Brooklyn families on school admissions.
Another issue is that parents can no longer rank a dual language program separately on their kindergarten application, but must instead apply to the larger school where the program is housed. That gives parents less flexibility in ranking their choices, particularly if they like the dual language program but would not want their child to attend the school's general education program, Szuflita said.
"It throws a monkey wrench into many families' ranking strategies," she wrote in her blog. "Now if you like the [dual language program], you also have to be satisfied with the proposition that you may end up in that school's gen ed."
She added, "That may be too great a risk for some."