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Stanford Study of RCSD's Spanish Immersion Program Confirms Previous Research of High Levels of Academic Achievement. Researchers Tracked Current High School Students Graduates of RCSD’s Spanish Immersion Program


Local high school students who graduated from Redwood City School District’s (RCSD) Dual Language Immersion Program in Spanish are reaching high levels of academic achievement and outperforming their peers. That’s the conclusion to which a team of Stanford University researchers arrived after performing a longitudinal study following several cohorts of Spanish Immersion graduates into middle school and high school. 

RCSD’s Dual Language Immersion Program in Spanish is housed at Adelante Selby Spanish Immersion School in Atherton (Prek, TK, and K-5 grades) and Kennedy Middle School in Redwood City (6-8 grades). The program brings together a student population composed of 50% Spanish-speaking students and 50% English-speaking students. 

“We’re proud of what Stanford concluded about our program,” says RCSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Liz Wolfe who served as Adelante Selby’s Principal earlier in her career. “While research has always shown that bilingualism has many benefits including increased cognitive development and academic achievement, we’re pleased that Stanford has reached a similar conclusion after studying our data. This tells us that we’re doing a good job as we help students master English proficiency and learn a new language.” 

Findings from the Stanford University study show that enrollment in the Dual Language Immersion Program (DLI) propels students faster toward English proficiency, supporting the reputation RCSD has earned for expertise in language acquisition.

While the target language is Spanish, results from the study also show that most graduates of the DLI program, who are initially classified as English Learners (ELs) in kindergarten, are reclassified as fluent English proficient prior to graduating from the program in the 5th grade, a goal that RCSD holds for EL students, but it is not widely met for similar peer groups. The study explained that ELs who are reclassified make significant progress toward closing the achievement gap. 

When graduates of a DLI program are reclassified, they often have higher performance benchmarks as well, the study concluded, reaching “high levels of linguistic proficiency and academic achievement.”

Following student groups through middle and high school, the study found that graduates of the DLI program had higher middle school STAR scores (a previously used assessment program) scores than those that did not participate in the program. By high school, DLI students and English-only speaking peers had equivalent state assessment scores and GPAs. 

In addition to the Dual Language Program in Spanish at Adelante Selby Spanish Immersion School, RCSD also offers a Mandarin Immersion program at Orion Alternative School and Bilingual Programs in Spanish at Garfield, Hoover, and Taft Schools.