Language Education Policy Studies
An International Network

Language Education as Policy
LEP as a Conceptual Framework
National Frameworks as Policies
Teachers as Policy Makers
Classroom Policies
Curriculum as Policy
Teaching Methods as Policies
Standards as Policy
Evaluation as Policy
Oral Proficiency as Policy
Multilingual Education (MLE)
Dual Language Immersion
E-portfolios as Policy
Technology Use as Policy
Privatization as Educational Policy
Teacher Planning as Policy
Policies as a Mindset
Ontology as LEP
Learner Autonomy as LEP
Teacher Autonomy as LEP
Teacher Education as Policy
Cosmopolitanism as the New Policy
Ways Out of the Paradoxes
New members welcome!

Dual language immersion model 

of bilingual education 

In the United States, students who arrive at school with a home language other than English are referred to by US schools as English Language Learners (ELLs), Limited English Proficient (LEP), or in other discourses, emergent bilinguals.  While the former labels emphasize deficiency and convey the dominant position of English as the language of power, the latter refers to the true capacity of bilingual children.  Likewise, most forms of bilingual education serve to marginalize these learners by separating them from native English-speaking students, but one model called Dual Language Immersion (DLI) aims to support bilingualism and biliteracy for both language majority and language minority students.  

In this model, often practiced with Spanish and English, half of the students in the class speak Spanish as a home language and half English.  Academic skills and content are taught in both languages in one of several models of language distribution.  In some schools, students spend entire school days in the languages, alternating between the two.  Other schools focus first on Spanish immersion in kindergarten (90%) through third grade (60%), then through equal instructional time from fourth grade on. The goal of DLI is to produce bilingual, biliterate, and culturally competent students.  It also claims that native language literacy supports second language achievement for Spanish speakers, resulting in academic parity after five years, and decreases student mobility. 

Challenges facing DLI education include logistical difficulties such as finding certified teachers, offering teacher contracts earlier, informing parents, maintaining students long-term, transitioning DLI to the high school level, developing curriculum and assessment, and finding materials in the second language (Spanish or other languages).  These are difficult tasks but manageable through the allotment of resources and with appropriate policy direction.  Additional complexities indicate structural and systemic issues: upon entering DLI, children are assumed to be monolingual in one of the program languages, spoken in a standard way and strictly separated from the other language of the program.  (See Language Variations, Multilingualism, and Translanguaging) However, as research in heritage language education attests, this is simply not the case, and DLI does little to encourage language hybridity and fluid identities that young bilinguals use and need. 

Depending on how the DLI program is integrated at the school level, it can challenge unified school culture in the face of lottery selection, claims of program exclusivity, and the achievement gap between racial groups.  Finally, the perhaps most existential critique of DLI rests in its results for English-speaking Anglo students, providing them an advantage in the global economy through the exploitation of Spanish speakers to create an immersion environment, while racism continues to deny this same bilingual advantage to Latinos.  All of these challenges must be taken into account when planning DLI programs.


Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, University of Minnesota:

Utah State Office of Education:

Center for Applied Linguistics:

Dual Language Education of new Mexico:


Dual language immersion and bilingual education (Great Schools):

Example DLI program (Madison Metropolitan School District):

Rise of DLI programs in Utah (NBC):

A few references:


Boals, T., & Equity Mission Team, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (2009).  Legal responsibilities when serving limited-English proficient (LEP) students in K-12 public schools.  Retrieved from

Crawford, J.  (1998).  What now for bilingual education?  Rethinking Schools: Special Collection on Bilingual Education, Winter.  Retrieved from

Escamilla, K. (2006). Semilingualism applied to the literacy behaviors of Spanish-speaking emerging bilinguals: Bi-illiteracy or emerging biliteracy? Teachers College Record, 108(11), 2329-2353.

Gonzalez, N.  (2005).  Children in the eye of the storm: Language socialization and language ideologies in a dual-language school.  In A.C. Zentella (Ed.), Building on strength: Language and literacy in Latino families and communities (pp. 162-174).  New York: Teachers College Press.

Gutiérrez, K., Baquedano-López, P., & Tejeda, C.  (1999).  Rethinking diversity: Hybridity and hybrid language practices in the third space.  Mind, Culture, and Activity, 6(4), 286-303.

Howard, E.R., & Sugarman, J. (2007).  Realizing the vision of two-way immersion: Fostering effective programs and classrooms.  Washington, D.C.: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Howard, E.R., Sugarman, J., Christian, D., Lindholm-Leary, K.J., & Rogers, D.  (Eds.). (2007).  Guiding principles for dual language education (2nd ed.)Washington, D.C.: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Martínez-Roldan, C.M., & Sayer, P.  (2006).  Reading through linguistic borderlands: Latino students’ transactions with narrative texts.  Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 6(3), 293-322.

Millard, A. V., & Chapa, J.  (2004).  Apple Pie & Enchiladas: Latino Newcomers in the Rural Midwest.  Austin: University of Texas Press.

Tedick, D.J., Christian, D., & Fortune, T.W. (Eds.). (2011).  Immersion education: Practices, policies, possibilities.  Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.


This web page has a copyright. It may be referred to and quoted, or reproduced and distributed for educational purposes according to fair use legislation only if the following citation is included in the document:

This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Hamilton, C. (2013). Dual language immersion model of bilingual education. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

Widget is loading comments...