At present, American public schools are experiencing a demographic shift in the linguistic and cultural makeup of their student populations. As schools become increasingly more diverse, educators have the daunting challenge of meeting the academic needs of all students, including the growing number of English language learners (ELLs). In the progressively changing K-12 environment, there is the need to develop students who are genuinely multicultural. Research suggests that dual language (DL) programs foster the academic achievement of ELLs while also producing bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural individuals (Howard, Sugarman, Christian, Lindholm-Leary & Rogers, 2007).
This quantitative study examined the long-term effects of a K-5 dual language program (English-Spanish) on middle school student achievement and degree of acculturation in a suburban school district on Long Island, New York. Using demographic, academic, and survey data from approximately 1,300 students in grades 6–8, statistical analyses, such as independent t-tests, ANCOVA, bivariate correlations, and OLS multiple regressions, were performed to determine whether there were statistical differences between former dual language (FDL) participants and their non-FDL peers on state assessments as well as on the AHIMSA (Acculturation, Habits, and Interests Multicultural Scale for Adolescents) survey.
Findings from this study revealed that overall there were no major consistent statistical differences in academic achievement between FDL and non-FDL students across grades 6-8. However, there existed significant achievement differences between these two groups when specific assessments and subgroups were examined across the three grade levels. In addition, based on the findings from the AHIMSA survey, FDL participants had consistently higher levels of biculturation than their non-FDL counterparts.
Implications, recommendations, and limitations as well as suggestions for future research of dual language programs are also discussed at the end of the study.