Herrera dual-language program
a national model
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 23, 2007
Time split between Spanish and English
The children in Jessica Fermas-Williams' class at Herrera School in Phoenix
split into pairs to write a paragraph about why it is important to protect the
rain forests, a typical task for third-graders.
But these children are writing in Spanish. They are in the dual-language
program, meaning they get half of their instruction in English and half in
Spanish. This week, it's Spanish.
Eight-year-old Destini Villegas sits on the carpet with her friend, 9-year-old
Angelica Clemente. Both girls have been in the dual-language program since
kindergarten. Angelica has been speaking Spanish since she was a baby. She says,
"It's easier for me because when I say it in English, I get confused."
Although both of Destini's parents speak Spanish, she has grown up speaking
"I'm going to write that the main idea is to stop them from cutting down the
trees," Destini says, her legs crossed and her notebook balanced on one knee.
She writes carefully, Estas son razones para salvar los arboles en el bosque
"I don't know if you're spelling that right," Angelica says, pointing at the
word "tropical" with the point of her pencil. "Oh, yes, you are."
A year ago, members of the National Association for Bilingual Education toured
Herrera, near 11th Street and Buckeye Road, curious to see how a program that
teaches students in English and Spanish thrives in a state that bans bilingual
Under state law, schools can offer dual-language classes and many do but only if
students are proficient in English. The Herrera program is held up as a national
Of the school's 780 students, about 200 children are in the dual-language
program. The school also is a magnet program for the arts.