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With More Dual Language Schools, New Crop of Leaders Needed

A new master’s program aims to combine bilingual education and leadership.

sign reads skilled communicator and college ready
A HISD campus that offers the dual language program in English and Arabic.

Over the last few years, the number of schools that offer dual language programs has grown dramatically.

In the Houston Independent School District alone, it’s climbed from 14 campuses in 2013 to 58 programs in 2016.

By next school year, one-third of all HISD elementary schools will teach in two languages, including Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and French.

Now there’s a new effort to train leaders for those schools, recognizing it takes a special skill set to manage that kind of learning environment.

This spring the University of St. Thomas launched a new master’s program to combine bilingual education and leadership.

“I think it’s key because the programs have existed for the last forty years,” said Higinia Torres-Rimbau, who directs bilingual and dual language education programs at UST.

“However, the programs aren’t always implemented correctly, therefore the results are not what we want to see, so I think trained leaders are key.”

 Rimbau said that the program focuses on policy, assessment and the research that backs up bilingual education. 

“The research shows that if you teach children who speak another language at home, teach them in native language, as well as teach them English at the same time, then you can have more success,” she said.

More than 900,000 children in Texas public schools study in a bilingual program or learn English as a second language, according to the Texas Education Agency.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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