Chicago Public Schools announces Bilingual and World Language Initiative 

Program will seek to redefine traditional language education


November 12, 2010


Chicago Public Schools today announced the launch of the Bilingual Education and World Language (BEWL) initiative, which is designed to lay the groundwork for using language education as a strategy for academic achievement. 


This innovative and comprehensive approach to language education will provide rigorous pre-K through 12th grade language development options for both English Language Learners (ELLs) and English-speaking students.   


A key goal of BEWL is to help ensure CPS students are prepared to succeed in the global workforce, CPS officials said.


“Most school district initiatives look at world language and bilingual education separately,” said Chicago Board of Education Vice President Clare Muñana. “Chicago’s approach is one of the first to integrate the two concepts. We seek to redefine language education comprehensively to ensure our graduates are prepared to work and live in a global environment.

“Speaking, reading, and writing in two languages is a tremendous asset,” Muñana said. “We should build on students’ knowledge of a language other than English and support them in becoming fully bilingual.”


BEWL initiative efforts, guided by the recommendations of the BEWL Commission formed in 2007, include a Dual Language pilot program — which prepares students to speak, read, and write at a high level in two languages and to do academic course work in both languages — at four elementary schools; a Heritage Language program in 10 to 15 schools to help students reclaim or maintain their home languages; and an International Newcomer Center at Roosevelt High School for refugee and immigrant students who have been in the country for less than three years.


As part of the BEWL initiative, CPS also will provide language programs after school and in the summer, language proficiency assessments in several of the major languages taught with regular collection and analysis of student data, and periodic language education institutes for personnel to ensure continuous learning.


The BEWL Commission included 20 educators, language scholars, public officials and parent leaders. They recommended that CPS:


  • Integrate language education strategies into district-wide planning, assessment and funding.
  • Develop rigorous, sequential pre-K through grade 12 programming.
  • Recruit, develop and support new and existing educators to achieve this new direction.
  • Boost enrichment, support and extended learning for bilingual and world language students.
  • Adopt rigorous measures to track language development and overall academic progress.


“The commission found strong community support for teaching students more than one language,” said Chicago Board of Education Member Alberto Carrero Jr. “And research shows that teaching English language learners in two languages actually strengthens achievement in all subjects.”


The BEWL roll-out will initially be funded with federal stimulus money along with support from the Chicago Community Trust.


View the full report and recommendations.


About CPS

Chicago Public Schools serves 409,279 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.


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