LIFESTYLE

Dual language schools are fast-growing, but Latino families mostly hesitant to enroll

BERLIN - SEPTEMBER 18:  Fourth-grade students read books in the elementary school at the John F. Kennedy Schule dual-language public school on September 18, 2008 in Berlin, Germany. The German government will host a summit on education in Germany scheduled for mid-October in Dresden. Germany has consistantly fallen behind in recent years in comparison to other European countries in the Pisa education surveys, and Education Minister Annette Schavan is pushing for an 8 percent increase in the national educaiton budget for 2009.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

BERLIN - SEPTEMBER 18: Fourth-grade students read books in the elementary school at the John F. Kennedy Schule dual-language public school on September 18, 2008 in Berlin, Germany. The German government will host a summit on education in Germany scheduled for mid-October in Dresden. Germany has consistantly fallen behind in recent years in comparison to other European countries in the Pisa education surveys, and Education Minister Annette Schavan is pushing for an 8 percent increase in the national educaiton budget for 2009. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)  (2008 Getty Images)

Tyler Elementary, one of the few dual-language schools in the Washington D.C. public system, had a 233-person waiting list for the 2015-2016 school year.

There’s no denying that the demand for these programs, in which students learn content through both English and a target language (mostly Spanish and Mandarin), is growing throughout the U.S.

Yet it is not easy to get Latino families interested, educators say, even though native speakers of both languages are deemed necessary for a successful outcome of these programs, primarily because the students learn from each other, and not just one-way from the instructor.

“In the past there’s been uncertainty for Latino parents to enroll kids in these programs in their native languages. They believe it will hinder their children’s ability in English, but that is not true in our experience,” Kelley Grant, Administrative Director of the La Escuelita, a preschool in New York City told Fox News Latino.

Vanessa Bertelli, Executive Director and co-founder of DC Language Immersion Project, said that is also the case in the country’s capital.

“It’s a common misconception,” she said. “We battle it daily in our organization. Some Latino families believe that if they want their children to learn English, they shouldn’t be putting them in a Spanish language immersion or dual language programs. It’s actually the opposite,” she added.

The instruction time varies according to the immersion level of the program. Some schools teach 90 percent in a specific language (which is more of an immersion) and some schools perhaps only 50 percent.

Studies on dual language education are conclusive, experts say -- dual language students are testing 14 points higher than their counterparts at traditional schools regardless of their ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

“Dual Language students develop flexibility in thinking through problem solving, conceptualizing, and reasoning in two languages,” Tyler Elementary states on its website.

Bertelli argues that an underestimated advantage to dual language programs for Latinos is the strength in preserving language and culture — which is not a given if they’re speaking and learning totally in English.

Bertelli told FNL that there are also social issues associated with an inability to communicate homework or other school-related issues with family, and a possible sense of low self-worth.

Immersion language programs first took root in areas such as St. Lambert, Canada, and Miami, Florida, where educators felt that more than one language was necessary for children’s future economic and social prosperity.

States such as Delaware, Minnesota and California – which recently ended its 1998 ban on teaching bilingual classes – are ramping up the number of immersion and dual language schools as well.

In New York City, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina has plans in the works to add or expand an additional 40 dual language programs in the Big Apple.

In 2008 the Utah Senate passed the International Initiatives (Senate Bill 41) creating funding for Utah schools to begin Dual Language Immersion programs in Chinese, French, and Spanish. Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. initiated the Governor’s Language Summit and the Governor’s World Language Council, both the goal to create K-12 language roadmap for Utah.

Today, 181 schools in the state of Utah run dual-immersion programs.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Delaware is injecting $1.9 million a year into more than tripling the number of students in dual-language school programs for Spanish and Mandarin. The goal is to have 10,000 students in these classrooms by 2022. 

The demand from American natives for these dual programs is clearly on the rise, even if work still needs to be done among families who recently immigrated to the U.S.

"Most commonly, the reason is that [American] families want to make sure their kids get that exposure to the diversity that comes with dual language,” Dahlia Aguilar, principal of Mundo Verde, a dual-language school in Washington D.C., told NBC News.

“We have over 400 students and the waiting list is 500," Aguilar said.

Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for FoxNews.com. She can be reached at rebekah.sager@foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.