New Principal Brings New Dual-Language Program to Wilshire Crest Elementary School

Wilshire Crest Principal Gayle Robinson (photo courtesy of Wilshire Crest School)

When Gayle Robinson signed on to become the new principal at Wilshire Crest Elementary School in the fall of 2017, one of her big goals was to bring more neighborhood students back to the school.  (Like  many other traditional neighborhood schools in recent years, Wilshire Crest has been steadily losing enrollment to the increasing array of specialty school options now available to city families.)

Robinson told the Buzz that she originally considered a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) magnet for Wilshire Crest, because she also wants to increase the school’s arts instruction. But LAUSD had other ideas, and encouraged her to consider a dual-language program.  So Robinson looked at waiting lists for various kinds of specialty programs at district schools, to see which types of content parents were clamoring for. And she quickly realized language programs were definitely among the most popular.

Language instruction also fit right in with statewide educational mandates, including the new “Global California 2030” initiative announced recently by California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.  According to a story in the L.A. Times, “Torlakson said that by 2030, he wants half of the state’s 6.2 million K-12 students to participate in classes or programs that lead to proficiency in two or more languages. By 2040, he wants three out of four students to be proficient enough to earn the State Seal of Biliteracy. ”

So the writing was pretty clearly on the wall chalkboard white board Smart Board…and this fall, starting in August, a new Dual Language (Spanish-English) program will begin at Wilshire Crest.

The program will start with just one class for incoming Kindergartners this year, and will add a grade each year as those first students progress, until the school has dual-language classes in grades K-5, along with its regular Expanded Transitional Kindergarten (ETK)-5th grade classes.  The goal will be for all students in the Dual Language program to be fluent in both languages by the time they leave the school after 5th grade.

In the Dual-Language Program, Robinson said, content will be taught in a 50/50 mix of English and Spanish.  Also, 50% of the students in the program will be native English speakers, and 50% will be native Spanish speakers.  Robinson will be hiring a teacher for the program this summer, and says “I would prefer it to be a native (Spanish) speaker.”

Robinson said the Dual-Language Program, like standard Kindergarten content, will concentrate heavily on vocabulary in both languages, not just in Language Arts instruction, but also in math, social studies and even physical education.  Content will be made as engaging as possible, and will include things like matching pictures to both English and Spanish words, reading stories in one language while also incorporating words from the other language, and singing educational songs…”lots of singing!”

Parents in the program, especially those who may be proficient in only one of the two languages, will also receive strong scaffolding and support, including translations for their students’ homework and projects, audio CDs that both students and parents can listen to, and special collaborative parent/teacher events once a month, so everyone has “tools for success,” said Robinson.

Also, Robinson would like  community members to know that the Spanish-English Dual Language program is just one of many plans she has for the school.  For example, once the program is established, she would like to add more dual-language options, such as an English-Korean dual-language program.  She’s also working on ensuring that when hiring new teachers that they have an appreciation for diverse cultures and are willing to help “families of all origins feel comfortable at the school.”   And she’s hoping to expand the school’s already-established garden and garden education program, by adding mindfulness and yoga instruction for students, as well as a monthly farmers’ market, where students can harvest and sell their agricultural bounty.

A corner of the large teaching garden at Wilshire Crest, where students will soon also study mindfulness and yoga…and host a monthly farmers’ market.

In general, Robinson said, she’s working to increase student engagement throughout the school, in many ways.  “I really want students to have a chance to express themselves,” she said, “and learn that there is more than one way to solve problems.”  She would also love to see more students who walk and ride bikes to school, and to increase the bonding among the school’s families and parents.  “The goal is to uplift each other,” she said.

And so far, it seems to be working – Robinson said attendance at parent meetings and workshops increased significantly during this last school year, and she saw parent involvement growing throughout the year.

If you have or know of a child who will be entering Kindergarten this coming fall, and would like more information about the new Dual Language program at Wilshire Crest, see LAUSD’s Dual Language FAQ page , or call the school office at (323) 938-5291.  (Note: Principal Robinson will be in the office until June 15, and then returning from summer break on July 19; the office itself will close for summer break on June 25, and will re-open on July 19.)  Applications for the Dual Language Program can be submitted through LAUSD’s eChoices website at http://echoices.lausd.net/DLP/DlpLottery.

Students from this past year’s Expanded Transitional Kindergarten (ETK) class at Wilshire Crest. (photo courtesy of Wilshire Crest School)

About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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