The Vietnamese bilingual program at Carmichael Elementary School began in 2009 with one class. It wasn’t even large enough to be an exclusive program. Five years later, the campus now offers the Vietnamese bilingual program in grades K-3.
On a recent day, students in Quyen Nguyen-Brown’s second-grade classroom discussed topics and read aloud in English. She delivered the lesson in English. Noticing that a student was unclear about an assignment, Nguyen-Brown asked the student in English if he understood. He responded with an unconvincing nod. Nguyen-Brown then explained in Vietnamese and the student smiled before tackling the assignment.
Nguyen-Brown recalled how the program developed.
“My first class was a split classroom of 12 Spanish-speakers and 12 Vietnamese-speakers. The next year, I didn’t have to split the class,” she said. “I had a full class of students enrolled to have an exclusive Vietnamese bilingual program.”
Nguyen-Brown said the program has really grown in the younger grade levels. This school year, there are about two dozen students in the prekindergarten program.
Kujawa EC/Pre-K Center offers the Vietnamese bilingual program to preschoolers. Students can continue the Vietnamese bilingual program offered at Carmichael Elementary School. If the student doesn’t live near Carmichael Elementary, the district will provide transportation.
According to Nguyen-Brown, the Vietnamese bilingual program is a transitional program. In the early grade levels, teachers teach in Vietnamese. But by the time the students reach second grade, teachers give instruction in English in all the content areas. At this stage, teachers use Vietnamese as a tool or resource.
“We see our role as providing support to the Vietnamese community,” said Nguyen-Brown. “The use of Vietnamese helps students develop a better understanding of the content taught in class. It also helps them gain a better understanding of English.”
Teaching in Vietnamese entails more work for the teachers. But according to Nguyen-Brown, the added effort has increased communication and understanding.
“There is no curriculum available in Vietnamese nor are there many resources,” said Nguyen-Brown. “The teachers translate and create materials and resources in Vietnamese. We also translate letters that go home to parents.
“There is no doubt that this helps increase parental involvement. Parents are very involved in their children’s education. They have definitely contributed in making the program successful.”
The main goals of the program are for students to succeed and transition into a regular classroom by the fourth grade.
“I’ve seen a large number of students in the program transition successfully,” said Nguyen-Brown. “For example, last year I had 24 students in second grade. Nineteen of these students transitioned into the regular classroom the following year.
“I also had a student who after two years in the program was able to successfully take the state assessments (STAAR) in English. She passed the reading and math portions.”
Nguyen-Brown and her colleagues have research backing the need for bilingual programs. Studies show students in a bilingual program learn English at a faster rate. The strong foundation in English combined with their native language facilitates learning.
“The program is here to serve the Vietnamese student population,” said Nguyen-Brown. “Parents who are new to the country may choose the program to help their child learn the English language. Just like the parents, we want the students to succeed in the classroom,” said Nguyen-Brown.
This summer the campus will offer a Vietnamese bilingual language enrichment program. This is the first year the campus will offer a summer school program for Vietnamese bilingual students.
Vietnamese Bilingual Summer School Program Dates at Carmichael Elementary School
• Grades PK-K: June 9-July 1
• Grades 1-2: June 9-July 27
Parents interested in enrolling their child in the Vietnamese bilingual program can call the campuses. The number at Kujawa EC/Pre-K Center is (281) 878-1514. The number at Carmichael Elementary School is (281) 878-0345.
View the video about the Vietnamese bilingual program at Carmichael Elementary School.
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