In Utah, 9 percent of elementary school students are enrolled in dual language programs. Dueling preschool studies. More attention to student attendance. Gentrification may stop at the schoolhouse door.

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BILINGUAL BOOM

Schools that teach students in two languages have been popular in the Seattle area for parents who want their children to learn a second language early.  A recent New York Times report tracks the expansion of similar programs around the country.  New York City has 39 new or expanded dual-language programs this year, for example.  In Utah – Utah! – 9 percent of elementary students are enrolled in one.  In Portland, it’s 10 percent.

In New York, such programs are seen as a “partial solution to the intractable problem of de facto school segregation,” The Times said, citing those who say the programs attract families who speak English as a first language as well as those who don’t.  That may be tied to research that shows strong benefits from being bilingual.

(Washington state has dual language programs in roughly 66 schools, according to a 2014 survey done by the University of Washington.)

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DUELING PRESCHOOL STUDIES

While one new study out of Tennessee raised questions about the value of preschool, a second in Miami-Dade County supported those who say early learning  has big benefits.  The Miami study found that about 90 percent of low-income Latino students who had attended  public or subsidized preschool  programs  passed Florida’s third-grade tests.

Why such different results?  A number of reasons, according to The Hechinger Report’s Jill Barshay.

One may be that the Miami-Dade County study looked only at students who attended the public preschools, and didn’t compare them with those who didn’t.  Tennessee did that analysis. The Tennessee preschool program also isn’t as well funded, which may mean it’s not as high-quality as Miami’s.

ATTENDING TO ATTENDANCE

Truancy was in the news this week – locally and nationally.  Locally, the Washington State Center for Court Research dug into what’s happened in the 20 years since lawmakers here passed the Becca laws, named after a Tacoma 12-year-old who skipped a lot of school, ran away, and was murdered in Spokane.

The idea was to give parents – and schools – more tools to keep kids safe and in school.

But the center’s report says that Becca laws haven’t led to consistently good results.  There are some well-run, well-funded programs that reduce truancy and boost academic success, the report said, but there could be more.

Nationally, several federal departments (Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice) launched a campaign to reduce the number of students who miss at least 10 percent of the school year.

As of now, the feds say, anywhere from 5 million to 7.5 million students miss 18-plus days.

Their goal echoes what’s happening in the efforts to revamp school discipline: More focus on help and less on punishment.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • Bill and Melinda Gates gave their first major address in seven years on their education giving, basically saying they will continue to focus on teacher training and evaluation, and the Common Core.
  • One takeaway from a new national study:  Seattle’s public schools have one of the nation’s widest equity gaps.

DON’T MISS:

Linda Shaw at: 206-464-22359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com.  On Twitter:  @LShawST