Educators say bilingual classrooms deliver positive results
ABC News' The American Classroom series unpacks the U.S. education system.
At MS 131 in New York City, English Language Learners -- or ELLs -- have found a place where they thrive.
Linghong Ren, who was once a student as part of the program, has returned to those halls as a Chinese language art teacher. She's representative of the success that has proven to come from bilingual educational programs.
"They were really experienced English teachers, so they were able to provide the support that we got," Ren told "GMA3." "So it did not feel like I didn't understand anything. I actually started to adapt to the school environment pretty quickly."
Studies have shown that there are significant benefits to bilingual education. Many former English Language Learners are actually outperforming their peers when they’ve tested out of the ELL program, according to New York City Public Schools officials.
"Students who can speak more than one language typically can focus with greater capacity, but they can also be really flexible in their thinking," said Carolyne Quintana, the Deputy Chancellor of Teaching and Learning at NYC Public Schools.
"It also allows children to be able to see things from multiple perspectives ... if you are now a speaker of two languages, you're more likely to be able to learn a third one or a fourth one with greater facility," Quintana said.
However, bilingual education offers not just cognitive benefits, but also cultural support.
According to Elvira Armas, the director of programs and partnerships for The Center For Equity for English Learners at Loyola Marymount University, the opportunity for English learners to participate in a dual language setting is an ideal place for them to learn. Such educational environments promote more positive attitudes toward people and cultures, as well as intercultural communication and collaboration.
"We have students coming from all different backgrounds," Ren said. "Some are new immigrants, some were born here, some have been here for many years."
She continued, "We have teachers coming from different backgrounds as well. Some of them speak multiple languages and they all come with a lot of resources, tools, strategies, instructional methods to help students learn not just ELL students, but all students to learn."
Niki Moulinos, another teacher at MS 131, told "GMA3" that the students who have immigrated to the United States feel as though their whole lives are starting over. Providing an environment for them to ease into their new lives is vital to their success, Moulinos said.
"They want their parents to be proud of them, just like all kids do," she said. "When they get here, it's important that we, the teachers, are trained and supported to help them."
Ren urges others to learn other languages to take advantage of the personal and educational benefits of speaking more than one language.
"I think anyone who has the opportunity to take another language class will actually enhance their personal experience and help them to grow and not just to become a global citizen, but a lifelong learner," said Ren.