Can studying Spanish help Latino students learn English and other subjects better? Javier Tapia, associate professor of education at UWM, is working with St. Anthony’s, a choice school, to test that idea. Currently, all instruction in the K-8 grades is in English, even though the majority of students come from Spanish-speaking homes.
St. Anthony’s, with 1,600 students, is the largest Catholic school serving Hispanic students in the U.S., but students didn’t have the opportunity to take formal Spanish classes and become literate in their home language until high school.
With bilingualism increasingly an employment asset, St. Anthony students were at a disadvantage.
With Tapia’s help, the school designed a pilot project, an after-school Spanish class for third-graders taught by a Spanish-language instructor and a third-grade teacher.
“Our goal is to improve students’ writing and reading ability in Spanish, see the impact on other subjects, like English, and foster bilingualism,” says Tapia.