For several years, the School District of Philadelphia has been expanding its dual language immersion programs, with some help from Penn GSE educational linguist Nelson Flores.
There are now six district schools that have programs teaching students in both English and Spanish, with hopes to add more schools. In some ways, this recent expansion represents the rebuilding of what was once a robust climate for bilingual learning.
As Flores recently told The Notebook, in the early 1970s, Philadelphia, and especially the Potter-Thomas Bilingual School, led the way in bilingual learning.
“[Potter-Thomas] had national attention because it was the whole school model, and that really included all of the students,” Flores told The Notebook. “It was very much counter to what one would expect during that time period, where bilingual education was primarily framed as a remedial program for students who were learning English.”
As part of his research, Flores has studied the history of bilingual learning in Philadelphia. He explained to The Notebook how changing federal policies fueled a boom-and-bust cycle for the district’s programs.