Dual language program failing students, Grapevine-Colleyville school board members told

A dual-language option for English and Spanish speaking students in Grapevine-Colleyville schools may be coming to an end after the school board heard a presentation Monday that recommends phasing it out.

Board members were told that the two-way dual language program is failing students and growing less popular, something that resonated with some on the board but left others questioning why the program would be ended instead of fixed. The final cohort of two-way dual language students would enter middle school in the 2026-27 school year.

No decisions were made and the board will be required to vote before any action can be taken.

The school district offers a dual language program only for students whose native language is Spanish, known as a one-way dual language program, and another for both English and Spanish native speakers known as two-way.

District staff said they were making adjustments to both programs to account for low performance in recent years, but the two-way program would still be phased out despite those improvements. Parents are pulling students out because of poor performance, and it does not garner as much interest as it once did.

Students in Grapevine-Colleyville schools have for the last 13 years had the opportunity to enroll in a two-way dual language program starting in elementary school. To date, the program is in a format in which students learn in English for one week then in Spanish the next, alternating back and forth.

The changes to the program would include transitioning students to learning in both English and Spanish every day, with certain subjects taught in each language. That alteration would put the program in line with what is practiced in most other districts in the area that offer two-way dual language opportunities.

District staff said the failures of the program are seen in STAAR test scores, with 22% lower performance among students in the two-way dual language program compared to students in monolingual classes.

Board member Jorge Rodriguez questioned why the program would be fixed now for students who are continuing but phased out anyway.

“You are making the program successful,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t see the reason, then, to stop the program. You’re changing it. The program is different, it’s better. … So what is the reason to cancel it?”

Board member Becky St. John agreed with Rodriguez, saying that if the program was being fixed well enough for enrolled students there is no reason to remove the option for future students to enroll.

“We would be doing an incredible disservice if we eliminate the one opportunity for students to learn a language at our elementary schools,” St. John said.

School district staff told Rodriguez and St. John that the program’s lack of popularity wouldn’t be solved by the changes made to fix low performance in the STAAR test, but the two board members said the problem with interest in two-way dual language has more to do with poor marketing.

“We should take advantage of this opportunity and expand it and offer something that the competing districts around us are offering because I think we’re going to hear a big sucking sound of students leaving our district for others that offer it and we definitely cannot afford that,” St. John said.

She added that the only way the district has marketed the two-way dual language program has been by putting it on the website. That’s not sufficient, she said.

While some residents who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting said the program was a failure and should be written off as such, the majority of the 12 speakers echoed the same concerns as Rodriguez and St. John.

They and the board members also questioned why data from the 2020 and 2021 school years was not considered outlier information because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on education across the state.

Parents and board members said they had concerns with the way parent input was solicited. District staff told the board the only parents on a committee formed to discuss the fate of the dual language programs were also employees of the school district. Some parents added that the only times they were invited to town halls to learn about the possible changes, the events came with short notice and did not mention that the two-way dual credit program was on the chopping block.