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Dual-language program in Urbana schools got its start via innovators in College

by Ryan Burk and the College of Education / Jan 19, 2016

Dual Language Program thriving in Urbana

Launched four years ago to bring English- and Spanish-speaking students together in one classroom, the Dual Language Program in Urbana School District 116 is thriving across racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds. Joseph Wiemelt, M.Ed. ’09 EPOL, Ed.D. ’14 EPOL, who played a major part in making the initiative a reality, said the program is meeting the overarching objectives set forth by the district. These goals include:

  • Developing strong bilingualism and bi-literacy skills in students

  • Helping students succeed academically in two languages

  • Helping students develop positive cross-cultural and cross-racial relationships and understanding 

“On average, students are on par with or outperforming the district average on local benchmark assessments in English while developing two languages,” Wiemelt said. “Additionally, we do not see equity gaps in the performance of our students across student groups.”

Wiemelt credited several Education at Illinois scholars and graduate students for making the Dual Language Program a possibility. Dr. Eurydice Bauer, for instance, provided ongoing professional development, feedback, and guidance through a collaborative, longitudinal research project at a local school.

Additional collaborators from the College included Dr. Georgia Garcia, who also provided professional development and conducted research, as well as Dr. Christina DeNicolo, now of Wayne State University, who was instrumental in the planning phase of the program.

“We have been very fortunate to have the support from these professors and graduate students from the College of Education at Illinois,” said Wiemelt. “We’re excited about the future of our school district and are now exploring ways to expand dual language to other schools in other languages.”

Wiemelt said Urbana was the first district in central Illinois to launch a dual-language program.

Read more and watch a video about this innovative news in an article by Ryan Burk of