During the 1960s, the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) program for language minority students was exclusively limited to English as a Second Language Instruction. As a result, the development of native language skills and transition to English was challenging for some students.
To meet changing educational needs, MPS established a developmental Bilingual Multicultural Education Program in 1969. This program has received Title VII federal funds presently known as Title III federal funds, as well as financial support from the Wisconsin Department of Education. The Developmental Bilingual Program is endorsed by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors.
The goal of the Developmental Bilingual Program is the development and maintenance of Spanish and English, bilingualism, biliteracy and cross cultural competence from elementary school to high school and to serve English language learners from Spanish speaking families. It is intended that students participating in this program develop greater success in English, the target language, and profit from increased educational opportunities.
The Bilingual Program in the Milwaukee Public Schools provides the development of an understanding of customs and values of cultures associated with the language being taught. This is accomplished by acknowledging that native language and culture have a major role in education by affirming the importance of teaching English skills gradually while increasing their bilingual potential. This is accomplished by providing the opportunity to maintain and further develop their native language skills.
Research indicates that good bilingual programs have brought students to the 50th percentile on standardized tests of English reading by grade five (Burnham-Massey & Pina, 1990).
The Milwaukee Public Schools Bilingual Program uses the 90/10 model, beginning at the early childhood grade (K4 level) in which 90% of instruction in the core content areas is conducted in Spanish, while the remaining 10% is taught in English. Each year, the percentage of Spanish to English decreases. In Kindergarten (K5), instruction is 80% Spanish and 20% English, first grade 70/30, second grade 60/40, third grade 50/50. By fourth grade, 40% of instruction is conducted in Spanish, and 60% of instruction is conducted in English. This percentage remains as such for grades 5-12.
Dual Immersion Program
Two bilingual schools in MPS house Dual Immersion Programs, also known as Two-Way Immersion Programs (Spanish and English). This particular program serves English native speakers (beginning in the early childhood grades K3-K5) as well as English Language Learners from Spanish speaking homes. The Two-Way Immersion Programs' goal mirrors that of the Developmental Bilingual Program, which promotes bilingualism, bi-literacy, and cross cultural competence. Both language groups share a common trait of learning core content in two languages.