During the 1960s, the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) program for language-minority students was exclusively limited to instruction in English as a second language. As a result, the development of native language skills and transition to English was challenging for some students.
To meet changing education needs, MPS established a developmental bilingual 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 education 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 students' bilingual potential. This is accomplished by providing students with the opportunity to maintain and further develop their native language skills.
Research indicates that good bilingual programs have brought students to the fiftieth percentile on standardized tests of English reading by grade five (Burnham-Massey & Pina, 1990).
The Milwaukee Public Schools' Developmental Bilingual Program uses the 90/10 model, beginning in early childhood (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 the Dual Immersion Program, also known as the Two-Way Immersion Program (Spanish and English). This particular program serves native English speakers (beginning in early childhood, K3-K5 level) as well as English-language learners from Spanish-speaking homes. The Dual Immersion Program's goal mirrors that of the Developmental Bilingual Program in that it promotes bilingualism, biliteracy, and cross-cultural competence. Both language groups share a common trait of learning core content in two languages.