Manatee County Schools will soon offer its first ever dual language program.
This coming school year, Daughtrey Elementary, a Title I school in Bradenton, will teach a group of kindergartners in both English and Spanish.
The Manatee County School District signed off on the program after the school's principal and several department heads toured similar offerings in Broward County.
But Daughtrey Elementary School principal Shelby Bench says it’s not just about being able to speak more than one language.
"It's about being bi-literate,” she said. “These children will leave kindergarten being able to read Spanish and being able to write stories in Spanish."
79 percent of students at Daughtrey identify as Hispanic and many children do not speak any English.
Bench says some of these students will now spend half the day being taught subjects like math and science in their native language.
"So that feeling of being able to do the work is going to make the child feel that they're successful and they're going to be able to take risks,” she said. “When they go into that other classroom and they're instructed in English they're already feeling like, oh I can do this."
Bench adds that the dual language program will also help foster cultural relationships.
"We are already seeing this," she said. "These children who speak Spanish will be helping our English speaking students and vice-versa. Children will be supporting each other in being successful."
According to research, dual language programs have closed the achievement gap that exists for English language learners, and for low-income students.
The majority of dual language programs in the United States teach in English and Spanish, although increasing numbers of programs do use other partner languages.
Daughtrey Elementary is in the final year of a state-mandated turnaround process after several years of D and F grades from the state. Bench says she is confident the school's improvement plan will earn the Bradenton school a C when school grades are released this summer.