Mineola leads in dual language education

Mineola leads in dual language education
Mineola Board of Education with the three students honored at Thursday's meeting, Daniel Murray, left, Vijay Paliath, middle, and Abbey Ahamed, right. (Photo courtesy of Mineola Schools)

Mineola is one of eight school districts on Long Island with a dual language program. It’s an opportunity the students don’t take for granted.

“It’s not just for now,” said one Jackson Avenue student during a video presentation shown at Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting. “If you do dual language you can have that for the future.”

Nicole Moriarty, director of the district’s English as a New Language programs, led the presentation. Moriarty explained that rather than simply learning another language, the children in the dual language program are taught their curriculum in both English and Spanish.

From the student testimonials in Moriarty’s video, it is clear they enjoy the program. One student said she liked the added challenge of having to break down words to understand what they mean during her Spanish lessons. Another student said he wanted to be in dual language – which is now offered in grades K-6 and soon to be in middle school – “forever.”

But the students’ enjoyment isn’t the only positive outcome from the program. Their test scores are nearly identical with their non-dual language peers. On the third grade ELA exam 49 percent of dual language students reached proficiency, whereas 52 percent of non-dual language students did. On the third grade state math exam, 48 percent reached proficiency, compared with 49 percent of the other students.

“Yes, we want these numbers to be better overall as a district,” Moriarty said. “But just because you’re in dual language, you’re not performing significantly lower than anyone else.”

In addition to the dual language program in the elementary school, the Mineola High School Bilingual program is ahead of other districts, according to Moriarty. Students have the option to learn in their native language, which has greatly improved Regents scores and led to high graduation rates.

For the class of 2017, 25 of 28 multilingual learners graduated; 19 of those students graduated with advanced regents diplomas.

Angelica Morales, a Mineola High School student in her fourth year in the program, is currently taking AP courses and applying to college. For Morales, it was more than just the rigor of the program that led to her success.

It was the support.

“You’ll find obstacles in middle of the road, but if you ask for help or advice from teachers you’ll realize it’s not just you pushing yourself,” Morales said. “It’s also the others around you, because they want to see you get out and live your life and make your dreams come true.”

ENL programs are not the only way Mineola is leading as a district. During the meeting Mineola Superintendent Michael Nagler announced that all five Mineola schools were recognized by Apple as “distinguished programs and distinguished schools.” There will be a formal presentation by an Apple representative at a Dec. 14 meeting.

Nagler said Apples sells “millions and millions of iPads,” but only a few schools are named distinguished.

“Just because you have a device doesn’t mean you’re using it advantageously,” Nagler said. “It’s not about he tool, it’s about how the tool is used to advance learning.”

During Thursday’s meeting Whitney Smith, Mineola High School principal, recognized three students for excellency in academics and extracurricular activities. The three students were Abbey Ahamed, who successfully completed the Girls Who Code program this summer, Vijay Paliath, a National Merit semifinalist, and Daniel Murray, a National Merit commended student.

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