Garden Grove Unified makes plans to develop the state’s second Vietnamese dual-language program

The Garden Grove Unified School District is developing a new Vietnamese dual-language program that would be just the second of its kind in the Orange County — and indeed all of California.

Though a start date has yet to be set, Garden Grove officials say they’re in the process of hiring a K-6 Vietnamese dual-language development preparation TOSA — that’s short for teacher on special assignment — as well as a K-6 Vietnamese language teacher to pilot the materials that are developed.

police officer high-fiving students at GGUSD
The Garden Grove Unified School District in September held a ceremonial opening for the Monroe Elementary Language Academy, a dual-language Spanish immersion program. The district is now developing a dual-language program in Vietnamese.

“We already know the tremendous academic and social benefits that dual-language programs provide, and we are excited to offer students the opportunity to become bilingual and biliterate in Vietnamese and English,” GGUSD school board President Lan Nguyen said. “These newly-created positions will play an important role in developing a high-quality program that prepares diverse students for success in a global society.”

Richard Romero, a program specialist with OCDE’s Services for Language Learners team, said the move makes sense following the passage of Proposition 58, which eased restrictions on bilingual instruction.

“It is great to see that Garden Grove Unified has seized the opportunity and has responded authentically to its Vietnamese community by developing a culturally and linguistically responsive program,” Romero said.

Fourteen Orange County school districts offer dual-language immersion through three preschool programs, 28 elementary programs and six secondary programs. The vast majority of these are geared toward Spanish, which is the second most commonly used language in the U.S., while three programs teach Mandarin Chinese.

Garden Grove Unified is among the districts already offering dual-language immersion in Spanish, opening its Monroe Elementary Language Academy in September. District officials say the academy has placed 176 students on the track toward becoming biliterate and bilingual, and it’s generated so much interest that there’s now a waiting list. Monroe projects to start the 2017-18 school year with approximately 285 students.

But the Westminster School District is the only district in the county to offer two-way instruction in Vietnamese, establishing an academy at DeMille Elementary School in 2015. In fact, Westminster offers the only Vietnamese program in California.

But perhaps not for long.

Garden Grove Unified serves a diverse population of more than 44,000 students, and about 28 percent of its English-learners speak Vietnamese, according to state figures. Its new TOSA would research existing Vietnamese dual-language programs and develop materials and lesson plans. Meanwhile, the district says it will continue to work with a District Dual Language Focus Group that includes parents, teachers and community members.

“We will take best practices from across the nation to launch a Vietnamese dual-language program that is student-centered,” Nguyen said.  “We remain committed to meeting the needs of our culturally-diverse communities.”