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When you teach children in their native language, they’ll be more successful, no matter how you measure success. decision making. “Research has shown that when you promote learning in a child’s native language, it not only benefits their academic performance in their native language, it will also promote their performance in their nonnative language. When you teach children in their native language, they’ll be more successful, no matter how you measure success: in Spanish, in English, in engagement, in involvement. It’s a fascinating way to create a more inclusive environment, and there are so many good reasons to do it.” Serrano also helped them create a truly random lottery process, which both ensures fairness for families and creates an ideal scenario for Serrano to conduct her research. She says, “I’m interested in looking at the students’ developmental reading-assessment scores over time and their individual proficiency over time. Since there was a lottery of randomly selected students and, in essence, a control group who didn’t get into the dual-immersion kindergarten, I can study whether these students are performing better. There’s a lot of research out there, as we’ve been discussing, but very little of it is truly experimental. Here, the conditions are just perfect for an experiment.” While the role of research is crucial to inform Waltham’s dual-immersion program, there’s also a strong ethical imperative for promoting schools like these. Serrano says, “Rather than telling a child not to speak her language, that it isn’t important or that she can learn it later, imagine how impactful it must be for that child to instead be told, ‘your language matters, your culture matters, and we want to learn from you, too.’ That kind of environment builds feelings of inclusiveness, acceptance and self-esteem — and that helps children thrive.”

30 heller magazine

Heller Magazine, Summer 2017  
Heller Magazine, Summer 2017  

A magazine of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University