The Vietnamese Dual Language Program (VDLI) in Portland Public Schools began in the fall of 2014 with the first cohort of students. As with the other five languages taught in dual language programs in the Portland Public School district, the VDLI program is a Kindergarten through 12th grade program. Many students enter the program in kindergarten with no knowledge or experience of the Vietnamese language.
In elementary school (grades K-5) the children have two teachers, and are taught half of the day in English and half of the day in Vietnamese. In middle school (grades 6-8) the students are taught in Vietnamese for one-third of the day, and two-thirds of the day in English. In high school (grades 9-12), students are taught in Vietnamese approximately 20% of the time.
By high school graduation, students achieve Intermediate High to Advanced level language proficiency. To honor their achievement, qualified students in grade 12 are awarded the Oregon Seal of Biliteracy
Throughout their studies, students also learn about and celebrate Vietnamese culture and traditions. A community highlight each year is the annual Tết festival, taking place in late January/early February. In this celebration, each elementary school grade performs a special Vietnamese song/skit/dance/drama; food is served; and the entire school and greater community gathers to enjoy the students’ performances and an evening together.
For grades K-5, the program is based at Rose City Park Elementary School in Northeast Portland, while the middle school program is based at Roseway Heights Middle School in Northeast Portland. For high school, students in the VDLI program will attend Madison High School. There is limited transportation provided by the school district that is available to families who do not live in the neighborhood school boundary.
Entry into the Program
The program is a lottery program, in which parents submit a request to Portland Public Schools to enroll in the program (https://www.pps.net/schoolchoice). Enrollment is in the spring prior to a child starting kindergarten. Currently there are 48 openings in the Kindergarten class each year (2 classes of up to 24 students). Enrollment is also available to Vietnamese native speakers at other grade levels, provided that there is space in the program and that the child can demonstrate adequate proficiency in the Vietnamese language for the grade level.
The program aims for 50% of students to be native Vietnamese speakers and 50% English speakers. If there are more than 48 applicants to the program, then the program prioritizes 50% of spots (24 places in each Kindergarten class) for Native Vietnamese speakers and 50% of spots for English speakers. The last several years, the program has had approximately 40 to 45 students entering kindergarten, such that the two classrooms for each grade level have enjoyed a small class size of 20 to 23 students (a much smaller average size than throughout much of PPS).
Oregon (and over 45 states in the Nation) have adopted Common Core State Standards, which are a set of shared K-12 learning expectations for students. Students in the VDLI program are taught according to this same core curriculum. In elementary school, students are taught such subjects as math, social studies, and science in both languages. Students in elementary school also have the same ‘specials’ as other students, including library, art, and physical education (PE). The Vietnamese language curriculum has been developed by the program.
For the 2018 to 2019 school year (the most recent year for which assessments are available), the 2nd and 3rd graders in the VDLI program and across Portland Public Schools (PPS) were tested in math and English. The chart below shows the proportion of students who tested at or above grade standard. The charts compare three student populations: all 2nd/3rd grade students in PPS (black bars), all 2nd/3rd grade students in the VDLI program, and all 2nd/3rd grade students at Rose City Park (RCP) elementary school (grey bars). RCP is where the VDLI program is based; approximately two-thirds of the students at RCP are in English-only programs and one-third are in the VDLI program.
As you can see in the chart below, in math, the VDLI students outperformed both the PPS student average and the RCP average. In English language skills, the VDLI native English speakers outperformed the PPS and RCP average, while the English Language Learners (ELL) in the program performed below average (which is expected for ELL students). A primary driving force in PPS establishing the VDLI program is that research is indicating that ELL students taught in dual language immersion programs outperform other ELL students in English skills by middle school (immersion students are less likely to be in ELL by grade 5 or 6 and they perform better in reading). Native English speakers enrolled in dual language immersion programs also receive a boost in reading performance/achievement by middle school.
% Students Testing At or Above Standard* in Math & English, 2nd/3rd Grade Assessment (2018-2019)