How Miami’s Coral Way School Paved the Way For Bilingual Education in the US

When graduates at the Margarita Muñiz Academy in Boston get their diplomas, they don’t turn their tassels to Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” or Vitamin C’s “Graduation.”

At this commencement, where young scholars completed their high school education at the dual-language school, they’re dancing salsa while Marc Anthony’s “Vivir Mi Vida”booms through a speaker – and this scene is becoming ever more common all over the US. Throughout the country, schools with classrooms that instruct students in both English and another language, largely Spanish, are increasing, with the Harvard Graduate School of Education estimating there were 2,000 dual-language immersion programs in the US in 2011. But this bilingual education wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for a small Miami school project developed nearly six decades ago.

Starting in 1963, Coral Way School, a public school that opened in southern Miami in 1936, did something no other institution had previously done in the US: taught students, both native and foreign-born, in English and Spanish. With funding from the Ford Foundation, school district leaders, teachers, and Cuban aides started the first-ever, official two-way language immersion program. Together, they created a bilingual education curriculum that instructed 350 youth, from first to third grades, morning lessons in Spanish and afternoon instruction in English.

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