Ultimately, the goal of the dual language program is to give Carthage High School graduates an edge in the global job market.

Ultimately, the goal of the dual language program is to give Carthage High School graduates an edge in the global job market.
Ronna Patterson, the principal at Fairview Elementary School, said implementing the dual language program this year means much more than just a change in the building – it's an enrichment and an academic enhancement toward the future.
“Students in Carthage have an opportunity to become bi-literate which means they will have the ability to speak, write and read in two languages,” Patterson said. “I have heard from so many high school graduates who talk about their job and college interviews. Recently, an engineering grad was telling me about an interview that she has gone through and one of those questions was 'are you bilingual?' And the implication of that is it opens doors, and makes you marketable in a highly-competitive global society. We want our Carthage High School graduates to be ready for the 21st century job market. There are many schools where students are admitted because they're bilingual, not it's not just college entrance, but jobs … This group of students will have that advantage.”
Fairview kindergarteners and first graders started their school year in the 50/50 model of the dual language program; which means the students spend half of their day educated in one language and then switch mid-day to the other language. The plan is to add a grade level a year into the program; reaching full-implementation of the school (K-4) by 2018.
By the high school level, the bi-literate students will have the potential to advance further in upper-level courses such as college-prep and business. Full-implementation of the dual language program in the Carthage R-9 School District (K-12) is estimated to be 2023.
“The [Carthage R-9] board is committed to seeing the program through middle school and junior high and eventually high school. That's the long-range vision for this program in this district,” Patterson said. “We looked at the research from every aspect, and students who have learning disabilities are highly successful in dual language programs. Because learning a second language is actually higher order thinking. Learning Spanish, for example, is very sequential. There are no exceptions when you teach vowel sounds in Spanish – they are consistent in every word. So when you see an 'A' it always has the same same sound whereas in English, think of all the exceptions we have in spelling and in pronunciations. So once they learn the sounds of the letters, they can begin reading and putting those sounds together to form words and those words become sentences.”
The planning stages for Carthage's dual language program utilized many resources.
“We were in the fact-finding phase for a while to determine if this is a program we can not just implement but successfully sustain,” Patterson said. “We're committed to not just starting it, but starting it well and then continuing it with great success for students. We talked to people from all over the U.S. … making certain that we were reading the right research, looking at our resources here, looking at needs in community, listening to community feedback in developing a program best for Carthage.”
During the annual summer conference in Columbia, Mo., hosted by the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) Patterson; Kandy Frazier, assistant superintendent for instruction; Jana Sawyer, ELL coordinator for Carthage and Lori Harter, assistant principal for both Fairview and Columbian Elementary School; gave a presentation on their findings, plans on implementing the dual language program and other key factors determining Carthage students would thrive in the program. Because of that presentation, Patterson said Carthage will be in close contact with Landon Wood, the English Language Learners (ELL) Director of DESE for Missouri. Carthage is one of just two schools in Missouri (with the other in Kansas City) with a dual language program this year.
In the planning stages, Carthage administrators learned of successful dual language programs; such as the Monroe Elementary School in Tulsa, Okla., and the Carver Dual Language School in Kansas City. Communication was also made to an American school in Costa Rica, and Carthage representatives attended the La Cosecha Dual Language Conference and the WIDA National Convention.
“We have had calls and inquires from educators from throughout the state, expressing interest in the program,” Patterson said. “Jana Sawyer, our ELL coordinator for the district, has led research and has been in touch with a researcher out of the University of Missouri, and he will be providing feedback on data and supporting us with networking opportunities.”
After the pilot year for the dual language program at Fairview, a wide variety of assessments will be made to measure the success of the program. Some of which will be made through the American Reading Company. At that point, the decision to continue will be made by the Carthage R-9 Board of Education. Patterson said so far, the program has been well-received and supported by everyone involved.
“It's been very positive and supportive,” Patterson said. “The community, highly-qualified teaching staff, and families are enthusiastic – we just couldn't wait to get started in school. We had a meeting before school started, and at least 40 families attended. They were excited, the students were excited – everything's just been real positive.”
One example, a visible one, of the new program this year are the blue and yellow tags worn by staff and students. Blue indicates that person is able to help with English translation, and yellow indicates that person is able to help with Spanish interpretation. This is just one of several tools used to trigger buddy and teamwork in the classrooms and on the playground.
Fairview kindergarten teacher Randi Nelson has been teaching for 19 years, and this is her first experience in the dual language program.
“I love it and am so happy to be a part of it,” she said. “They work together and learn about each other's cultures – I'm able to step back and let them learn, and I'm more like a guide. It hasn't changed our routines, really. It's a great program where they can interact with each other. These kindergarteners are pretty lucky.”
At Fairview, 68 percent of the 442 students are ELL (English Language Learners). Carthage has seen 31.8 percent growth of ELL students over the past 12 years. Patterson said educators are community servants, and she is well-invested in the school.
“We are all language learners,” she said. “We begin our day with the Pledge of Allegiance and we say it in English. We are still honoring our country, we still are paying honor to our nation. We are recognizing our English language; we are simply providing an enrichment program for all students.”