Theses Doctoral

Mixed Messages: School Choice and Spanish Dual Language Programs in the New York City Department of Education

Kim, Elisabeth H.

Dual Language programs are an increasingly popular component of bilingual education in the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE). Chancellor Carranza announced the opening of 47 programs in the 2019-20 school year. They differ from traditional bilingual programs in that they target English-dominant students as well as English language learners or “emergent bilinguals” (García, Kleifgen, & Falchi, 2008). While they are often heralded as a tool for integration, many have been unable to maintain the requisite 50/50 ratio of English and second language-dominant students, resulting in programs that are largely populated by English-dominant students. This qualitative study included 43 interviews with parents and administrators from three NYCDOE schools with Spanish Dual Language programs as well as outside integration advocates. I used the school choice, segregation, and bilingual education policy literature to frame my exploration of how Latinx families make choices within a highly segregated and competitive public school context like New York City and the role Dual Language programs play in their decision making. Findings suggested that low-income and recently arrived Latinx families have a very different experience with Kindergarten school choice than their higher-income counterparts. Assimilation and educational goals are important factors to consider in the school choice process. Lower-income Latinx families do not have access to the same quality of information about schools or the process and are more likely to rely on their family for information. Thus, they are more likely to have smaller “choice sets” and apply mainly to their zoned schools and those that are close to them. They are also less likely to know about Dual Language programs and/or receive misinformation about their benefits. The program has great potential to integrate gentrifying neighborhoods and contribute to positive identity formation, maintenance of language spoken at home, and appreciation of cultural practices for Latinx families. However, it encounters a number of challenges with outreach, admissions policies, family engagement, testing and accountability, and middle school options, which serve to further marginalize lower-income Latinx families. This study has important implications for school choice and bilingual education policy in the NYCDOE.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Education Policy
Thesis Advisors
Ready, Douglas D.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 7, 2020