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Language Acquisition

Language Acquisition | 2025 E. Winsett, Tucson, AZ 85719 | (520) 225-4600

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Two-Way Dual Language

Tucson Unified School District is committed to providing students with the opportunity to enroll in a positive and academically rigorous Two-Way Dual Language (TWDL) program designed to contribute significantly to academic achievement and provide learning experiences comparable to the district's Advanced Learning Experiences.

photo of teacher and student readingTucson Unified School District recognizes the inherent linguistic and cultural diversity of its students. Within this context, dual language incorporates sound programmatic response to an equal educational opportunity.

Two-Way Dual language incorporates each student's linguistic and cultural attributes into a total learning experience producing individuals who will be full participants in our global society while continuing to preserve, manifest and enjoy their own cultural uniqueness.

Two-Way Dual Language (TWDL) program allows English learners to help native English speakers learn and acquire the curriculum through a second language, while native English speakers help English learners acquire the curriculum through English. As most teachers know, one of the best ways to learn is to teach, and both student groups receive accelerated instructional benefits from their other-language peers and from the teacher's use of collaborative learning strategies that capitalize on this effect. Also, learning together increases student interest in the school and curriculum topics, improving student motivation to learn and further amplifying and accelerating student progress (Calderón & Minaya-Rowe, 2003; Freeman, 1998; Lindholm-Leary, 2001; Thomas & Collier, 1997/1998, 1999).

"There is considerable research over the past 30 years demonstrating that TWDL programs are effective. Despite wide variations in communities, schools, and students forming the research base, results are quite consistent in showing that both native English-speaking and English Learner (EL) students who participate in TWDL programs achieve at levels that are at least comparable to, and often higher than, their peers enrolled in English-only instruction on standardized tests of achievement and language proficiency in English; but TWDL students have the additional benefit in that the students are also bilingual and biliterate, which their English-only instructed peers are typically not." (Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, 2016)

Governing Board Policy IHAA.

Two-Way Dual Language Benefits

The Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Program, referred to as Two-Way Dual Language Education program in TUSD, was designed to maximize the benefits of second language learning for student participants based on the premise that the earlier a child is introduced to a language, the greater the likelihood that the child will become truly proficient. The program design is evidence-based. Research has established many benefits for learning a second language.

These benefits are cognitive, academic, economic and social. One of the most important advantages of learning other languages is that it encourages students to participate actively in an increasingly interdependent world. 
Studies on second language learning provide the following evidence:  the "additive bilingual" immersion setting allows all students to learn two languages simultaneously without losing one language to learn another (Howard, Sugarman, Perdomo and Adder, 2005).  Second language learning enhances comprehension in the native language. Second language learners apply these reading and language analysis skills to their native language (Thomas and Collier, 2002). The mental discipline of learning a second language system increases intellectual flexibility and translates into higher achievement in all subject areas. The longer the exposure to the second language, the more significant the cognitive advantages to the student (Genesee and Lindholm-Leary, 2009). 

Knowledge of more than one language enables people to communicate in a variety of cultures and settings. A heightened level of multicultural awareness and communication skills foster intergroup contact and appreciation (Cummins, 1986; Ager 2005). Second language course content naturally explores social studies, math, science and the arts, facilitating interdisciplinary perspectives and cross-cultural understanding (ACTFL 2006). Proficiency in other languages enables learners to gain direct access to additional sources of knowledge, as well as understanding about the similarities and differences between the structures of the languages they know (ACTFL 2006). Immersion helps close the achievement gap between English Learners and their English only counterparts. 

Research shows that English Learners have a higher rate of success in Two-Way Dual Immersion Education versus English mainstream. This is because students have maximum access to the curriculum and the opportunity to develop literacy and academic skills in both their native language and English in an instructional setting that values both languages and cultures (Genesee and Lindholm-Leary, 2009). Students studying two languages have a more positive self-concept and are more likely to remain in school and attend college than English learners in mainstream English classes (Thomas and Collier, 2002).


The Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) TWDL Program is a program of choice that serves both English and Spanish learners. This program is open to students of different backgrounds and abilities from the TUSD school community and provides the unique opportunity of learning in two languages. Students acquire the skills to read, write, speak, listen and think in two languages.  Families adhere to the same enrollment process as all students in the community. Families select their program once they have attended a community meeting or a TWDL site visit where they have received information that explains the program long term K-12 pathway and a coherent explanation of the elements of the Two-Way Dual Language (TWDL) program design.

Two-way Dual Language at Tucson Unified School District. Pathway for two-way dual language programs (TWDL). TWDL Elementary School - six years. Kinder: 90/10. 1st Grade: 90/10. 2nd Grade: 80/20. 3rd Grade: 70/30. 4th Grade: 60/40. 5th Grade: 50/50. Content areas designated in one language or another. Certificate of Biliteracy. TWDL Middle School - three years. Two corses in Spanish minimum. Spanish Language Arts. Core content classes in Spanish. Award of Biliteracy. TWDL High School - four years. Completion of Advanced Placement Courses. Possiblity of Spanish for Special Purposes. Third Language. Concurrent University Credit.

Grades K-2

  • All subjects are taught in Spanish
  • Kindergarten and First Grade 90% Spanish 10% English
  • Second Grade  80% Spanish 20% English

Grades 3-5

  • English Language Arts is formally introduces
  • By the time students reach 5th grade  instructional time is evenly divided between English and Spanish

Grades 6-8

  • Instructional time is evenly divided between English and Spanish.
  • The two languages are used separately during different periods of instruction with a minimum of one course being Spanish Language Arts and an additional content course.

The TWDL Program Framework will guide the development of the district's over 15-year-old TWDL program and lay the groundwork for new programs to prepare students for success in a multilingual, multicultural world.  TUSD's multi-site Spanish TWDL programs, nurture a vibrant K-12 learning community in which students from diverse backgrounds speak, read and write in Spanish and participate in multicultural studies and experiences as part of their education. The program's goals for students are:

  • Bilingualism and Biliteracy
  • Academic Excellence
  • Multicultural Understanding


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1010 E Tenth St, Tucson, AZ 85719 | 520-225-6000