In the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) there are many opportunities for students to learn languages other than English, even before they get to high school. Learning another language is a valuable skill in our multicultural world, so these programs tend to be very popular. Some of the programs require a language assessment; others are open to all students.
The SFUSD language program for pre-kindergarten (pre-K) is the Dual Language Pathway. It is available in Cantonese and Spanish. The program’s goals are academic competency, as well as proficiency and literacy in both English and the pathway language. Proficiency is not assessed for eligibility in any language at this level. Students can be English learners who speak the pathway language at home, students who are already bilingual in English and the pathway language, or students who do not yet speak the pathway language.
SFUSD offers three pathways for elementary school students to learn English as well as another language. They are:
Dual Language Immersion Pathway - Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish
Dual Language Biliteracy Pathway - Cantonese, Filipino, Spanish
World Language Pathway - Filipino, Italian, Japanese
Dual Language Immersion Pathway (Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish)
The goals of the Dual Language Immersion Pathway are academic competency, as well as proficiency and literacy in both English and the pathway language. The program is for English learners who speak the pathway language at home, students who are already bilingual in English and the pathway language, and students who do not yet speak the pathway language.
For kindergarten and 1st grade enrollment, the SFUSD’s assignment process aims to balance each Immersion classroom with about ⅔ of students who are assessed proficient in the pathway language, and about ⅓ of students who have not demonstrated proficiency in the pathway language. Students who would like to enroll between the 2nd grade and the 5th grade are assessed for grade level proficiency in the pathway language. Language assessments are conducted by the Educational Placement Center (EPC).
Instruction in the Immersion program in kindergarten is about 80% in the pathway language and 20% in English. The percentage of English instruction increases yearly until it is about 50% in the pathway language and 50% in English by the 5th grade.
The Alice Fong Yu Chinese Immersion Pilot Program is structured slightly differently from the other Immersion programs in the district. Its goals include increasing student diversity and fostering cultural respect and understanding, while maintaining a high academic foundation and supporting language acquisition in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English for all students. The program aims for a balance of about ⅓ English learners and ⅔ English proficient students. The Immersion Pilot program is a Cantonese Immersion program as described above from kindergarten through 5th grade. In the 6th grade students begin to study Mandarin as well.
Dual Language Biliteracy Pathway (Cantonese, Spanish)
The goals of the Dual Language Biliteracy Pathway are academic competency, as well as proficiency and literacy in both English and the pathway language. The program is for English learners who are native speakers of Cantonese or Spanish.
For kindergarten and 1st grade enrollment, only students whose Home Language Survey (HLS) on the SFUSD enrollment application indicates that the pathway language is spoken in the home are eligible to apply for the Biliteracy Pathway. Students who would like to enroll between the 2nd grade and the 5th grade are assessed for grade level proficiency in the pathway language.
Instruction in the Spanish Biliteracy program in kindergarten and 1st grade is about 50-80% in Spanish, with the balance of instruction in English. The percentage of English instruction increases yearly until it is at least 50% in English in the 5th grade, with the remaining instruction in Spanish.
Because Cantonese is a non-alphabetic language, instruction is about 50% in Cantonese and 50% in English throughout the Cantonese Biliteracy program.
World Language Pathway (Filipino, Italian, Japanese)
The World Language Pathway in elementary school is known as FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary School). The program’s goal is full proficiency in English, along with real-world competency in a second language. All students are eligible to apply for the FLES program, including English learners. Throughout elementary school, students may join the FLES program at any grade.
Students receive 30-60 minutes of instruction in the pathway language, 3-5 days per week, depending on the program. Additional support is provided for students who enter the FLES program later in elementary school.
To learn more about these language programs and language assessments, to see which SFUSD schools offer these programs, and to read about other programs that support English learners, we highly recommend the English Learner Program Guide, which is available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. The guide is published by the Multilingual Pathways Department of the SFUSD.
For information about language programs in SFUSD middle schools and high schools, read Languages Other Than English in the SFUSD: Middle and High School.