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Institute of Education Sciences (IES) funds
Utah Dual Language Immersion Study

The University of Utah and the Utah State Board of Education are partnering with the American Councils Research Center (ARC) and American University to study dual language immersion (DLI) in Utah Public Schools. The project will be funded by a two-year Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research (RPP) grant, awarded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), U.S. Department of Education. (See the IES press release.

At the University of Utah, Co-PI Johanna Watzinger-Tharp (Department of Linguistics, College of Humanities) will conduct the research through the UU Second Language Teaching and Research Center (L2TReC), and in partnership with the Utah State Board of Education.

The study will build on a recently completed investigation of dual-language immersion in the Portland Public Schools. That study, reported in the American Educational Research Journal 2017, found significant effects of enrollment in dual-language immersion on literacy. Another study, conducted in Utah and published in the International Journal of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education in 2016, found that 4th grade DLI students outperformed their non-DLI peers in math achievement.

The Utah study will examine the impact of a significantly expanded system of DLI instruction at the state level. In 2009, the State of Utah enacted legislation awarding schools grants for adding or expanding DLI programs and establishing a system of support for curriculum development, professional development, and teacher recruitment. As a result, DLI in Utah has grown from a handful of programs in 2008-09 to 196 schools serving 40,000 students in 2017-18. The study will examine Utah’s DLI expansion, including an assessment of causal effects on student academic achievement and an examination of the mechanisms by which DLI yields those effects. The research will incorporate all 41 districts in the state, 22 of which currently offer DLI.

The research team will make use of data for all students who entered kindergarten in a Utah public school in the years 2004-05 through 2015-16 – approximately 536,000 students. During the two-year grant, the research team will work with extant data to describe English Learners’ (ELs) access to immersion education in Utah as well as to assess the effects of immersion programs on student achievement.

Last Updated: 6/1/21