Camino Nuevo Charter Academy: Maintenance/Heritage Bilingual Program « Center on Educational Governance (CEG)

Camino Nuevo Charter Academy: Maintenance/Heritage Bilingual Program

Practice Area: Literacy for English-Language Learners

Camino Nuevo Charter Academy:
Maintenance/Heritage Bilingual Program

Camino Nuevo Charter Academy

Los Angeles, California
Founded 1999
512 students
Grades K-8
100% Hispanic
92% English language learners
10% Special needs
98% Receive subsidized meals
Teachers not part of collective bargaining unit

Source: Center on Educational Governance, 2006.

To serve its disadvantaged, all-Hispanic, Spanish-speaking student body, the K-8 Camino Nuevo Charter Academy has
two goals: to create bi-literate students who achieve academic success at or above grade level and for students to
take pride in their own culture and language while respecting the heritage
of others.

The schoolwide Maintenance/Heritage Program strengthens native Spanish
skills while introducing English on a gradually increasing basis. As the child progresses from grade to grade, the percentage of each language changes and the amount of subjects taught in English increases; Spanish language arts is studied through the eighth grade.

That stronger Spanish skills will support English literacy is a radical approach in the state where voters passed Prop. 277, a law that replaced the public schools’ bilingual program with one-year English immersion programs to eliminate instruction in foreign languages. Many English-learners and their parents also feel the need to race into English literacy for societal acceptance.

CNCA has seen success in standardized testing, improving 50 points annually on California Aptitude Tests (CAT 6) Annual Yearly Progress. As the students develop pride in their native cultures and language, they become more confident learners and more interested in all classroom studies.


It took nearly a full year for CNCA staff to research bilingual programs and design their own.

At the start of the 2001-2002 school year, CNCA launched the Maintenance/Heritage Program in all kindergarten classes. At this writing, the initial class has completed third grade. CNCA’s staff has designed each new year’s curriculum based on the language performance and needs of the children.

Teachers attend weekly two-hour meetings devoted to staff development, grade levels, bilingual issues and curriculum and assessment. Their collaboration is crucial to the program’s success.

Requirements Of The Maintenance/Heritage Bilingual Program

Parents must commit enrolling their child in the program for at least seven years; if a child leaves the program after sixth grade, he might miss some English development, as some vocabulary and spelling patterns do not easily transfer. Children are not allowed to transfer into the program beyond the first grade, due to the level of Spanish literacy required.

There are no special lesson plans. Professional development includes classes in teaching primary and secondary languages.

Lessons Learned

Implementing a bilingual program that isn’t widely used has been a challenge, CNCA staff has said. Regular faculty collaboration has been a source of strength, as has been the recruiting of teachers who advocate the program.

CNCA’s principal has said it’s hard to find teachers who are not merely bilingual but who have strong education training in both languages. Job candidates have been asked to demonstrate a lesson in both English and Spanish.

Another challenge: Convincing parents that this slower road to speaking English will be ultimately to their children’s benefit, as each child will speak Spanish and English with equal fluency.

Teachers have reported difficulty finding a good variety of grade-level Spanish chapter books for third- to fifth-graders.


The classrooms display flags from all the students’ ethnic backgrounds. By reinforcing pride in their identities, the students gain confidence and become stronger learners. The flags welcome the parents, who learn to participate in their young children’s education rather than see a barrier between home and school. This cultural confidence leads to success in both languages, producing translators for the community who can function intelligently in both English and Spanish.


Center on Educational Governance
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
3470 Trousdale Parkway
Waite Phillips Hall, Room 901
Los Angeles, CA 90089-4039

Phone: (213) 740-0697
Fax: (213) 740-4184
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