Instructional Design


TLCS will support all students through two research-based designs that have proven effective to raise student achievement for low income and at-risk students:  Inquiry Based Learning and Dual Language Immersion.  An intentional focus and school-wide implementation of these research based practices with ongoing professional development and time for focused, teacher collaboration, has been shown to significantly increase achievement for all students, including socio-economically disadvantaged, minority and English language learners.




The purpose and fundamental goals of the Dual Immersion Program are to provide students with an educational model where they have the opportunity to:  


  1. Become bilingual/biliterate in English and Spanish;
  2. Achieve high academic standards in both languages; and
  3. Demonstrate an awareness and appreciation for our diverse global community.


The model is designed to provide all students with the opportunity to make significant contributions to the education of their peers.  Students from diverse linguistic, social, and cultural backgrounds are important and necessary to the success of the program.  All students are fully integrated through a structured, balanced and collaborative educational design.


In the 40+ years of research since the development of the Dual  Immersion Model, the most effective practices for accomplishing the purpose have been identified and standardized.  These core elements include class composition of a balanced number of native English speakers and native speakers of the target language (Spanish); significant instruction in the target language in the early grades (90% in grades K with a gradual increase of English instruction until reaching parity or 50/50 in grade 4 or 5); separation of languages for instruction (teachers use only Spanish during Spanish time and only English during English time); excellent instructional practices providing comprehensible input for all learning styles through hands-on, experiential techniques in a language-rich environment; incorporation of psycholinguistic and socio-cultural strategies as an intricate part of each student’s educational experience beginning in kindergarten; and parental choice, support and participation.


In order to achieve these goals, TLCS has chosen to use the most effective method of the Dual Immersion Program:  a modified 90/10 Model.  This model is based on a combination of research in immersion education in Canada and bilingual education research in the United States and other parts of the world. Students are immersed in the target language beginning in Transitional Kindergarten, and gradually increase the amount of English instruction each year.  Students learn all academic subjects in Spanish, with formal English reading instruction beginning in 1st or 2nd grade.  Students who are English learners begin structured English Language Development instruction in Kindergarten and continue until they are redesignated as fluent English proficient.  The United States Department of Education (USDOE) has recognized Dual Immersion as one of the few programs that is making a significant difference in the drop-out rate for students of Latino/Hispanic background.  

The success of the Dual Immersion Program Model is most evident through the achievement of its students.  Not only do immersion students graduate from the program fully bilingual and bi-literate, most demonstrate higher academic achievement levels than their monolingual peers as evidenced by years of data collection.  Dual Immersion students develop high levels of self-esteem and appreciation of others.  They realize the strength of collaboration and fully recognize the mutual benefits of teamwork.  These students have the wealth and depth of two linguistic systems, which increases their ability to problem solve, analyze, and comprehend a variety of academic tasks.  They feel at home even when not at home, have an interest in other languages and cultures, and begin the study of a third language as early as 3rd grade.  Perhaps the most significant trait of Dual Immersion students is the confidence they demonstrate when confronting new situations or academic tasks. These students carry with them the innate awareness of their personal accomplishments, while fully recognizing that it was through teamwork and collaboration that they were able to gain a language, while giving theirs to another.  


Dual Immersion Programs typically aim for these general goals:

  1. Students will develop high levels of proficiency in their first language. This goal means that native English speakers will develop high levels of listening, speaking, reading, and writing ability in English, and English language learners will develop these same abilities in their native language (e.g., Spanish). Neither group of students will have to forego development in the native language as second language proficiency improves.
  2. All students will develop high levels of proficiency in a second language. Native English speakers will have the opportunity to develop high levels of oral and written proficiency in a second language. English language learners will have the opportunity to develop high levels of oral and written proficiency in English.
  3. The English language development of English language learners will not be diminished because they are also receiving instruction in their native language. Dual Immersion programs are called additive bilingual programs for both groups of students: they give all students the opportunity to maintain and develop oral and written skills in their first language while they simultaneously acquire oral and written skills in a second language.
  4. Academic performance for both groups of students will be at or above grade level. Dual Immersion programs maintain the same academic standards and curricula that are in place for other students in a school district. Academic requirements are not diluted for dual language students, and the same levels of academic performance are expected for them as for other students in the district or county. Evidence that this goal is attainable has been documented in empirical studies (Cazabon, Nicoladis, & Lambert, 1998; Lindholm-Leary, 2001; Thomas & Collier, 2002).
  5. All students will demonstrate positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors. Because DI classrooms bring together students from different language, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, they allow students to learn first hand about cultures that are different from their own. Research has shown evidence of positive cross-cultural attitudes being developed through DI programs (Cazabon, Lambert, & Hall, 1993; Freeman, 1998)
  6. Well-implemented DI programs are among the most impressive forms of education available in the United States, and are now strongly encouraged in our state based on the recent passing of California Proposition 58: California Education for a Global Economy.  Students who participate in these programs gain grade level academic ability, well-developed language and literacy skills in two languages, and cross-cultural competence.


Curriculum and Instruction


The Tree of Life Charter School shall implement the Common Core State Standards in Spanish and English and CAASPP in accordance with state policy and required timelines. All curriculum will support Common Core instruction and student progress toward attainment of the CCSS in both English and Spanish Language Arts, Mathematics and Next Generation Science Standards.


Language of Instruction by Grade Level


The following chart outlines the ratio of English to Spanish instruction by grade level:


Grade Level % Spanish % English % 3rd Lang Content
TK/Kinder/1st 90 10 World Music All academic content in Spanish

Science/Social Studies Content based ELD

2nd 80 20 World Music All academic content in Spanish

ELA and Content Based ELD

3rd 70 30 Exploration Spanish: SLA and Math ELA/ELD;  Science/Soc Stud varies
4th-5th 40 50 10 Spanish: SLA

Eng: ELA/ELD;  Math

Science/Soc Stud varies

6th-8th 30 60 10 ELA/SLA; Math in Eng; Science/Soc Stud varies by content