Frequently Asked Questions about TWI

How do TWI programs manage enrollment?

Most TWI programs aim for a balance of native English speakers and native speakers of the partner language, but this balance can be difficult to maintain over time, especially if demographics of a neighborhood change or if there is greater demand for the program from one part of the community. There are important legal and logistical implications of recruitment or enrollment procedures that may be seen to favor one community over another (especially with regard to desegregation laws), so it is important to consult a legal expert before any decisions about these practices are made.



New families are recruited to the TWI program through word-of-mouth, presentations at pre-schools and community centers, and advertisements in print media or radio, among other means. In some programs, recruitment priorities reflect the balance in population that is desired. Recommendations for recruitment include the following:

  • Make sure that recruitment materials are translated into appropriate languages and address the concerns of a variety of parents.
  • Ensure diversity within the native English speaking population by working with African-American, Native American, or other groups in the community.
  • Parent-to-parent communication is often the most effective way to promote the benefits of the program; inviting parents of currently enrolled students to make presentations or speak with prospective parents is a good strategy.


A lottery may be used to manage enrollment when demand is greater than the number of available seats. Some programs have two lotteries, one for native English speakers and one for native speakers of the partner language, in order to ensure that each entering class is linguistically balanced. It’s important to note that the grouping should be based on language proficiency and not ethnic group (or name).


Sibling Preference

Many programs offer preference in enrollment to younger siblings in families of students who are or have been in the program. Although there is no research that specifically endorses this practice, it may be supported by the following rationale:

  • Student outcomes may be stronger if a household has at least two speakers that will support each other in the partner language (especially when that language is not spoken by the parents).
  • Families become more supportive of and invested in the dual language process as they become more familiar with dual language instruction.
  • It is logistically easier for parents to have all of their children in the same school.

Student Selection

Although a program may wish to include some measures such as tests or student interviews to determine language dominance or to identify special learning needs prior to enrollment, such measures should only be used as informational (i.e., to sort students into the appropriate lottery pool or to give teachers information about their incoming students), not to screen students for placement in the program. Please see the FAQ, How do at-risk students do in TWI Programs? for more information.


Attrition and New Arrivals

It is important to consider the degree of attrition that might occur over the course of the program (the number of students who will leave) or the expected number of new arrivals in the upper grades.

  • Most TWI programs limit enrolling new students in the upper grades (second grade and above) to students who have proficiency in the partner language.
  • The composition or size of classes in the upper grades may be affected by attrition, especially if students from one linguistic group tend to leave the program more than another. If this is likely to be the case, consider whether to adjust recruitment targets for primary-grade students to account for an expected imbalance in the upper grades.
  • Ensure that there is sufficient enrollment in the primary grades to constitute at least one full classroom in the upper grades.


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