Start a Partnership

Start a Partnership

The partnership concept promises to expand STARTALK programs across the country by associating them with the thousands of schools and districts that have established DLI programs or are planning new ones. However, this opportunity brings with it the challenge of new and existing DLI programs learning how to take advantage of the highly successful STARTALK summer programs and new support from STARTALK Central. It is assumed that the DLI side of the partnership is funded by state, district or local funding, with STARTALK Central providing funding for the summer program component as part of its regular annual competition. Accordingly, the current document is intended to assist managers in preparing applications to the STARTALK summer programs.

To start a partnership, DLI program administrators and teachers must:

  1. Understand and acknowledge the benefits of a STARTALK summer session to initiate or strengthen DLI;
  2. Identify the specific need the summer session is intended to address
  3. Become very knowledgeable about STARTALK grants and the grant-making process, paying special attention to the “priority features for successful applications” that make partner applicants more competitive.

The first two of these items are addressed above in Why STARTALK + DLI and Partnership Design, respectively. Item 3 is elaborated here.

An analysis of current partnership projects' designs clearly demonstrates the issues where STARTALK summer sessions can contribute immense value to new and existing DLI programs.

However, the STARTALK application process for summer grants, which must be repeated annually, specifies priorities, structures and specific objectives for summer programming that DLI administrators must meet in order to be successful. Most importantly, STARTALK funding is dependent on meeting the standards of the “STARTALK pathway” by being “activity based, motivating, engaging, developmentally appropriate, and based on age-appropriate attractive themes.”

In addition, the summer programs are obliged to include teachers as well as students, a constant and consistent requirement of STARTALK. These standards, as well as the specific application guidelines, represent the accommodation that DLI programs must make in order to receive STARTALK funding. The fact that they are prima facia improvements to teaching and learning for DLI programs makes the accommodations on the part of DLI programs natural and fruitful.

In addition to specifying aspects of the application process that add significant value to DLI programs, established “priority features” for successful applications strongly favor DLI-based submissions stressing the original rationale for the partnership program:

Under Priority Features, priority “…will be given to programs that have the following features:

6. An opportunity for students to continue to develop language proficiency after the summer by enrolling in programs during the academic year, whether via face-to-face instruction or distance learning (the applicant is not required to be the responsible party for offering follow-up experiences)

7. A plan to ensure that STARTALK language programs will continue in the community or local school system.”

These priority features constitute the primary reason from STARTALK’s point of view for partnering with DLI. Accordingly, the fact that DLI ensures connected academic year programs as well as ongoing community support should make the SDP summer applications more competitive. In addition, while STARTALK programs are competed every year, the fact that DLI programs are ongoing helps lay the basis for continued funding of the related STARTALK program even in the face of annual competitions.

Under “Program Legacy,” applicants are asked to:

23. “Describe the steps your program will take to ensure that STARTALK language programs will continue to be offered in your community in the absence of STARTALK funding.

24. Describe the connections you will establish in your community as a result of this program.”

Without question, 23 is a significant challenge for all STARTALK applicants that operate independent of existing academic programs. It is logical, though, to assume that the ongoing partnership with DLI and the priority features 6 and 7 above significantly enhance the possibility that the STARTALK program will continue. This is all the more likely because, in the case of SDPs, the connections are with and through the DLI programs, which involve standing language education programs in schools and districts and thus teachers and administrations. More importantly, the DLI programs are based on strong involvement of parents and (often) school board members, legislators, and even businesses.

The above "program priorities" and "legacy issues" clearly point to the way DLI programs can serve as a unique, natural, and valuable partner to STARTALK, because they clearly provide an “…opportunity for students to continue to develop language proficiency after the summer by enrolling in programs during the academic year…” while establishing lasting connections in the community that incentivize the continuation of STARTALK programs.

Add to this the potential expansion and future persistence of STARTALK programs based on the rapid expansion of DLI across the country. However, this partnership is also of unique and natural value given that STARTALK programming strengthens DLI programs at their points of vulnerability. This value is made clear in the program design of the current project’s Partners, specifically in their citation of unique goals, rationales and legacies cited in Partnership Design, which can be summarized as:

  1. Building DLI enrollments, key to initiating and maintaining classes and programs.
    • Attracting students and parents to DLI and STARTALK.
    • Incentivizing students to continue DLI into middle and high school.
  2. Preparing students and parents for entry into the new DLI experience.
  3. Maintaining and enhancing DLI students’ language proficiency and literacy over the summer.
  4. Building and strengthening community support for DLI. 

In articulating these goals and rationales, the existing partnerships display defining characteristics of successful applications for summer programs that benefit DLI and at the same time comply with general STARTALK practices, principles and standards. This reflexive and mutually beneficial relationship is not entirely new to STARTALK, but it provides a new constituency and requires a unique slant to the application that we assume will be recognized in the evaluation process. Traditional STARTALK issues are addressed, such as Languages (Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian), Modes (classroom, blended, residential, online), Enrollments, and varied Lengths dependent on Modes. On the other hand, the focus on DLI entails unique qualities, among them:

“Jumpstart” (PreK-, K- and Grade 1 students and late entry students with modified jumpstart)
“Onward” (Elementary → Middle/Secondary)


  • Proficiency levels: novice mid, intermediate mid, advanced low, and advanced
  • Program Goals and Rationale: cf. Goal 1 above:
    • Reducing DLI attrition where it is highest at specific inflection points: particularly entry and elementary → middle. More students continue language study in middle and high school, which is required to get students to levels ensuring they can profit from overseas immersion at the university level)
    • Building interest at the entry point to attract students and parents to DLI and STARTALK, as enrollments are key to initiating and maintaining classes and programs
    • Keeping students excited about continuing their study of two languages into middle school and beyond
    • Informing students and parents about what to expect with continuing language study in DLI and beyond
    • Reducing attrition as the greatest threat to language programs, highest at inflection points: particularly elementary → middle in DLI programs
    • Motivating students to continue in DLI: multiple years of study is critical to reaching high levels, which requires continuing in middle and high school 
  • A broad range of students: Heritage learners, English Learners, and Native English speakers
  • Teacher development, both in linked programs and independent programs, that addresses the special challenges of language competence and bilingual classrooms, among others
  • Community connections that programs will establish in their communities as a result of this program. Partnering these two programs significantly enhances the possibility that both will continue with or without STARTALK funding, especially given the fact that DLI programs are based on strong involvement of parents and (often) school board members, legislators, and even businesses.

DLI programs depend on a very successful initial year for entering students (and parents), as well as a smooth programming transition from elementary to middle school. Normally, it takes three years to design, launch, and successfully implement or modify a DLI program; we assume that a successful partnership will take the same amount of time.

Applications for STARTALK summer funding must strictly follow the published guidelines on its website. Presumably, three years of summer funding is possible, if evidence of the DLI connection is provided as stated above.

However, the end goal of the three years should be demonstration of reasonable evidence for continuing support that could involve schools and districts taking over the summer funding (after STARTALK initial support) as an integral part of its DLI program.