2 Ways That Language Instruction Shined in 2015

In today’s global world, it is important that students leave high school knowing more than just one language. Several innovative school districts in the U.S. are making this a reality by ensuring that their students learn a second language.

Maryland districts add Spanish immersion at three of its elementary schools. Prince George County in Maryland is working hard to immerse young students in foreign language. Three schools in the county started formally offering Spanish immersion as part of an expansion option for children this school year.

Mariluz Mendez, a kindergarten teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, said that some of her students who have never spoken a foreign language before her class are now reading books in Spanish.

Executive Director of the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages Marty Abbott explained that the number of school districts that use a foreign-language immersion model rises each year. Spanish is the most commonly taught foreign language in U.S. schools, and Chinese is seeing a significant increase.

Gina Bowler and Delores Millhouse, two parents who did not have children in the public schools last year, lobbied for Schools Chief Kevin M. Maxwell to add Spanish immersion to the district’s list of offerings.

Bowler wants to give her daughters all of the advantages available to other children. She believes fluency in multiple languages will give students “many advantages in their academic lives, their professional lives, and their personal lives.”

Right now, kindergarten classes in each of the three participating elementary schools enjoy the new offering. Subsequent grades will be added each year. The district also offers Chinese immersion at a few schools.

I fully support Maryland in its decision to offer Spanish immersion in its kindergarten classes. Research points to benefits such as greater understanding, tolerance, and appreciation for other languages and cultures. I anticipate and hope that we will see an increase of language immersion programs throughout the U.S. in upcoming years.

NYC expanded dual-language programs. The New York City Education Department plans to expand dual-language programs offered in the city’s public schools.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina stated that 40 dual-language programs in elementary, middle and high school levels would be created or expanded for the 2015-2016 school year. As of June, there were 150 dual-language programs in the city. The new dual-language program will receive a $25,000 grant to prepare for the implementation and $1 million in federal funds.

The programs will primarily be in Spanish, but there will also be some in French, Haitian-Creole, Japanese, Chinese, and Hebrew. The programs will aspire to teach students to read, write, and speak in two languages. Half of the students will be English speakers and the other half will already speak the second language in the classroom.

Dual-language programs have been spreading around the United States as school districts strive to prepare students to compete for jobs in a globalized, multilingual world. The methods used in each school vary. For example, some teachers may teach half of the school day in English and half in another language.

Beyond the job prospects and global advantages, education experts say that dual-language programs can also attract middle-class families to attend poorer schools they may otherwise evade.

I think this shows that New York City is using its multicultural community to its advantage. Dual-language programs promote a positive school culture and can help close the achievement gap. I anticipate we will see students from a range of backgrounds attend schools that offer dual-language programs as more and more parents recognize the importance of bilingual education.

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