Language immersion concept inches ahead
Superior is one step closer to becoming a bilingual city. The school district is moving forward with its consideration to offer a foreign language immersion school. Following a lengthy discussion Monday, school board members expressed support in ...
Superior is one step closer to becoming a bilingual city.
The school district is moving forward with its consideration to offer a foreign language immersion school. Following a lengthy discussion Monday, school board members expressed support in a 4-2 vote. Student representatives joined the discussion to voice the concerns of those who attend Superior High School. Board members voiced their own concerns.
In a foreign language immersion school, students learn every subject entirely in the target language to fluently learn the tongue. Instruction in English is does not begin until second grade. English is phased in, with the foreign language gradually limited to few hours a week by high school.
"Why do we need to have any of our kids graduate bilingual?" asked Richard Van Rossum, board member. "We have enough to focus on to teach kids in English."
District reports show problems in the existing curriculum. Testing shows Superior is making gains but lags behind state averages. The district should focus on improving programs it now offers, Van Rossum said.
Research shows immersion school students score better than their peers, said William Rehnstrand, board member.
"Young people seem to be able to think better when they do this," said member John Hendricks. "To me, that is a key item."
Students test higher at immersion schools than they do at traditional schools, he said.
The choice to attend an immersion school is voluntary and requires parental involvement. Immersion school students may do better in testing because they're the ones who would have their parents' help in the first place, Van Rossem said.
Board member Patrick Dorin encouraged the board to pursue a foreign language option for all students -- a program that starts with kindergartners and teaches language as an independent class through high school. Such programs have a high success rate, and several kids come out bilingual, he said.
The curriculum committee explored the part-time option and found that students in immersion schools come out with higher fluency rates. Also, immersion is a less expensive option, said board member Mary Klun.
Students on the SHS advisory board voted 10-5 to support a foreign language immersion school, said Eliza Wolters, student representative.
But students are concerned about how the school would affect kids moving into or out of the district. They also fear immersion school students would feel superior to students who attend the district's other grade schools, she said. Students also questioned which kids would attend the immersion school. Their access would depend on their parents' level of commitment, said Lucas Geissler, fill-in student representative. He urged the board to look at the selection process carefully if they decide to go forward.
Both Geissler and Wolters are studying Spanish at SHS. Both said their English is better as a result of their foreign language studies. They asked the board to consider foreign language classes during summer school for children not in the immersion school environment, so they don't miss out on language lessons.
The committee doesn't want to forgo offering an immersion school to some of the district's students just because they couldn't offer it to everyone, Rehnstrand said.
An immersion school wouldn't eliminate foreign language options in high school.
Monday's vote only addresses gauging community support. If residents support the idea, the curriculum committee will come back to the board with another recommendation, Klun said.
No language for the school has been chosen. Language is one factor that will be explored within the community, she said.
Van Rossem and Dorin voted against the measure.
Administrators plan to bring immersion school presentations into the community this winter. If the immersion school is fully approved by the board, it would likely start classes with kindergarten and first grade students in 2009.