Midwest Opinion: Schools should lead on language immersion
From Forum News Service A recent editorial from a Midwest newspaper. Schools should lead on language immersion The list of states that lack any foreign-language immersion programs used to include not only North Dakota, but also South Dakota and M...
From Forum News Service
A recent editorial from a Midwest newspaper.
Schools should lead on language immersion
The list of states that lack any foreign-language immersion programs used to include not only North Dakota, but also South Dakota and Montana.
But the Sioux Falls, S.D., school system started a Spanish immersion program six years ago. And “22 students who walked into the kindergarten class at Rosa Parks for the first time in the fall of 2008 - greeted by a teacher who only spoke Spanish to them - are finishing their elementary school experience,” the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported in May.
“As wide-eyed 5-year-olds, the best they could expect from a teacher speaking in a foreign tongue was the kind of gesture that might actually get them to the bathroom if they had to go. ... (Now), their conversations this week on stories they have written and put together in a book would have seemed as natural in classrooms in Madrid as they are now in Sioux Falls.”
The youngsters - 94 percent of whom score as proficient or advanced in reading, and that means reading English - have moved on to a new middle-school immersion program, another step in the Sioux Falls district’s plans to offer foreign language immersion K-12.
Meanwhile, with “hundreds of students now in the immersion pipeline,” interest in the program is so high “that the district is expanding the number of sections it offers in Spanish Immersion from three to four next fall.”
Montana, too, has recognized that immersing grade-school students in a foreign language not only makes them fluent in that language, but also adds to their math, English and other academic skills.
“When the 2013-14 school year begins, 40 students at Paxson Elementary will pioneera Spanish immersion program that is being launched by Missoula County Public Schools,” the Billings, Mont., Gazette reported last year.
Or, students can attend the private Missoula International School, where parents pay up to $8,300 a year for the privilege of a K-8 immersion experience.
Minnesota, of course, leads the nation in language immersion programs, with somewhere between 50 and 80 schools. In Moorhead, for example, some 250 students take part in the Spanish immersion program, which is now in its 15th year, Forum News Service reported over the weekend.
“To be honest, it was a pretty major draw for us to move to Moorhead,” said Marc Zielinski, a former Fargo resident who now has a kindergartner and a second grader in the immersion program.
As for North Dakota …
Grand Forks now is building a brand-new elementary school on the city’s south end. Might the school district consider starting a foreign-language immersion program at the school?
Such a program would be North Dakota’s first, as far as we know. It would make the district and school alike stand out in great ways. And it would bring to Grand Forks a popular and positive school reform that has proven to have virtually no downsides.
The school district - led by Larry Nybladh, former Moorhead superintendent - should recognize that the time is right to take the immersion plunge.
- Grand Forks Herald