Starting in Sept. 2015, Chester H. Thompson Elementary will expand its instructional programs to offer a Spanish Dual LanguageImmersion. This option is available for families that are seeking an academically challenging and enriching program for their children. Candidates selected through an admissions process will develop multicultural competence as well as linguistic proficiency in both Spanish and English. Entry for the program will begin at the kindergarten level with continuous grade level expansions in subsequent years. Why implement Spanish Dual Language Immersion?
In February of 2013, the district concluded a survey of more than 1,300 staff and constituents to determine support for expanding current instructional programs. At the time:
- Spanish Immersion was the third most popular response for program addition,
- 62% said Bethel School District should offer an immersion program at the elementary level,
- About 62% indicated they preferred Spanish to be the language of choice,
- 58% said they would enroll a student if the program was available
- 60% indicated they would support the multi-year family commitment required for successful participation in an immersionprogram, and
- Aside from Spanish, 13% of respondents indicated an interest in Mandarin (Chinese). Roughly 9% suggested other world languages such as Japanese, French, Russian, German, Korean, Dutch, Italian and ASL (sign language).Prior to and since completion of this survey, district staff, administration and the school board have been researching elementary world language/immersion programs, conducting observations in other school districts and planning for implementation.
Why should families consider Immersion?
- Bilingual students demonstrate academic gains over time and perform well on tests.
- Students have the opportunity to become bilingual and biliterate. They will learn how to read, write and speak in Spanish and English.
- Students develop cultural literacy as well as enhanced cognitive skills.
- Students gain flexibility in thinking, have a greater sensitivity to language and become better listeners.
- Immersion programs have a positive effect on brain development and intellectual growth.
- Report cards, notices and newsletters will be printed in Spanish and English. Parent meetings will be held throughout the year to help build relationships and provide a greater level of support between families and the school.
In partnership with the district, students and their families commit to progression of students growth towards bilingualism and biliteracy from kindergarten through-fifth grade. Students enrolled in this Dual Language program will emerge with both Spanish and English Language proficiency in all content areas. They will become highly skilled and be able to effectively use both languages in all forms of communication.
The Instructional Model
At kindergarten and first grade, approximately 90% of instruction will be in Spanish and 10% will be in English to facilitate early Spanish Language acquisition and literacy development. As students transition to higher grades, more of the instruction shifts to English, so that in the upper grades there will be an equal division (50/50) of Spanish and English instruction.
- Bilingualism: High levels of proficiency in English and a second language
- Biliteracy: High levels of achievement in all academic subjects in English and a second language
- Mulitcultural competence: Understanding of different cultures and development of high self-esteem among all students.
Benefits of a Spanish Immersion Program
Bilingual students generally demonstrate academic gains. Research shows that students in dual-language immersion programs typically develop strong academic skills in addition to becoming proficient in both languages. Students have the opportunity to achieve true bilingualism and bi-literacy in Spanish and English. Students learn languages more easily at an early age. Immersing and instructing students in a second language provides an effective vehicle for students to learn to speak, read and write fluently in both languages by fifth grade. Students develop cultural literacy as well as enhanced cognitive skills. Language Immersion students benefit from the ability to communicate with people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. They also typically experience academic achievement at or above their single-language peers. Research covering more than 40 years of language immersion instruction shows that children who receive a variety of cognitive benefits such as mental flexibility, nonverbal problem-solving abilities, and enhanced critical thinking skills.
Admission to this program will be through an admissions process. To be eligible, families must attend one of the school’s planned informational nights. Applications received by the program’s deadline will be reviewed with students accepted based on the following priorities, as space permits:
- Spanish speaking students in the Thompson catchment area (half of the available slots)
- English speaking students in the Thompson catchment area (half of the available slots)
- If the class has not been filled, the school will then review applications from students within the district, but outside the Thompson catchment area.
- If the class does not fill with students from within the Bethel School District boundaries, the school will then review applications from students who live outside the district.Students not placed as a result of this admissions process will be put on a waiting list. Transportation will be provided to all district students selected for this program. Students who do not live in the district will be required to provide their own transportation to and from school. Once students are admitted to the program, they will have continued placement each year without having to reapply.
Parent Information Nights
Additional information about the philosophy and design of the Spanish Immersion Program will be presented at Spanish Immersion Parent Information nights held at Thompson Elementary School. Parents who wish to enroll their child must attend one of the parent meetings.
English parent meetings: February 19, 6:30-7:30p.m. & March 12, 6:30-7:30p.m.
Spanish parent meetings: March 5, 6:30-7:30p.m.
To ensure achievement and success for students in the Spanish Immersion Program, it is necessary for families to commit to the program for six years (kindergarten through fifth grade). Long-term active parent support is extremely important to the success of this program. To support families and student learning:
- Report cards, notices and newsletters will be printed in Spanish and English.
- Parent meetings will be held throughout the year to help build relationships and provide a greater level of support between families and the school. Families will also be asked to accept and embrace the school’s Spanish Immersion Statement of Understanding:
“I understand that research shows that the immersion process is most successful over an extended period of time, and I am willing to make a long term commitment of six years, keeping my child continuously enrolled at Thompson Elementary and encouraging his or her regular attendance.
I understand that having a child in a language immersion program offers unique challenges for parents. Spanish and English instruction and homework will not be translated into the other language by the school. Nevertheless, it is understood that parent support of student learning at home is expected, and the school will provide ideas for effective parent engagement.”
Ralph Wisner, Principal
Chester H. Thompson Elementary School