Language immersion can boost student achievement

This Fox News article disproves a popular myth about language immersion – namely, that immersion programs take money and time away from English instruction, thereby hurting immigrant students by delaying their acquisition of English.

In fact, immersion programs don’t cost more to run than traditional classrooms. AND they can help struggling learners and boost school test scores, as the following description of an impoverished school in Los Angeles shows:

“Baldwin Park is a city in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley whose overall population is 80 percent Latino, 4 percent white. The median household income is about $51,000. In the Baldwin Park Unified School District, more than 90 percent of their kids are eligible for free lunches. With high rates of poverty and high numbers of minorities whose primary language is not English, it is the kind of school district you shouldn’t be surprised to see on a list of underperforming schools.

But the schools are not underperforming. Some have been so successful — especially their schools that with a language immersion program— they have been the focal point of reports on the benefits of bilingual education.

Fueling interest in the district is a report in Education Trust West, a student advocacy group focused on the academic performance of low-income and minority students. Baldwin Park was ranked highest in the state with a letter grade of B because their low-income and students posted increases in their state exams, as measured by a point system called the Academic Performance Index. In addition, the difference between the API of Latino students (94 percent of the district’s population) and white students (2 percent) was less than 30 points, the only school listed in the report’s top 10 to have such a small gap.

Five of the district’s 13 elementary schools, along with two of the middle- and junior high schools (of four) and one high school (of two) in the district offer language immersion programs. In California, the goal is that each school should score 800 on their API. In their elementary schools that offer Spanish immersion courses, three scored above 800 in 2011.

And in a state plagued by financial difficulties, the scores have kept improving even as revenue streams dry up, a Hechinger Report noted. In 2010-2011, the school received $400,000 less in economic income aid (bringing in $3.3 million) because the fund for low-income students decreased by 5 percent. In 2011-2012, a funding stream for low-income learners was eliminated, cutting the district’s budget by more than $220,000.”

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