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Wash. state program adds Spanish, after Mandarin

January 28, 2011

Most school districts start with Spanish and add Mandarin immersion later. Evergreen, in Vancouver, Wash., did it the other way.

Evergreen schools to offer English-Spanish immersion program

By Marissa Harshman
Columbian Staff Reporter

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

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Public meetings

What: Evergreen Public Schools will have informational meetings about the new dual-language immersion program.

When: The meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 20; 10 a.m. Jan. 21; 7 p.m. Feb. 10; and 10 a.m. Feb 12.

Where: Marrion Elementary School, 10119 N.E. 14th St.

Kindergartners in one classroom next fall will greet their new teacher with “Hola” instead of “Hello.”

A couple of dozen native English- and Spanish-speaking 5- and 6-year-olds will share a classroom for a new two-way immersion program at Marrion Elementary School. The dual-language program is the first of what Evergreen Public Schools’ officials hope to be many immersion programs offered to students.

The 28-student classroom will be half native English speakers and half native Spanish speakers. District officials are asking parents to commit to the six-year program that runs through fifth grade, said Tom Nadal, Evergreen director of elementary education. There is no tuition for the program.

The kindergartners will receive 90 percent of classroom instruction in Spanish and 10 percent in English. The following year, instruction will be split 80-20, then 70-30 and so on until reaching 50-50 in fourth grade. Fifth grade instruction will also be split 50-50, Nadal said.

“They end up biliterate at a fifth-grade level and fluent in both languages,” he said.

The program will immerse English-speaking students in a foreign language while also teaching Spanish-speaking students English. The Spanish-speaking children are students who would otherwise participate in the school’s English-language learners program, Nadal said.

“Our district has an achievement gap between some of our minorities and our white or Caucasian kids,” he said. “This should help close the achievement gap for some of those kids.”

 

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