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Tennessee may get Mandarin immersion school

September 16, 2011

Williamson County schools set sights on developing bilingual kids

School district considers K-12 language program

1:17 AM, Sep. 12, 2011  |
Maria Giordano | The Tennessean
Kindergartners in Williamson County could soon be on their way to becoming fluent in a second language.

It’s only a goal for now, but school officials in the district are working toward the idea and have narrowed down the language choice to Mandarin Chinese, German, Spanish or French. Ultimately, whatever is selected would be taught to students from kindergarten through 12th grade, much like students around the world are taught English as a second language.

“We’re one of the only countries in the world where students don’t walk away from their school experience knowing a second language,” said Director of Schools Mike Looney. “We want to make sure our graduates are globally competitive.”

The idea that high school graduates should be fluent in a second language was born out of several community meetings held last school year. Thousands of parents turned out for brainstorming sessions to create the district’s seven-year strategic plan.

Time and time again, parents said they thought their children should be fluent in a second language, said Pat Anderson, school board chairwoman.

But achieving the goal is turning out to be tricky. What language should they teach? How will it be implemented into the school day? What programs should they use? Anderson said there is a committee researching all the options, and Looney says it wouldn’t start until the 2013-14 school year.

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