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Boston immersion thrives, but traditional foreign language classes losing ground

May 17, 2012

More than a decade after the state urged that students start learning a foreign language in the early grades, many local elementary schools are losing ground.

Immersion programs, in which children study all of their subjects in the second language, are thriving in a few communities. But traditional foreign language classes, often for a few hours a week, have disappeared from elementary schools in Arlington, Bellingham, Franklin, Littleton, Marlborough, Needham, Newton, Norfolk, and Shrewsbury.

The cutbacks are largely due to tight budgets and high-stakes testing in other subjects, officials say.

“It’s really budget,” said Kathleen Bodie, superintendent of Arlington’s school system, which dropped its Spanish program for kindergarten through third grade.

“People would love to have an elementary language program,’’ Bodie said. “In terms of brain development, that is the ideal time to learn a language. It’s much more difficult as we get older.”

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