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Language-immersion programs expand in California’s schools

March 11, 2014

First-graders listen in a dual-immersion class last week where they are learning math, reading and other subjects in both Hmong and English at Susan B. Anthony Elementary. The program at the Sacramento City Unified campus is in its third year.MANNY CRISOSTOMO — mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

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At the Thomas Edison Language Institute in Sacramento, kindergarteners and pre-kindergartners sang a lighthearted song in Spanish last week featuring words that begin with the letter “n.”

At Susan B. Anthony Elementary, 20 miles to the south, first-grade children sat on a carpet of rainbow-colored squares and watched teacher Makaelie Her explain in Hmong how to solve 3 + 9 + 7.

It has been 16 years since California voters approved Proposition 227, the English-focused education initiative that dismantled most bilingual education in California public schools. As ethnic populations have since increased in California, however, school districts, parents and community groups have launched dual-immersion programs that have gained popularity among both English learners and native English speakers.

In dual immersion, English and one other language are used each day in every facet of instruction. Classes typically have a mix of native English speakers and non-English speakers, and they are expected to benefit from one another.

Schools have launched new programs in recent years in Sacramento City and San Juan Unified school districts, offering immersion in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese or Hmong. Elder Creek Elementary in Sacramento teaches students Cantonese and Mandarin as well as English. 

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