The Park Record editorial, April 25, 2009 |

The Park Record editorial, April 25, 2009

We could all use more cultural immersion

With lean budgets forcing cutbacks almost everywhere, it is understandable that many businesses and public agencies are saying ‘no’ to new offering new services. It is refreshing, then, to hear about groups embracing change and willing to try experimental programs.

That’s the case at Parley’s Park Elementary School (PPES) where administrators and faculty members are preparing to offer a dual immersion program for first graders next year. Fifty students will be offered the opportunity to spend half of the day in classes conducted in English, and half the day in classes led in Spanish. Enrollment in the program is voluntary and educators hope half of the participants will be native English speakers and half will be Spanish speakers. Classes will be divided so that each class will have a mixture of native tongues.

Unlike traditional English as a Second Language programs, dual immersion not only is intended to help Latino students speak English, but to teach Anglos how to speak Spanish, too. Its creators also hope that dual immersion will encourage intercultural understanding and relationships between the students.

After seeing positive results from the initial groups at 15 schools, the Utah Department of Education set aside money to expand the program to 30 schools next year. PPES Principal Michele Wallace successfully applied to bring the program to her school and so far there has been an enthusiastic response.

According to research on the program so far, educators are seeing positive results for both the English- and Spanish-speaking students. Beyond attaining fluency in a second language, the studies suggest that students in dual-immersion language programs gain additional cognitive flexibility and problem-solving abilities.

In order to qualify for the program, students have to commit to the program for three years. Faculty members at the Park City School District’s other elementary schools are already hoping to get involved down the road.

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That is the kind of fresh, optimistic thinking that we need, despite all of the bad economic news.