Dare schools prep to immerse elementary students in Spanish

By on April 17, 2018

Dare County Schools are well into preparing for the 2018-19 school year with a plan that would introduce a Spanish language immersion program in elementary schools.

Although the program is still in its preliminary stages and no final decision has been made, outreach to parents of incoming students has shown considerable support.

And based on the response from the public, it is highly likely an immersion program will be introduced in nearly all Dare County elementary schools next school year, according to Dare County Schools Superintendent John Farrelly.

“The parent interest in the program has been incredible,” Farrelly said. “In fact, within five minutes after the electronic registration form went live on the website, we had over 70 parents register their child for the program.”

First of a two-part series

Dare County’s proposed immersion program will teach students in both English and Spanish, although there are programs elsewhere that use other foreign languages.

What makes the immersion program different is rather than teaching a foreign language in a dedicated class, it will be used throughout the day in all areas of instruction.

The plan being developed by Dare County Schools calls for 90 percent Spanish instruction in kindergarten and first grade, with art and music taught in English. In grades three through five, English and Spanish will be split 50-50.

Not every student in every school will be placed in an immersion classroom. A selection process will take place in the weeks ahead to determine which students will participate.

Although there were some early examples of dual language education beginning in the 1960s, the first true immersion programs were introduced in the early 1970s. More than 90 North Carolina school systems now use immersion programs.

“Dual language programs consistently result in higher levels of student achievement and social skills,” Farrelly said. An extensive body of research would seem to confirm that statement.

There is conclusive evidence that students enrolled in immersion programs develop proficiency in both their primary and secondary languages.

Immersion instruction does not necessarily create a student who will speak the second language as well as someone who was raised with that language, though.

If Spanish is the immersion language, students will be able to understand instructions in the language, answer questions appropriately and be able to read and comprehend grade appropriate material.

Nonetheless, “immersion students’ second language skills are not native-like. They make persistent grammatical errors, have a limited range of vocabulary, and their usage is not idiomatic,” according to a survey of immersion research by the University of Minnesota Center for Advanced Language Acquisition.

However, there seem to be a number of long-term benefits.

Studies have shown that over time immersion students outperform other students in language skills and have a better understanding of phonetics and how that can be used to understand the meaning of a word.

Language skills, as important as they are, may not be the only benefit of immersion instruction.

There is a growing body of research that shows immersion students demonstrate enhanced cognitive skills — the ability an ability to apply the experience and information they have gained in the classroom to solve problems.

What is not clear is why that seems to be the case.

“While much evidence supports the benefits associated with full and active bilingualism, the relationship between language immersion education and long-term cognitive benefits is as yet less well-understood,” the University of Minnesota researchers wrote.

Although not as well studied as other effects of immersion programs, there is evidence that students who are exposed to a second language and the traditions associated with it are better able to understand and interact with other cultures into adulthood.

In an increasingly interconnected world, the ability to comfortably connect with other cultures will become more and more important.

Some studies have shown that after two years of intensive immersion, when 90 percent of instruction will be in Spanish, students may not have the same language skills in their primary language as students who have not been in the program.

The studies specifically point to word recognition and sentence structure as two areas that immersion students show lower scores.

But further studies have concluded the knowledge gap is temporary and as they transition to instruction that increases the use of English, students quickly match the skill level of students who have only been taught in English.

There have also been concerns raised that immersion programs create a de facto segregation of students, and to a certain extent parents, and that immersion students will congregate with just immersion students, and vice versa in the non-immersion population.

The key in both language and segregation concerns will be how successful school administrators and teachers are in addressing the issues.

In part two, teachers express serious reservations about the proposal, and we detail how the student selection process will work.

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  • CorollaCap

    Everybody calm down. What’s wrong with learning? I wish I could speak Spanish. AND… the rep/dem thing needs to stop. Who cares? We’re people, and fellow citizens. Well, we used to be.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 8:57 am
  • CorollaCap

    Furthermore, a human person can’t be “illegal”. Only actions can be called illegal.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 9:02 am
  • Wendy

    A person is illegal if he entered the country illegally. Why Spanish? Native Spanish speaking natives is only 5.85% of the world population. Mainly Hispanic America, US and Spain. Being bi-lingual can be a advantage in those countries but not the world. We have a problem with some people coming here and never learning English. If you have courses that are 90% taught in Spanish, how will they learn English? Go to South America and their signs are not in Spanish and English, only Spanish. They expect if you live there you will learn their language. I had the opportunity to learn French in elementary school. This was taught as a subject like math, history. Why not just do that and especially not import teachers that will take someone’s job away.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 4:37 pm
  • Ed Danko

    @dave: Yes Dave (why won’t you use your full name? Are you a coward?) as always you are simply guessing, and making stuff up, which is what wacko leftwing liberals like you do. My ancestors, my grandparents immigrated to America “legally” and they didn’t steal from anyone or slaughter anybody, especially Indians (like Elizabeth Warren!) They came to America legally and learned to speak English as fast as they could so they could find work, become Americans, and become successful, and I might add, very successful! Oh, and perhaps you might want to check and see how many “illegals” are working at Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s winery in California before you try to pin this problem on Republicans (her net worth is 29.3 million.) And finally, I’m sure I surpassed far beyond any level of education you ever even dreamed off!

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 5:50 pm
  • Floyd

    You’re going off the rails again. Simmer down.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 6:01 pm
  • CorollaCap

    Danko is officially an out of touch !idiota¡.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 10:32 pm
  • CorollaCap

    And Wendy. Soooo ignorante. Racist. Actually, you all are. And you don’t even know it. There’s a lot of racist people out there that don’t actually even know it. I’ll throw up.

    Thursday, Apr 19 @ 10:38 pm
  • Brisleyni Montenegro

    You guys just depressed me. Is so simple if you do not AGREE take your kids to a different school and STOP complaining. By the way, learning a second language is a BENEFIT!!!! And children learn better if they get taught a different language at a younger age. Also, speaking a different language allows you to understand better another culture other than yours. If you guys haven’t noticed many people living in the United States are Spanish speakers and there is nothing you can freaking do about it. Have a GOOD NIGHT!

    Friday, Apr 20 @ 12:02 am
  • dave

    LOL @ Ed! I’ve used this saying before, but for you it’s especially true: I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know. I guess I’m not an inter net tough guy like you are. Try and use the left side of your brain a little. The original white people came here and stole the land from the Indians and slaughtered them in doing so. Since you enjoy riding on the “Whatabout Bus” like all you retro-thinking conservatives;, whatabout Trump and all his illegals, or Romney and all his illegals, etc, etc. Romneys net worth is $250 million, Trump maybe a few hundred million. Btw, I think Pelosi’s net worth is more than you stated. Another BTW, I’m not an idiot like you and use my real name here. And so what if Elizabeth Warren has some Indian in her. Without the Indians, the white folk here never would have made it. Get out of your conspiracy cloud and search around in Google for some FACTUAL information. It’s ok when you find out things (many, many things) that go against your paradigm and incorrect facts; they won’t bite you. Oh, and check your bush’s when you go home; you might find an illegal or terrorist waiting to gitcha! Lol!

    Friday, Apr 20 @ 9:08 am
  • Wendy

    CorollaCap..you are quick to call names. Tell me which statements that I made are racist and ignorant(which you spelled wrong). I love this country because we have the right to state our views. You seem to have a problem if someone’s opinion is different than yours. So then they are racist,ignorant or idiots? I am not against a second language being taught as a subject. I agree with teaching 90% of the day in that language. Why Spanish and not German or French?

    Friday, Apr 20 @ 12:29 pm
  • John Ehermagerd

    Have any of you visited Ed Danko’s website?? I just finished browsing it. Notably, he supports offshore drilling and armed teachers for our district. He’s also a name caller.

    Seriously Dare County – we ~need~ to put a more educated, enlightened & forward-thinking person in office. This Ed guy represents all that’s terribly twisted & wrong with the U.S. political scene in 2018.

    Ed – just because you’re louder doesn’t make you right.

    Friday, Apr 20 @ 2:10 pm
  • Wendy

    The number one language spoke by more people then any other language is Mandarin. So why not that instead of Spanish, if the reason is to make our children able to go out in this world with a advantage?

    Saturday, Apr 21 @ 1:56 pm
  • Michael Gaskill

    I see some school board seats becoming vacant soon. This is the stereotypical liberal philosophy, create a new problem and ignore the current one. Spanish is great to learn , but let’s master basic English and math first .

    Tuesday, Apr 24 @ 10:50 pm