K12 Spanish Language Immersion Program
The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, Indianapolis, Ind., is using native teachers in three of its magnet schools to teach a core curriculum in Spanish to native English students. A lottery determines which students will be in the program, which begins with kindergarten.
In grades K2, students are taught completely in Spanish; at grade three a 30-minute daily language arts class taught in English is introduced. In grades 4 and 5, students are taught in Spanish 50 percent of the time, and in middle school three of seven periods are taught in Spanish. High school immersion students can earn an immersion diploma by taking a minimum of 13 credit hours with an immersion course in grades 9 and 10 and Advanced Placement Spanish courses in grades 11 and 12. The district provides international experiences, which may include a home stay, as well as summer course work.
Planning requires extra materials, including library books, software, classroom visuals and sets of books, music, CDs, DVDs, and videos in the target language. Each elementary classroom has a bilingual instructional assistant.
Students accepted to the program are transported from throughout the district by direct-route busing. Preferential consideration is given to siblings, so families attend the same school.
What seems to have been somewhat of a risk at first has delivered highly qualified students. These students initially fall short on standardized tests, but by fifth grade they meet, and many surpass, the achievements of their counterparts. Immersion program students at or exceeding state standards in English language arts went from 86.5 percent in third grade to 98 percent in fifth, and in mathematics from 83.5 percent in third to 89 percent in fifth grade.
"The MSDLT is very proud of both our history and positive results with our K12 Spanish Immersion Program," says Superintendent Michael Copper.
Arts for Education and Community
Dallas Independent School District students will enjoy 45-minute art and music classes each week by the fall of 2008, as the district adds 140 certified music and art specialists to its staff . The program will also provide an even distribution of resources throughout the district. Over the next six years a network of community organizations that serve children such as churches and libraries will also work to incorporate arts education into the local community. The program will receive $40 million from the Dallas Learning Initiative over three years through a partnership with Big Thought (a Dallas nonprofit group), The Wallace Foundation (an independent foundation focused on education and the arts), the city of Dallas and the district itself. According to Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, the program will excite students about being in school and will help keep them there. New York City was also a Wallace Foundation (www.wallacefoundation.org) grant recipient.
With an invitation from PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating in the Arctic), Maggie Kane, an 11-year middle school teaching veteran at Prescott (Ariz.) Mile High Middle School, was given six weeks of leave last year to work alongside researchers to track glacial melting in the Arctic polar region. The district was able to have Kane, whose interests are polar regions and paleoclimatology, attend her school's opening day convocation through the use of Wimba Media (www.wimba.com) conferencing software, which uses phone and interactive, Web-based portal technology. Kane held a full-school conference as well as a meeting for her teaching team of 150 seventh-graders. Students had the chance to interact with their teacher and with on-site researchers and scientists.
The Svalbarde archipelago is 600 miles south of the North Pole and the highest latitude where people live. Spitsburgen, the island Kane visited, is the largest island and is 90 percent covered with glaciers.
Kane is incorporating her knowledge into a new curriculum on climate change for the district. According to Kane, her students now care more about the health of their planet and have a better understanding of their position on it.