Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Spanish Immersion in Middle School

My kiddo started in a dual-immersion Spanish elementary school in kindergarten in the U.S.

She went up to fifth grade, when she switched to a bilingual international school in Nicaragua for one school year.

Kinder graduation.
Now we're back at that same place we started -- but it's been a while since i talked about the differences that seem to exist now in middle school compared to the same school in elementary.

She's in the middle school portion of her K-8 school (which might change at any moment, thanks to Portland Public Schools' tendency to switch gears often), where she's still speaking Spanish in an academic and age-appropriate level, but it's a little different.

People asked a lot of questions during the younger years about why or why not to send your kid to an immersion program -- and i can attest that for myself, i didn't think much about the older grades back then either.

Like how rigorously the school district would adhere to the 50-50 split between languages we were told would start in fourth grade. (Before that, it was 90 percent Spanish in kindergarten, 80 percent in 1st, and so on) The answer: Not very. My daughter now has two classes in Spanish.

Like how many native speakers they'd be taught by. The answer: Thus far, her first three teachers were native speakers, but she hasn't had one since second grade. That is not a knock to the wonderful teachers who my kiddo has had. They've definitely gone above and beyond time and again. It's just something to note and a question to ask when you're considering immersion.

I also note the fact that there seem to be less and less participation among the middle school in culturally-focused or language-focused activities for both the kids in the immersion program and their peers who also attend the English-only program. 

It's also interesting to note how many native speakers have stuck around in the program, after these six or seven years. My kiddo's class definitely has a lot fewer native Spanish speakers than it used to -- likely because once they leave or move, other native speakers don't always know they can replace the ones who left. The district described the program as a 50-50 split between native speakers of English and Spanish, but when those numbers get skewed, the makeup of the classes -- and the support touted for non-native speakers of English -- gets lost in the shuffle too. Just another note about these programs.

I am still proud to say that my daughter is academically proficient in a second language. No doubt. But it's interesting to see how the concept has evolved over time in my mind, and how there are always ways to get better...


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