ELEMENTARY LANGUAGE IMMERSION: LESSONS FOR PRACTITIONERS FROM CASE STUDIES IN FIVE STATES
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The realities of a global society magnify the need for U.S. students to be proficient in the 21st Century Skills of bilingualism, bi-literacy and cross-cultural appreciation. Elementary Language Immersion programs offer sustained sequences of language instruction designed to accomplish those outcomes. This multiple-case study investigated one- and two-way, dual- and total-immersion programs at five schools in five states. Interviews with 22 participants, observations from site visits at four of the schools and an analysis of print data revealed how those programs were designed, implemented and sustained. Results showed significant barriers as well as positive student and community outcomes. Challenges included budget cuts that reduced staffing, professional development and other resources; hiring, training and retaining quality staff; accessing suitable materials in the target language; maintaining program integrity into middle school and overcoming cultural barriers and community resistance. However, the standards-based programs studied showed evidence that students profited from language immersion, simultaneously acquiring a second language through content instruction, and performing at or above their peers on standardized assessments in English. In addition, Spanish-speaking students appeared to benefit academically and socially from two-way immersion programs, potentially narrowing the pervasive achievement gap over time.
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