An early start for foreign language instruction is being endorsed by more school districts, as well as expanding foreign language programs to include more languages and hire bilingual teachers.
In Albemarle County, elementary schools have the support of the school board to teach the youngest students a second language and indicated they knew they would need to hire more bilingual teachers. Languages are yet t9 be decided upon.
Albemarle currently pilots a Spanish language immersion program at Cale Elementary School. Half of all classroom instruction is in Spanish, which means that they are being instructed in Standards of Learning content in both the English and Spanish languages.
The immersion program begin in kindergarten, and has been expanded by one grade level each year. It now spans from kindergarten through second grade.
“Thomas Jefferson was multi-lingual and argued that doing so would keep our nation open to great ideas from around the world,” said Rusty Carlock, Albemarle’s international and ESOL program coordinator.
“And that’s even truer in today’s world,” Carlock added, citing the recent record-breaking initial public offering by Chinese company Alibaba Group, as well as the current international collaboration to fight Ebola in Africa.
Not all Cale students are enrolled in the full immersion program however, and those students receive what is called “pullout instruction,” which translates to 120 minutes of Spanish language teaching per week. These courses are not taught by the child’s classroom teacher, but the instruction is related to content the children learn in their home classrooms.
While the Board took no formal vote, they did support growing immersion, rather than pullout programs at the elementary schools. Full immersion programs, executive director of K-12 education Debbie Collins said, are ultimately cheaper to implement because a division only has to pay one teacher, rather than two.