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Espanol at Burton School District
Exclusive campus planned for 2013-2014
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series looking at the dual immersion programs in local schools. Saturday’s story looked at Porterville Unified’s program.
One more year is all it should take for the Burton School District to offer a 100 percent dual immersion campus.
The District offers its English/Spanish dual immersion classes at Summit Charter Academy Mathew campus and at Summit Charter Collegiate Academy on Redwood Street, but by academic year 2013-14, SCA Mathew will be used solely as a dual immersion campus, allowing continued growth of the program.
Now in it’s eighth year at the original site, the program began in August 2005 with 29 students — the same cohort of students now attending the first middle school dual immersion class at SCCA.
The SCA program is of particular interest to many parents because it offers a 90/10 as opposed to a 50/50 program, said Burton School District Deputy Superintendent Sharon Kamberg.
“Early in the primary grades, students receive more instruction in Spanish than they do in English to ensure that the Spanish language becomes fluent in reading, writing and speaking,” Kamberg said. “By fourth grade, the program is a 50/50 program in order to ensure proficiency in English as they are held accountable on both Spanish and English tests.”
As the class has progressed, Kamberg said the sixth grade class in 2012 performed as well, and in many cases better, than some of the non-dual sixth grade students.
“This supports research that shows 90/10 Dual Immersion Program students are on grade level in English performance by grade 6,” she said.
Another difference separating Burton’s Dual Immersion Program from others is that because the program has the 90/10 format, students may not enter the program after first grade.
“If students are not in the program by kindergarten, they have to enter the program in first grade — before December,” said Timothy Torres-Mofhitz, SCA Mathew campus’ principal. “This program is 90 percent Spanish and 10 percent English in kindergarten and first grade. It is too difficult to keep up. There is no way to join the program after first grade.”
As the students progress through the years, the rate of Spanish/English instruction changes, he said. By second grade, the Spanish to English ratio is 80/20; 70/30 in third, 60/40 in fourth, and 50/50 in fifth and sixth grade.
“Usually by the third generation, Spanish is lost. We have a lot of students who are of Hispanic origin, who do not speak Spanish, but it is still extremely important,” he said and then talked about all the students. “We want to inundate them while their language pathways in their brains are open. Studies have shown that if we inundate them early, those natural pathways will still be there later. I can see how important it is. It is tremendous beneficial.”
Spanish is spoken by 329 million natives in 44 different countries, and California projects to be majority Spanish speaking in the next 20 years, he said.
“Many people speak Spanish, he said, but unfortunately, many of them can not read or write it,” Torres-Hofhitz said as he watched students speaking in Spanish in Gabriela Reyes’ sixth-grade mathematics class.. “In our program, by sixth grade, they speak technical Spanish — academic Spanish.”
Reyes could be seen circulating among the students, all of whom were working in pairs, speaking to each other in Spanish.
“It is so interesting when I hear algebraic expressions,” Torres-Mofhitz said. “It’s so technical. You don’t get that in social Spanish or when speaking with your family in Spanish.”
The students know enough Spanish to handle a technical manual in Spanish, he said.
But staffing the program is not easy.
“We have had some difficulty in staffing the program with truly bilingual BCLAD credentialed teachers,” Kamberg said. “There are many teachers who speak Spanish, however, they don’t have the formal BCLAD credential.”
Not very many programs equip teachers to teach in a dual immersion program, she said.
“It is different than just teaching in Spanish. The pedagogy of Spanish instruction is different as well. We are currently in collaboration with a university to offer a Dual Immersion Certificate opportunity to our staff,” Kamberg said. “Along with the university credit, professional development, and certificate, this opportunity will assist in making our Dual Immersion Program stronger than any other program in the county. As we continue to provide professional development to our teachers, we believe our students benefit tremendously. We are excited about the possibilities this collaboration will bring to Porterville.”
Kamberg said the district anticipates growing enrollment in the program.
“It’s popular and there’s always a list of people waiting to get in,” Torres-Mofhitz said. “Though, everyone last year on the waiting list was able to get in.”
The district currently has 439 students in the K-7th grade program.
“As you can see by our kindergarten enrollment, the opening of the Summit Charter Academy - Lombardi campus has afforded us room to grow the program. We look forward to adding 100 to 120 kindergarten students each year to completely fill the program,” Kamberg said. “Although we have a very limited number of English classes on the Summit Charter Mathew campus, we will continue to reduce that number as the English program moves to the Lombardi campus.”
SCA - Lombardi campus will open in the spring, freeing the SCA - Mathew campus to be an exclusive-dual-immersion campus.
“The 90/10 Dual Immersion Program has been very popular with our community. The idea of your student being truly bi-literate by sixth grade is an amazing accomplishment, not to mention the benefit of that student in his/her career,” Kamberg said. “As we continue to grow our program, we invite parents from all over Southern Tulare County to check out our program.”
One parent, Joanne Bear, who also serves as Parent Teacher Organization president, was sold on the idea from the start.
“I chose the program so that they can learn a second language,” Bear said. “I have three children in the program. It’s beneficial, not only while they are such a young age.”
The children — in second, fourth and sixth grade — all started in kindergarten, she said, adding that speaking two languages will better prepare her children to learn a third language in the future.
Dustin Bear, a sixth grader, said he understood Spanish well by second grade.
“Science is harder but it’s cool because you can learn two languages,” Dustin said.
The dual immersion program will help with two of his dreams — traveling to Spain, where he plans to use his Spanish; and studying Korean in high school — something that should come easier to him, he said, since he is already studying a second language.
“For me, this is up there with college,” Torres-Mofhitz said. “If we want kids to compete in a global economy, they must know more than one language.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.