Spanish immersion program at school gets federal grant
Jul. 5, 2007
CAVE CREEK - A Cave Creek elementary school has received a $465,000 grant from
the U.S. Department of Education.
Desert Willow Elementary, 4322 E. Desert Willow Parkway, was the only school in
Arizona this year to receive a federal Foreign Language Assistance Program
School officials will use the money for its partial Spanish immersion program,
where almost half of its 650 students are learning Spanish.
Here's how it works:
Students who are native English speakers are immersed in Spanish for half of
their day. That means that students learn math and science in a foreign
The Cave Creek Unified School District program started in 2003 after Principal
Jana Miller and a group of teachers asked the school board for permission to
start the foreign language program with a group of first-graders.
Those students continue to score in high levels on the Arizona's Instrument to
Measure Standards test, also known as AIMS.
Last year, the school was ranked "excelling," by the Arizona Department
Education. It is the highest ranking the state offers.
"Dr. Miller was a visionary principal," said Cristina Marchica, a parent who was
on the grant writing team.
The $465,000 will be distributed over three years. It will allow teachers to buy
materials, send teachers to conferences and professional development and create
better language assessments.
Marchica, a former teacher and educational consultant, will serve as the grant
administrator, making sure the school stays in compliance with federal reporting
Right now the program is available in preschool and first- through fifth grade.
Next year the grant will fund a kindergarten teacher.
The grant money will also help plan a future for the program when the students
move on to middle and high school.
Marchica envisions the program will gain exemplary national status for teaching
foreign languages to students.
Already, school officials from Mesa and Prescott have toured the school.
Scottsdale Unified's Pueblo Elementary School is using Desert Willow as its
model when it opens a similar program in August.
Aside from teaching the language, the program also teaches students to value
other cultures, Miller said.