Santa Fe Elementary offers district’s first foreign language immersion program
Peoria Times
June 20, 2008

Santa Fe Elementary School is offering a new multilingual immersion program to its kindergarteners and first-graders beginning this fall. The pilot program was approved May 27 by the PUSD Governing Board.

Applications are being accepted at the school, 9880 N. 77th Ave., from now until the first day of school, Aug. 11.  Students who apply for the language immersion program will be selected on a lottery basis.

English-speaking students will spend half of their school day learning in Spanish and the other half in English. Most of the core curriculum, including reading, writing and math, will be taught in English, while science and social studies will be covered in Spanish.

Parents are asked to commit six or seven years of their child’s education to the multilingual program to gain maximum benefit.

Principal Robert Miller brought the program to the Peoria Unified School District (PUSD) Governing Board, but he said it is already available in Cave Creek and Scottsdale. Miller said Cave Creek is in its fifth year of the program while Scottsdale has just completed a year.

But, Miller said, immersion has been around 20 years in Canada and the United States. During those 20 years, Miller said, studies have shown impressive development of second-language fluency and academic achievement of children in immersion programs. At the same time, he said, immersion students have maintained and enriched their native language and literacy skills.

Miller said Cave Creek officials learned “the kids are challenged differently, and they’re going to be better prepared for the global marketplace in the future.

“If we can learn multiple languages, our kids will be better prepared for the future.”

Miller said, “Peoria talks about modernization, and to me, this is modernization.”

Miller wants to challenge and stimulate his students’ cognitive, social and linguistic development and prepare them for a unique advantage in today’s society.

“It’s going to be pretty exciting to see what those kids can do at the end of sixth grade,” he said.

Research by Tara Fortune, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA), University of Minnesota, concluded, “In addition to reaping the social and economic advantages of bilingualism, immersion learners benefit cognitively, exhibiting greater non-verbal problem-solving abilities and more flexible thinking … It has been suggested that the very processes learners need to use to make sense of the teacher’s meaning make them pay closer attention and think harder.”

Any parent interested in enrolling their child in the Language Immersion Program, or anyone needing more information, should contact Santa Fe Elementary at 623-486-6475.

“We have some seats still available,” Miller said. “We’re even willing to take students from other districts.”

There is one stipulation: Students cannot be ELL (English Language Learner). They must be a native English speaker or pass the Arizona language test that exempts them from being classified as an ELL student.

Miller said, “I’m looking forward to getting this program started and on its way.”