Every State Can Excel in Dual Language Immersion
This guest post was written by Utah State Senator Howard Stevenson (SD-11).
Utah became the nation’s leader in dual language immersion (DLI) from passage of SB 41 in 2008, which provided modest incentives to pay for teaching materials in the target language and for professional development.
The first DLI cohort graduated this year from elementary school, nearly fluent in the target language.
For the 2015-16 school year, Utah will have almost 30,000 students in 138 elementary schools learning Chinese, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. Russian and Arabic will be added soon. Having less than one percent of the nation’s population, Utah has one third of U.S. Chinese dual language immersion programs.
DLI begins in kindergarten or first grade and continues through sixth grade with math and science taught during the half-day where only the target language is spoken. Middle school students will take two classes in the target language. By ninth grade students will receive college credit by taking the AP College Language Course. High school students will take 300 level college language courses and qualify for a minor in the language when they enter college.
DLI has generated unity in Utah’s diverse communities. DLI students exhibit higher satisfaction and excitement for school. Recent brain research shows why DLI students outscore their monolingual peers in every subject area.
Hopefully educators and lawmakers in other states will follow Utah’s example and increase dual language immersion opportunities for their students and for a more competitive America.