Education Matters: Alta Elementary School offers dual-language immersion program for students

Education Matters

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – Studies show that dual-language immersion programs can improve long-term academic achievement. The benefits also pay off in the marketplace.

These kindergarten students are doing what all kindergarteners do, learning the basics of reading.

 It is all in Spanish because they’re enrolled in Alta Elementary’s dual immersion program

“The academic research around dual immersion programs is pretty clear, students enrolled in a dual immersion program have the benefit of a traditional school setting where they reach high levels of literacy in English, on top of that they’re learning a second language,” explained Jose Guzman, an administrator for the Kings Canyon Unified School District.

Alta Elementary is the first dual immersion school in the district, the program is in its second year.

“Now we have a kinder and first grade and the goal is to eventually have every student at Alta Elementary School be a dual immersion student,” Guzman said.

The make-up of the classrooms is evenly split with about half of the students being Spanish speakers, the other half speaking English. Building a good foundation during the first year is critical.

Cg: rosemary ruvalcaba/ principal alta elementary

“90% of their day is in Spanish and they focus on everything that you would see in a regular English classroom, so you’re going to get your English, your LA, your math, your science, and social studies,” said Alta Elementary Principal Rosemary Ruvalcaba.

The program is drawing students from all around the district. Oraldo Martinez enrolled his six-year-old daughter, who speaks English.

He wants her to be bilingual and on a personal level, he wants her to be able to converse with her grandparents.

“It chokes me up all the time whenever I see her just go back and forth with her grandparents it’s, it’s pretty much a blessing because now they get to speak to their grandchildren,” said Martinez.

Kings Canyon Unified wants to eventually expand the dual immersion program to middle and high school. Administrators say it makes economic sense because being bilingual is a plus in the marketplace.

“If we can provide our students with a leg up a head start on being competitive in that area.  I feel we have an obligation to do that.”

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