Los Tres R’s

The Bremerton School District plans to begin a Spanish Immersion program for a couple dozen of its kindergartners who’ll start school next year. By the end of the first year the kids would be getting pretty much the same curriculum as the kids in the English-speaking classes, only it would be in Spanish.

This is not for children who already speak Spanish. Quite the opposite. It’s the district’s attempt to get children solid language training at an age when they’re most likely to learn it well. Linda Jenkins, assistant superintendent, said in Bellevue 95 percent of the students in the program passed the WASL in fourth grade. By high school they all passed.

Language “immersion” can be controversial, but not so much in the form the Bremerton district is doing it. Where it gets dicey is when some suggest foreign-speaking immigrants should be in English Immersion classes, what Newt Gingrich was discussing when he said,

“We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto.”

“. Spanish immersion only gets some danders up when police or other emergency personnel are required to get into immersion programs, or sometimes when the school program is offered near the U.S. southern border. Truly, I couldn’t find any evidence of anyone getting upset with the kind of program Bremerton is offering.

Some of the information online suggests kids in these classes do lag behind their peers on the basics for a while, but Jenkins believes by fourth grade they catch up. There is also the notion that kids in these programs learn to think differently, because they’re not only trying to learn math and reading like every other kid, they’re trying to understand their teachers.

31 thoughts on “Los Tres R’s

  1. FABULOUS!!!We moved from Bremerton to Stuttgart Germany last August and promptly enrolled our 3 yr. old in German school. She’ll go to Waldorf School in September to continue her German. We are already looking at our next duty station, and one thing I’ve been looking for is a Spanish Immersion program.
    As a Spanish speaker, (learned at age 26), this is so wonderful. I hope the community embraces this terrific program with arms open-wide….
    Go Bremerton!!!!

  2. Foolishness. We don’t properly teach our urban kids English, now we want to try and teach a foreign language to kindergartners.

    We need to focus on the language of global business…ENGLISH. This policy will hurt the people who need to learn English and assimilate into our society.

  3. My grandchildren attend a French Immersion school in Ontario, Canada. The results are wonderful, and they enjoy it immensely, and their parents are not Francophones. It is so easy for young children to learn in more than one language, and will prepare them for the reality and joy of their global community. Such good news!

    My full support goes out to this program-

  4. I agree with Kitsap Voter. Schools need to concentrate more on English than other languages.
    If given the option, I would prefer my child not be included in these classes.

  5. A Parent, you will have the option. I had the opportunity to sit in on the last Board Meeting for the Bremerton School District as well as a staff meeting at my son’s school, as a PTA Officer, in which Dr. Hyde spoke. It is currently under discussion to have a layered immersion. With parents being able to decide if they want their child in a total immersion, partial immersion or just a normal English kindergarten class.

    This possibility of another school closure for Bremerton is still on the radar in the near future. Programs like this one will help to distinguish schools and make them stand out and also give them another reason not to be closed. The district is also currently discussing many other options to keep schools open. Some of them are what you would expect, but some of them are not. I encourage everyone to find out as much as you can about what next years plan is for your school. By the time the information makes its way to you as a parent, the decision is in the final stages and your input will not make as big of an impact.

  6. The money being used to fund and create this immersion program could be better spent elsewhere.

    I will definetly ask that my child be placed in a kindergarten class with no immersion program. If he/she wants to learn a foriegn language, I will leave it up to them and not force it on them.

  7. Kitsap Voter,
    I love your little “Urban Kids” comment…that was nothing but code for minorities…mainly blacks and hispanics…

    I hate to break it to ya my friend, but I hear kids from all areas that need some serious calibration on their english…while I don’t really object to teaching kids other languages…I do object that they are spending money on something that is not necessary when they should be spending it on better education overall…and not just in “Urban” areas.

  8. …”…urban pronunciation

    IN BRIEF: Having to do with cities or towns.

    pronunciation Urban planning is necessary so that people can live comfortably in cities with high populations….”

    I once lived in downtown Seattle… a urban area, high population…nowhere is it said that Seattle is mostly black and/or hispanic.

    It is a troublesome thing when we presume to know what other folks ‘really’ mean.
    All it does is say what “we” mean…or what it means to us.
    ‘Urban kids’ means something different to me than ‘minorities, mainly black and Hispanic’…
    Sharon O’Hara

  9. Some of you have voiced concerns about the funding for the new Spanish Immersion program at Naval Avenue Elementary School. We would like to assure you that there are no additional costs to operate this program, beyond those of our regular All Day Kindergarten classrooms. In both cases, the district pays for a teacher, classroom materials and any necessary aide support.

    In addition, I would like to reinterate that this program is only for students who speak English. Children who are enrolled in this program will learn skills necessary to help them become fluent in speaking, reading and writing in both Spanish and English.

  10. Thank you, Ms. Carlson….and I wonder…

    I have been told that immersion classes mean the foreign language is also spoken at home…. a total ‘immersion’ in the language.

    We have American kids barely reading or speaking English in our schools…many of whom graduate without basic reading or comprehension skills needed in the world.

    We should teach foreign language to children from the beginning, but …’immersion’? …at what cost?

    Seems to me it is a short road from your ‘immersion’ class to school classes taught in the student’s native tongue… and that is a road we don’t want to travel. Or so it seems to me.

    Americans come from all over the world. English has been the spoken language since the first settlers came from England.

    English. should remain America’s language.
    Sharon O’Hara

  11. Ms Carlson,
    Why would I want my child to be fluent in Spanish? English is spoken here in the United States and is the language of Business around the world. Please use my tax dollars to teach my children English while they are in grade school. It’s no wonder American kids are getting worse, schools aren’t teaching them the basics.

  12. Sharon and A Parent,
    The Bremerton School Board has been assuming our silence is a sign of approval and compliance. I have spent the last couple of Board of Education meetings speaking about the topic of proposed changes to Naval Avenue Elementary. You may have read the article about it in Friday’s newspaper. At the meeting on Thursday the 3rd, I brought it to the board’s attention that community blogs were full of negative comments regarding the topic of “Spanish Immersion”. You could almost see the light bulb turning on. I am happy to see that they have taken the time to address these comments and hope they will continue to use this venue as a tool to communicate with members of their own community.

  13. You’re all right. Why would we want our children to speak the language of our neighbors to the south, or one of the most spoken languages in the world? Why would we want our children to learn to communicate with people in other countries and experience other cultures? That’s just crazy talk. Anyone up for a trip to McDonald’s?

    The narrow-mindedness in regards to a program none of you appear to understand is, well, silly. I approve. I just wish my boys had had the opportunity when they were in kindergarten. I’d have had them in there faster than you can say conchinita pibil.

  14. A Parent, thank you for your service to our nation and the protection of our freedoms.

    Phillip, I am not against a 2nd language immersion program as a whole. What I am against right now is the fact that time and resources are being spent on this right now for Naval Ave, when we as Naval Ave parents just found out 3 weeks ago that we would be loosing our 4th and 5th grade classes, to another school, because of low attendance and low performance scores in basic English and Math. We need to improve what we already have first and then bring in new programs.

  15. I understand immersion language class is total immersion, 24 hours a day.

    Why isn’t foreign language taught here in grade school as English and other language is taught in European grade schools?
    It is taught there as mandatory subject and has proven highly successful for two or more generations…entenderse?
    Sharon O’Hara

  16. Sharon, part of the problem is that no one outside the school board really knows, or is talking about, the specifics of this program. I had the opportunity to attend a staff meeting at my son’s school, a couple of weeks ago, as a PTA officer. The Spanish Immersion issue was addressed. District officials were there but I was still unable to come away with many new details on the program other than what I had already read about in the newspaper announcement. This is not a district wide program to date. It is one school and one Kindergarten class (of which Naval has three).

    Unfortunately the timing of this new program is being affected by the announcement that the 4th (one class) and 5th (two classes) grades would be moving from Naval Ave. to West Hills. Seventy children are being affected by this decision and only 20 children possibly affected by the Spanish Immersion program. Families have a choice on whether or not they want their children to participate in the immersion program. Other families are being given barely any notice and no choice on their child being moved to another school.

    Because of this, communication is now what I am passionate about. For the remainder of my term as a parent of a child enrolled in the Bremerton School District, I will be doing everything I can to improve and advocate communication between administrators, educators, parents and community members. This is a partnership people. Let’s be good partners.

    Please support your local PTA. Thank you.

  17. I am not against teaching foriegn language in schools, but to limit it to just one, sorry doesn’t cut it in my book. Why aren’t the offering German? French? Russian?. To limit it only to Spanish makes me wonder.

  18. If they haven’t the enrollment to make the 4th and 5th grade classes sustainable, why keep them there? To me, it’s simply a better use of resources. The enrollment will come back up, and then the classes will return. That said, I’d be more upset that they are moving them to West Hills than anything else. My son went there for about two weeks, and I was not impressed with that school in the slightest. I don’t feel the principal there has a grip on student life at all.

  19. As a parent I am frustrated to know that my child will not be given the opportunity to stay at Naval but rather is forced to go through an extra transition into a new school.
    Some kids handle transition better than others. For many students, school is the one place where they get their support and consistency. Throwing an extra transition into their lives will be devestating to their progress and success as students.

    I do understand that change is needed at Naval Avenue. No one wants to see this school close down.
    I would however, hate to see it done at the cost of several students in the upcoming 4th and 5th grade classes.
    Parents and educators should have been made a part of this planning in enough time to come up with alternate proposals that would actually be considered.
    It is my hope that parents and educators that are being affected by this split show up for the next parent meeting and then again at the board meeting on the 17th to voice your concerns.

  20. Phillip, we understand, as a school community, why a change is necessary to keep the school open. What is unacceptable is the timing and the manner in which we were informed. District time and resources have been spent on announcing and implementing a new feel good program with and I quote “wow factor” to entice new enrollees. When instead district time and resources were desperately needed to help communicate upcoming changes to those of us who are already in their school system. To let us participate in the decision making process and to show us our voices do have an impact and do make a difference.

    As far as your statements concerning West Hills, I can honestly say you are one of many who have voiced these types of comments. And I have been to a lot of meetings about this topic. It is worrisome.

  21. Here is a copy of a statement I will be submitting to the Bremerton School Board this afternoon in time for tonight’s Board Meeting:

    I would love to be able to attend the Board of Education Meeting tonight, but am unable to do so due to other commitments otherwise I would present this statement out loud. I did want to take the opportunity to thank you and Dr. Hyde for a much better presentation last night at Naval Avenue regarding the upcoming changes to the school. It pointed out in greater detail the positive gains we can expect from such a change unlike the previous presentations which were very gloomy. If this type of presentation had been made to both parents and educators much earlier in the process there would have been a significantly lower level of frustration and outrage.

    What many do not realize right now is that when these changes are approved, it is not the end but only the beginning. If Naval is to become a Pre-K through 3 school there are a large number of issues that will addressed. The two new words we will all be using more often regarding Naval is “age appropriate”. I hope that as a parent and a PTA officer, I will have to opportunity to participate more directly in this process. I would suggest a series of small group discussions over the course of the summer that would include administrators, educational professionals, program directors and parents. Give us a chance to sit down, ask questions and discuss every stage of the change making process. I would be more than willing to participate.

    I will always be quick to point out when I feel the board is not serving me well as a parent. But I will also be just as quick to thank you when good things happen. Please pass this letter or my comments onto the board. My contact information is above if you have any additional questions. (end)

    It is my hope that this will help improve communication between all individuals and organizations involved.

  22. Exercise great caution in implementing an Immersion program. My community offers a french immersion program that has now grown to almost 50% of the elementary population. It is a wonderful program for those who choose it.

    BUT it becomes a private school, publicly funded. As the program grows, a greater burden of non-performing students will need to be spread over fewer and fewer classrooms. We have many non-immersion classes with high percentages (50-60%) of non-performing students in a single classroom! We have immersion/non-immersion classrooms dividing along race and income levels. Is that good public policy? Absolutely not.

    The immersion program here is such a divisive issue: no community needs division. Please rethink! If someone feels that strongly about language immersion, they should enroll in private school.

  23. Thank you East Coast Mom. Please feel free to post any other information or links you have regarding these programs. I will be speaking before the Bremerton School Board again on Thursday regarding this topic and other proposed changes to our school. I would love to have any real life facts and statistics both good and bad to interject into my comments. I think you bring up some important issues that will need to be addressed.

    Best wishes.

  24. Krista,
    No additional cost? You mean that Bremerton keeps kindergarten teaching materials for speaking Spanish on hand? Who will teach it? Is it a requirement that a kindergarten teacher speak Spanish? If not, then a Spanish teacher from the upper grades would have to be utilized to teach in kindergarten. Does the upper grade Spanish teacher have this much “free” time to teach in the kindergarten?

  25. Dave,

    The cost for a Spanish Immersion program will be the same as any other All Day Kindergarten in the district. The cost is the teacher’s salary and materials for the class. We would pay the same price whether the class was offered in Spanish or English. The teacher will be highly qualified to teach elementary education to children in a bilingual, biliterate setting. This program will not take anything away from our secondary World Language Program.

    Krista Carlson
    Spokesperson, Bremerton Schools

  26. Krista,
    I have a real problem with your “no additonal cost” statements.
    You say no additonal costs yet you say that the cost will be the teachers salary and materials. How does this equate to a “no additional cost” scenario?
    You say the Spanish teacher would not take away from secondary World Language Program. To me, that means hiring another teacher. If teaching Spanish in kindergarten doesn’t take away from a normal kindergarten class it means two teachers. Otherwise, one part of the class will be ignored while teaching is taking place for the other part.
    I just do not buy your no additional costs. Now if this was our governor speaking I could understand how she could arrive at this result.

  27. Dave,

    As a graduate of an immersion program in California in the 70’s I can say that there will be little if any english spolken. They will hit the ground running with spanish and the youngsters will abosorb it like a sponge.

    Now for the “No additional cost.” if they are filling an open vacancy with a bilingual kindergarten teacher (One who wants to leave the array of districs that REQUIRE then to speak both english and spanish) Then they are mearly filling in a budget item and not taking from anything else. Since there are three kindergarten teachers at Naval Ave Elem. Then that would mean One teacher is utilized elsewhere where the Immersion teacher is filled into an alreadry created position .

    Does this make more sense?

  28. Jason, thank you for the clarification from someone who has experience with this type of program. That is exactly how it was explained to me and I have been to a lot of meetings on this topic. One of the three kindergarten teachers from this past year has accepted a job with another district to work closer to where she lives. This has created the opening for the Spanish Immersion teacher to come in and fill an already existing and budgeted position.

    Colleen Smidt
    President, Naval Ave PTA

  29. I have no children, and never will, so this really doesn’t hit home with me. I feel that we are leaving our children waaaay behind when it comes to a quality education, but I think that has more to do with how they are being raised by their parents, and by the influences of society as a whole, rather than the effectiveness of our education system.

    When I received an email last week from a niece, I had a hard time understanding it. It was laced with “text speak” (abbrvs and stuff like that u know), no punctuation, etc. It was damn near impossible to read. I certainly hope she doesn’t do her homework that way!

    I grew up in a border town (El Paso, TX), and was taught Spanish from Grades 1-6. It was not an option. I really didn’t learn the language, though, as it was never utilized at home or by me away from the home, aside from picking out bits and pieces of conversations on the Mexican TV channels.

    As much as some of you don’t want to admit it, Spanish will be a major language in this country. Even if laws are passed so that everyone must speak English all the time, everything be written in English everywhere, there will still be Spanish spoken.

    The fact that the largest group of immigrants is from Latin American countries should be enough to warrant teaching of this language. I don’t know if this program is the answer, but I think students should be taught another language. And it certainly doesn’t hurt starting the learning process at the earliest age possible.

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