Spanish Immersion in Bellevue

To get a glimpse of what Spanish immersion looks like, I went to Bellevue a little over a week ago to watch a couple classes. The result is the Sunday story and the accompanying video.

A Thursday at Puesta del Sol Elementary School starts with a celebration, not unlike routines at other schools.

The difference comes when children rise for the pledge of allegiance and begin, “Yo prometo lealtad a la bandera.” They continue the entire pledge in Spanish.

Puesta del Sol Elementary has been offering Spanish immersion 20 years and began similarly to the way Bremerton is, with one class for the youngest kids. Now the entire school’s classes are taught in Spanish. I’ll write more Monday, but you can start with the story and the video.

UPDATE: It appears the HTML experts figured out the problem and now the video will play on a PC. It was playing on the Macs just fine. So, go see the video now.

Furthermore, I wanted to provide a couple of other nuggets of information.

In preparing for the story, I did a bit of Web research and found it rare that there was much criticism of programs like this. In Northern California there are some who are against a Mandarin Immersion program, but right now I can’t recall why.

Otherwise it’s something parents seem to accept and even request.

As for the costs, the district doesn’t need to hire a new teacher, there are no extra kindergarten classes and materials in Spanish would cost the same as those in English. So when the district says it doesn’t cost more, it seems feasible. In the future I suppose there could be. My daughter is in a program in the CK school district, a program that is run at a school away from the one my son goes to. She rides a bus. I’m guessing that transportation cost is extra. I don’t know what the Bremerton district’s transportation plans are for Spanish immersion. Perhaps Krista can chime in. (NOTE: Ms. Carlson did chime and said it’s something the district hasn’t made a decision about yet. Most the kids who are already signed up live near Naval, but the district will make its decision once the class is fully enrolled or thereabouts.)

Immersion education got its start in Canada, with English-speaking parents wanting their kids to share French with their Quebecois Canadians.

That kids would lag, then catch up, makes sense. When non-English-speaking kids come to the U.S. and are put in a class with native English speakers, you would expect them to be behind their peers for a while, but as they improve their speech they’d do better.

As for the video, we’re new at it and will continue to improve. My hope is the brief scene you get enhances the story.

Finally, this seems a much better way to teach a language than throwing a kid on Spanish class in high school and expecting that to take. As someone who took four years of Spanish, then went through an immersion program of my own, I can attest to the power of immersion.

Of course, I welcome your thoughts and criticism on this.

14 thoughts on “Spanish Immersion in Bellevue

  1. Steven, as a Naval Avenue parent and an officer of the Naval Avenue PTA, I have been to a lot of meetings about this topic. Parent meetings, staff meetings and school board meetings. When we originally found out about this back in April, the topic was sidelined to a certain degree over the initial outrage regarding the proposed movement of the 4th and 5th grade Naval Avenue classes to West Hills. Now that the Bremerton School Board has made this decision official, eyes are now on the Spanish Immersion Program.

    At the Bremerton School Board meeting last Thursday, I spoke to the board and asked that they release more information, preferably printed, on both the immersion program and the expanded pre-school services that will be offered at Naval. Here is what I have been able to piece together, about the program so far. There are currently (3) Kindergarten classes at Naval, each in their own class room, each with their own teacher. This is projected to be the same for next year. (1) of these (3) classes will be the immersion class starting in the fall. The teacher of this class already has experience from working in another district with this type of program. Krista Carlson the district spokesperson has indicated that the cost of books and materials to teach the immersion will be the same as the other Kindergarten class’s books and materials that teach just English. Naval Avenue has been chosen as the testing ground for this program to help boost attendance in the lower grades now that it has been relegated to a Pre-K through 3rd Primary School.

    I sense that a large amount of the outrage stems from the fact that the community does not understand how a school can loose several of it’s classes due to low WASL scores, low attendance and reduced funding, but turn around and introduce a test program like the Spanish Immersion when the community as a whole would rather see attention focused on improving existing subjects. I do not feel that the majority are against a 2nd language being introduced to young children, but that the timing of the introduction of such a program is questionable.

  2. How so one minded of you.

    You are saying we need to teach a language to our kids so they can converse with people who come to this country legally and illegaly (more one than the other) and refuse to learn English, but expect to be supported by tax dollars with welfare and health care? That’s not how I want to see my tax dollars being used.

  3. Dear A Sailor,

    The kids in these classes get something that helps them focus better, because they’re learning concepts like math in a foreign tongue. Based on test scores, as they progress they end up doing just as well as their peers in all subjects, including English. They learn a language to boot. To me that seems like a MORE efficient use of tax dollars than the traditional methods.

    If we’re going to teach language, which we’ve been doing for decades, we might as well do it in one of the most effective ways. If you can show me that immersion is ineffective, well then that’s worth considering.

    In fact, if you can show me any evidence that language immersion is bad in some ways, I would be glad to write about it. In my searches I was surprised by the lack of controversy on the matter, because there are so many high emotions about immigration. Spanish immersion, however, doesn’t seem to get lumped in with all that animosity.

    The kids I visited with in Bellevue spoke well in both languages and seemed to be learning things I would expect to see kids learning in English-speaking classes.

    I’m not closed to the idea that there might be opposition, but so far I have seen little beyond Dave Dahlke’s tax question and now your stance that doing this is catering to immigrants.

  4. But why just Spanish? Why aren’t other languages being offered? And the comment because we don’t share a border with France, that made a lot of sense.

  5. Well I learned Japanese in my high school. My friends learned German. However i have never used my skills professionally only watching Samurai movies and ordering sushi in Seattle.

    Spanish on the other hand is spoken by millions of people right here in the US and it has a real world application. My mom teaches at Pasco High and way more than 50% of the school is Bi-lingual.

    Regardless of learning politics it is a good idea to learn Spanish.

  6. Jake,
    We don’t share a border with France but we do share a border with Canada which has many French speaking people. So much for your not teaching French in kindergarten.

    Before I start I will say I am not xenophobic as some in other blogs are called because they don’t agree with teaching Spanish in kindergarten. You would think that if the young minds are so capable of learning things, which I do agree they are, that a total immersion in English in kindergarten would make them scholars later in school. Looking at the statistics, this just isn’t the case. Look at the dropout rate in Washington State schools and look at the remedial reading that many have to take to stay in college. Sorry, but learning Spanish in kindergarten is not going to make children become productive members of society. Maybe it is the way the children are currently taught (can you say WASL) that leads to problems down the road, and that is what is in need of fixing.

  7. Here are the big concerns I have:
    1)If you are going to allow children that already speak Spanish as a 1st language into the immersion classes, then you are being hypocritical about the advantages of learning a second language by immersion.
    2)Have the probable base levels of learning ability for Navel Avenue kids been compared with those from the Bellevue schools? School WASL scores show that there is likely to be a large difference. This is not for determining if both groups will learn Spanish immersed the same way(they will at this age), it is for evaluating how likely low scoring kids in their native language of English may be hindered by receiving even less of it.
    3)Because of the big immigration problems this country faces with illegal Spanish speaking border-crossers, is it a wise choice to pick Spanish at this time? Few of these kids will ever be in the position to use any 2nd language if it isn’t reinforced within just a few years. Since the real benefit is opening the thought processes and adaptability of the children to any language, wouldn’t it be wiser to keep the schooling out of politics and teach a language more common and less controversial in this area like Korean or Vietnamese?

    If these concerns can’t be dealt with without bias, then there is a PC factor involved which never should threaten the education of young minds.
    I don’t think I am biased. I speak fluent Spanish and learned it by immersion to boot.

  8. I should have my kids learn spanish for what? So they can order a beer when they go to cancun on spring break?

    No thanks. No spanish immersion classes for them. I will let them decide when they are in high school what language they want to learn and not force one on them.

  9. “I should have my kids learn spanish for what? So they can order a beer when they go to cancun on spring break?”

    Well my brother is an engineer working at a winery/press/bottling plant in Eastern Washington and he is learning Spanish to communicate better with the agricultural workers that are the backbone of Eastern Washington’s agricultural industries.

  10. I’m not in the Bremerton area (Charlotte, NC) but let me speak up for a second about language immersion in the younger grades. We have a public magnet school here (Smith Academy of International Languages) that offers K-5 full immersion in German, French, and Japanese and recently added Mandarin to the list. We then have two other schools (Oaklawn Academy and Collinswood Academy, all Google-able) that offer dual immersion Spanish-English K-5.

    For those concerned about test scores feel free to check ours. They are some of the top in the state despite the fact that these children are tested in English on subject matter they learned in a different language. Racial and socio-economic indicators melt away because all the kids succeed on such a high level. Many of the kids choose to add a third language when they start middle school.

    It boggles the mind, but it works. I highly recommend language immersion programs.

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