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add.a.lingua immersion means whole school impact: reflections from Redlands Christian Lower School

One of the most encouraging things we’ve discovered over years of partnership with innovative school communities is that the resources, support, and training that add.a.lingua provides to educators in our immersion partner programs don’t stay in the immersion program.

Nearly all add.a.lingua partner schools operate immersion strand programs alongside their English programs, and these immersion programs very often serve as a catalyst for positive change in both strands. Some of the things we hear most regularly from our partners include:

  • add.a.lingua training has encouraged all teachers to reflect on instructional strategies (ex. how much student talk do we expect, and how much teacher talk?)
  • add.a.lingua’s formative assessment and data tracking has challenged school leaders to think about how data impacts instruction, intervention, and decision making generally
  • add.a.lingua’s language targets and strategies across content areas for immersion teachers inspires teachers in English classrooms to attend to English language acquisition across content areas as well
  • the immersion program has brought with it a healthy linguistic and cultural diversity that benefits all students and teachers

 

To help us understand how Redlands Christian School (RCS) has been impacted as a whole by their add.a.lingua immersion program, we connected with Julie In’t Hout, Director of Spanish Immersion at RCS. Julie and the team at RCS have experienced tremendous enrollment growth and we’re excited to share a bit of their story.


Why did Redlands Christian decide to implement an add.a.lingua Spanish immersion program?

RCS first decided to pursue implementing an immersion program because our administration was looking to add value, particularly when it means competing with other educational options. Adding immersion was a way to bring additional value to our RCS families, to create an environment that develops the whole child, and to increase our appeal to those considering sending their child to RCS. Connected to that, the interest in adding an add.a.lingua immersion program was significant, and and the RCS leadership team knew there was a good chance that having an immersion program would boost enrollment overall.

Another part of the decision to implement our immersion program was the many positive effects on student academic achievement and cultural competence that are associated with second language

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acquisition in immersion settings. We at RCS also knew we couldn’t do it on our own, and that we wanted to have add.a.lingua to help us through the process. We knew that we wanted our immersion program to be a high-quality program, and that we wanted expert guidance.

Describe some of the positive outcomes of implementing an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program for students and families.

  • Significant enrollment boost (our preschool class was made up of 18 students before immersion; this year we have 75 preschoolers–35 in non-immersion, 40 in immersion)
  • Enhanced the culture at the school; families more culturally aware
  • Teachers are well-trained in best practices and it pushes us to question practices and curriculum in non-immersion classrooms and settings as well
  • Student identities have been formed; students are proud and confident in their ability to speak in Spanish
  • Added new perspective and diversity to our staff
  • Buzz for the school
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Redlands Christian Lower School Spanish immersion team (2016)

What were the initial concerns that your community expressed when you were exploring adding an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program, and have they been overcome?

Many wondered if children would truly be able to learn content through a different language.  As we’ve seen students grow in their Spanish language proficiency, and perform across across all content areas, this issue has largely been resolved.

There were also concerns that enrollment and interest in our English track would suffer as a result of offering a Spanish immersion track. We’ve seen enrollment grow overall as since implementing an add.a.lingua immersion program, but this could still be considered a concern for non-immersion classroom teachers and staff.

Additionally, many families are set on having a particular English strand teacher because of their reputation or the precedent that was set by siblings having had that teacher. For many families this is no longer a factor, but it is one reason that families continue to choose our quality English strand. Our immersion teachers are working hard to build their reputations and rapport with our families too.

Finally, there’s the ongoing challenge of finding teachers who are highly qualified and fit well at RCS. This is still a concern, but each year we have found great teachers.

What do you believe is most critical for other Christian school leaders to know when considering an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program?

It takes a lot of effort to implement an add.a.lingua immersion program (money, time, energy, risk), but we can also point to tremendous benefits that having the program has provided: overcoming challenges, improved overall instructional practices on campus, enrollment, cultural awareness and connection to our local community, new student identities/confidence, etc. It has been completely worth the work and challenges, and we couldn’t have done it would having add.a.lingua alongside us.

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