MISSOULA — When the 2013-14 school year begins, 40 students at Paxson Elementary will pioneer a Spanish immersion program that is being launched by Missoula County Public Schools.

The students, 20 kindergartners and 20 first-graders, will be the first public school students in all of Montana to experience a dual language immersion program.

“This is a big deal, and we are really excited about it,” said Kelly Chumrau, Paxson Elementary principal. “This is not happening anywhere else in the state in a public school.

“It will be an adventure.“

Both the kindergarten and first-grade classes have about 80 students each, but only half of the student enrollment in those classes will participate in the language immersion program, Chumrau said. The reason, she said, is that families should have a choice about participating in the program.

The language program will continue each year as students advance into grades 2 through 5.

Although other language models were researched, including Chinese and French, MCPS decided to implement a Spanish immersion program for many reasons, one of which is because there are more high-quality Spanish educators and learning materials available to create a sustainable and dynamic program, Chumrau said.

At Paxson, instruction will be divided between two classrooms — one English and one Spanish. The English-speaking teacher will use half of the instructional day to teach English language arts and literacy skills, while the Spanish-speaking teacher will use the other half of the instructional day to teach Spanish literacy and mathematics.

Social studies and science will be taught in both classrooms by both teachers.

The goal of the program is to maximize students’ proficiency in a second language, develop students’ ability to work in multiple cultural settings, and provide a rich academic environment and culturally diverse experience, said Lesli Brassfield, MCPS director of public affairs.

Paxson families who are interested in the program must apply and students will be selected by drawing.

Starting a brand new curriculum always comes with challenges, Chumrau said.

“Our community has to trust us, be willing to take a risk and understand we will all need to be flexible with the challenges,” she said. “This is so new and different that it will likely have its challenges.”

Chumrau is particularly excited about the model MCPS has signed on to because it builds language fluency and an internalization of the language from an early age.

No jobs have been lost in the adoption of the program, and a new position for a Spanish teacher has been added to the school, Chumrau said. In all, two teachers will be teaching the language immersion program.

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(17) comments

Old fashioned Billings girl
Old fashioned Billings girl

Awesome...

fixitguy
fixitguy

Absolutely ridiculous and a complete waste of money. Learning other languages should be an elective class at the high school level, not in kindergarten and first grade. These students should become proficient with english before ever thinking about learning a second language. And people wonder why our education system continually falls further behind. Learn how to read, write and do math with a pencil and paper before using computers.

Atheist Educator
Atheist Educator

And learn to write on a slate with a piece of chalk before the pencil and paper.

Face it, with the growth of the Spanish-speaking population in this country, knowing that language will have definite advantages and the best time to learn is at a young age.

fidlr
fidlr

Thanks AE. Fixer has all the answers, but perhaps he will tell us which "H.S. elective" languages he is now proficient in. Of course the answer is none. He reminds me of his ancestors around 1950 who were saying, "These Europeans are so stupid they can't even speak English. Although they were proficient in six other languages. The gripers could not speak any (probably including English.) Young kids are absolute "sponges" in absorbing knowledge. This is absolutely the best time to present these opportunities to them.

fixitguy
fixitguy

This is the United States of America, not Mexico. We speak ENGLISH, learn it or leave!!!

fidlr
fidlr

We await your departure.

nemontranch
nemontranch

Should be learning how to speak chinese, thats who we're gonna be working for.

fidlr
fidlr

What dialect, Mandarin, Cantonese, Manchurian, or dozens of others? Yeah, I know what you are trying to say, but we do NOT owe that much to China. Yes, we bought unbelievable amounts of their stuff, because it was cheaper than "Made in America," and I am as guilty as any. Nevertheless, most of our national debt is owed to other Americans, including myself. No matter what you have heard much less than 10% is owed to the Chinese. Sorry if you have not placed your hard earned dollars in American Treasury Securities. I did.

Ein Hektik Stadt
Ein Hektik Stadt

That is awesome! At that age, brain development is at its most optimum for learning a new language. This will help them on the road for higher paying jobs in adulthood, not to mention other benefits. Bueno!

fidlr
fidlr

Totally agreed.

RichF
RichF

With the school system telling the Leg. this year they are UNDER FUNDED why this ?

wayspirit
wayspirit

How dare they try to teach our children in a school! Really? This seems like a great program. I personally think that these kids will be better at English even because of this program. Hopefully we get updates on this.

fidlr
fidlr

You are absolutely correct, Spirit. I have a granddaughter in Missoula who will enter the first grade this year and I wish she was attending Paxson, but unfortunately not. At the age of two she was already counting to ten in Spanish, thanks to "Dora, The Explorer," materials. It is too bad the Billings schools have to reflect the conservative attitudes of this community in our school programs. I believe this may be difficult for the new superintendent who came from the more progressive state of Washington. Hopefully this area will open up to more opportunities for our great Billings area kids.

fixitguy
fixitguy

Why should we as a nation be required to learn a second language? These people made a choice to come here, I didn't ask them to? Kids today are so wrapped up in computers and video games that they don't play outside anymore. Young adults don't even know how to count back change correctly unless the computer tells them how much. The problem with the US is we're so worried about catering to everbody else in this world that we don't take care of ourselves. We constantly send money to other countries even though we're broke. It doesn't even make sense. Now because we have all these legal and illegal immigrants coming to our country we should change for them? That's total BS and I'm not going to do it. If you want to come to our country to live, then YOU need to learn OUR language, not the other way around. I took spanish in high school which was useless as I've never been to a spanish speaking country except for Texas.

thecoyote
thecoyote

Wow, I did not know that Texas is now a country! Congratulations to them, I guess. Seriously, this is great news, and I hope that other school districts across Montana start doing the same pretty soon.

tonitheisen
tonitheisen

I applaud this decision. In an ever changing world to give our children all the skills they will need in a world that is more multilingual and multicultural is important. Our children will be working in a world that requires them to be globally prepared and linguistic and cultural competency. Look at the success in Utah with many dual immersion schools. Also as an added bonus literacy skills in Englsih also improve because of the dual language format.

Utah: http://www.schools.utah.gov/curr/dualimmersion/
Here is an interesting article: The U.S. Foreign Language Deficit: http://languagemagazine.com/?page_id=6466
Congratulations again,
Toni Theisen
ACTFL 2013 President
https://www.actfl.org/

bbal
bbal

For those that are scared: http://www.cal.org/resources/digest/0304fortune.html

Kids in immersion do better in their first language (English) than monolingual students. Bilingual people are more flexible thinkers, score higher on standardized tests and live longer. The rest of the US knows immersion works and is great for our kids and the nation. Montana is just now finally catching on. Way to go! Do your research before you hate. There are really no drawbacks to being bilingual!
http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/benefits-bilingual/story?id=19081887#.Ua6B3rXVDE8

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