Emerging through Immersion
State of the Re:Union is continuing the School Spotlight segment with a look at a very special school in Sacramento, California. This region will be featured in one of our new episodes which begin releasing today. SOTRU is highlighting the Susan B. Anthony Elementary School that is beginning a new immersion program to assist the largely Hmong-populated community. (If you are dying to find out more about the Hmong people and culture, we can help you with that. You can check out our Twin Cities episode now, and you can learn more on our new Sacramento episode being released this upcoming week!)
Like many states across the nation, California has a very diverse range of countries, creeds and backgrounds. For the Hmong people, escaping persecution due to hiding and assisting American soldiers in the Vietnam war was one of the driving reasons they sought asylum in the United States. Deracinating ties with family, friends and country, the Hmong community has been planting roots and making America their home.
A large population of Hmong people now call Sacramento, California their home. In an effort to help children and families acclimate more easily, Susan B. Anthony Elementary of the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD), is implementing a new Hmong Immersion Program in an effort to assist the ever-growing Sacramento community.
This program’s goals have been designed to help students become proficient in both English and Hmong languages to increase academic achievement. The school gives a bit more of a breakdown of exactly what dual language immersion is:
• Uses both English and Hmong instruction
• Serves English learners and native English speakers
• Includes high levels of proficiency in new language and home language
• Increases use of English gradually
According to a press release issued on September 1, 2011, Susan B. Anthony Elementary has implemented this ambitious plan as part of SCUSD’s initiative to “graduate high-achieving, bilingual and bicultural students ready to compete in the future global marketplace.”
As immersion programs go, this is the latest in Sacramento’s ground-breaking list of language immersion programs. Participating kindergarten students in the immersion program are primarily taught in the targeted program language, which in this case is Hmong.
As students progress through school grades, they are taught less in their language and more in English. By the time these students reach fifth grade, they will be learning in all-English. Years of research shows that students in language immersion programs are more successful at school, scoring higher on standardized tests given only in English than their counterparts taught only in English. This will have a profound impact on not just the students, but their families, and in turn, the community, state, and the nation.
Susan B. Anthony Elementary is leading the way for other schools in the Sacramento area. More schools are joining this effort helping children and families in their community through similar acclimation and immersion programs. Of course, being in America pretty much obligates us to having conflicting viewpoints on this program. People throughout the nation differ in opinion about the immersion program and just how necessary and/or helpful it is. On one side of the coin, I’ve heard some say that, well, “we’re in America, so English needs to be spoken in our schools.” However, as we at SOTRU have seen, it is not always that simple. To quote from the American Graduate initiative, “There is no ‘One Size Fits All’ solution” when contemplating a solution in the never-ending educational battles.
What other places around the country are using similar programs? Do your neighborhood schools offer similar programs? Has there been a noticeable change benefiting the community? Of course, we would love to hear what they are and in what ways they’ve helped or hindered your community.