Tag Archives: dual immersion

Teacher training opportunity in Utah

The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah is proud to present the 2014 Gateway to Learning Educator Workshops. These weeklong summer workshops allow teachers throughout Utah to attend professional development classes taught by distinguished humanities professors and earn graduate university credit, all at a minimal cost. This summer we will offer seven workshops covering a variety of topics (please see link below to brochure for complete information). Registration for the workshops will begin on April 1, 2014 at noon through the Tanner Center’s website: www.thc.utah.edu.

This year’s program includes a workshop titled “Survey of Ancient Chinese Civilization,” which will will offer a broad survey of ancient Chinese civilization by examining texts from philosophy, history, literature, and art. If possible, could you please share this information with Mandarin Dual Language Immersion teachers? Please feel free to contact me with any questions or if you would like any additional information.

2014 Gateway to Learning Workshops Brochure

For more information, contact:

Josh Elstein
Programming and Marketing
Tanner Humanities Center
University of Utah
(801) 585-9341

Architect of Utah’s dual immersion program touts its success

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, one of the architects of Utah’s dual immersion language program (along with former Gov. Jon Huntsman), penned this opinion piece in the Grand Forks Herald.

Touting the program’s success, he says, “For an additional annual cost of just $33 per student, tens of thousands of Utah students are becoming truly bilingual.”

Utah 5th-grader publishes book in Chinese

When Annemarie Hilton was just 8 years old she wrote a book about “the life of a 2nd grader.” The book spans one year during which the protagonist “has lots of adventures like stopping a bully and almost cutting her finger off,” describes the author of her work.

One language, however, wouldn’t suffice as a means for this Utah county student to express herself. Annemarie, now 10 and entering the 5th grade is studying Mandarin through Utah’s Dual Language Immersion program. This summer, at the urging of her father –  John Hilton III, one of our parent council’s regional vice presidents – Annemarie translated her book in Chinese.

“She has worked really hard on it (60+ hours this summer) and finally finished the editing today. We uploaded it to Amazon and she is now a published author!” said her dad on Wednesday.

Annemarie said she knew some of the words, but had to look up others on Google Translate. “It’s not perfect, but I hope you will like it whether you read it in English or Chinese or both!” she writes in the book’s introduction.

Check it out with your kids. It sells for just $2.99 and Annemarie is donating some of the proceeds to buy Chinese books for her school library. Perhaps it will inspire more budding writers to put their Mandarin to practice.

Measuring the success of Utah’s dual immersion program

It’s a question I hear over and over again from parents: How do I know if my child is excelling academically?

The battery of tests our kids take suggests schools are constantly probing the same question. But do those tests apply to dual immersion students?

Utah parents were promised two things when they enrolled their children in dual immersion: that their kids would become fluent and literate in a second language, and that they would suffer no setbacks in reading, writing, math, science or social studies. 

State officials have developed specialized tools to gauge how much Mandarin, Spanish, French or Portuguese students are acquiring. One of the measures, “summative” assessments of their listening, speaking and writing abilities will be given this spring for the first time to all immersion third and fourth graders. Parents will get results next fall. More on that later…..

But conventional year-end tests show that for several years running, Utah has come through on its second promise that no academic harm would come to immersion students. Data show Utah’s immersion students perform as good as, or better than, their non-immersion peers on state reading and math assessments, said Utah World Languages Specialist Gregg Roberts. 

This suggests students are absorbing some second language, since up until 3rd grade math is predominantly taught in that language, notes Roberts. It also squares with the experience of other states and other countries, including the birthplace of modern immersion, Canada.

According to the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition:
“Immersion students met or exceeded English program students’ performance in mathematics and science, and province-wide assessments in three Canadian provinces found that at grades 6, 8, and 10, respectively, immersion students did as well as or achieved at a significantly higher level than those in the regular program. (Bournot-Trites & Tellowitz, 2002; British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2000; Dube & MacFarlane, 1999; New Brunswick Department of Education, 2000; Turnbull, Hart & Lapkin, 2000.)”

How is this possible, you ask? Scientists exploring the benefits of bilingualism offering one explanation – being bilingual boosts your brain, they say. Studies suggest being bilingual enhances cognitive abilities and may even help stave off dementia, reports The New York Times.

Of course, such research is still in its infancy; there is no direct proof that being bilingual makes you smarter. Could it be that kids who enroll in immersion programs tend to be overachievers from upwardly mobile families who start the school year already well ahead of their peers? 

Portland is testing that assumption by comparing year-end scores of students who won the immersion lottery to those who tried enrolling but lost the lottery, said Roberts. A Utah-commissioned study by the Educational Policy Center at the University of Utah pursues the same question from a different angle.

Researchers compared year-end reading and math scores of immersion students at 17 Utah schools to non-immersion students. To make sure they were comparing apples and apples, they weighted students’ scores differently based on a student’s socioeconomic or non-English-speaking status, explained Roberts. They found immersion students on average scored 5 points higher on English Language Arts CRT’s and 4 points higher on math CRT’s. In addition, they were more likely to be reading on grade level and were less likely to be chronically absent than traditional students.

“Keep in mind the immersion kids are also going up against all the gifted and talented programs in the state,” said Roberts, noting that immersion programs accept kids of all abilities.

Now, back to the language assessments. Are you still with me? 

By now most parents have probably seen the Student Proficiency Reports that immersion teachers produce showing whether students are making adequate progress in their world language. Next fall you’ll also receive results from the first round of AAPPL tests.  “Language is a skill, a skill that can be demonstrated and tested,” said Roberts.

Computerized, role-playing assessments developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), the AAPPL tests are conversational and interactive. Students sit at a computer wearing special headsets and are prompted to answer questions by a videotaped person speaking Chinese, Spanish, French or Portuguese. Students responses are recorded and sent to ACTFL for scoring.

Here’s a video showing how it works.

Immersion students will take these tests every year starting in the 3rd grade. Testing for the first few years will alternate between measuring interpersonal listening and speaking skills versus their presentational writing skills. In latter years, tests will be added to measure interpretive listening and reading, culminating in 9th grade with the College AP exam. If they pass, students will be able to take college-level courses in high school.  Here’s a spreadsheet that breaks it down into more detail with links for more information.

These tests cost money, and show just how much the state has invested in this program and wants it to succeed. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the results!