Tooele County School District first-graders will have the opportunity to jump into a foreign language next year.
The Utah State Office of Education approved applications from TCSD to start dual language immersion programs in five elementary schools in the fall of 2014, according to Scott Rogers, Tooele County School District superintendent.
“The state told us that we are the only school district with over 10,000 students that did not have a dual immersion program,” he said.
The district submitted an application to the state for DLI funding after an online survey showed that 89 percent of parents in the district support having the program.
Schools that will start DLI next fall are West Elementary with German, Harris Elementary with Portuguese, Northlake Elementary with Chinese, Grantsville Elementary with French, and Middle Canyon Elementary with Spanish.
There are 98 schools in Utah offering DLI in the current academic year.
Tooele County School District will be the first district in the state with a German DLI program, which also contains a science, technology, engineering, and math component, said Rogers.
The state approval comes with a one-time $70,000 grant to buy curriculum and supplies. The DLI program does not require the addition of new teachers so the fiscal impact to the district is minimal, Rogers said.
Students in DLI will attend half the day in a classroom that speaks English and then switch rooms to a teacher that will teach the remainder of the normal curriculum in the target language.
No curriculum content is lost, students are learning the same material, but in the target language, said Rogers.
Not all students at the DLI schools will be involved in the dual immersion program.
“This is something parents will volunteer for,” Rogers said. “We will start with groups of around 50 students in the first grade and then add a grade each year.”
The superintendent anticipates that no current teachers will be replaced as the DLI program begins, although it may require moving some teachers to new schools, he said.
The state legislature first funded dual language immersion programs in 2008 as a way of developing language skills needed for business, government and education.
Along with building second language skills, dual language immersion has also been shown to improve performance on standardized tests, development of better cognitive and problem solving skills, and developing better attitudes and understanding of other cultures, according to the USOE.
“Over time schools with dual language immersion see their overall academic performance for all students increase,” Rogers said. “The dual immersion schools see a rise in overall rigor and focus.”
The district will hold a district wide informational meeting on DLI for parents in January 2014, he added.