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Forsyth elementary schools may revisit dual-language program
Immersion curriculum would split English, foreign language instruction

Foreign languages may soon reappear in the Forsyth County’s elementary schools, after having been phased out years ago.

At a Board of Education called meeting during its recent annual retreat, World Language Content Specialist Michaela Claus-Nix presented the board with the proposed dual-language immersion, or DLI, program that would be implemented in elementary schools beginning in August 2018, should it be approved.

The county’s last class to have been taught foreign languages in elementary school graduated high school in 2015, said Jennifer Caracciolo, a spokeswoman for Forsyth County Schools.

“We look at [initiatives and programs] in Forsyth County through the lens of the learner profile,” said Fonda Harrison, associate superintendent of teaching and learning for FCS. “If you consider the learner profile and the five main attributes of the learner profile, this dual-language immersion program touches all five of those, from the very beginning – kindergarten – all the way through high school.”

The program would differ from what is currently in place in middle and high schools throughout the county, which focuses on language instruction during only one class period per day.

Kindergarteners in the DLI program would spend the entire school day speaking two languages – the base language and the target language.

Schools would choose the target language, which might be Spanish, for example, and students would be broken up into two groups.

One half of the students would, ideally, be native English speakers, and the other half native target language speakers.

That number could be adjusted to as low as a 70-to-30 ratio, Nix said.

Each group would spend half the day speaking the base language and the other half of the day speaking the target language.

Classes such as math, social studies, science, physical education, music and language literacy would be taught in the target language while English language arts, some math and other English content reinforcement classes would be taught in English.

Students would be tested on their speaking and listening skills in the target language at end of third grade and on their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills at end of fifth and eighth grades.

“We really have a unique situation in Forsyth County,” Nix said. “We have all the criteria that are already favorable for dual-language immersion. We do have a very fast-growing heritage speaker population, and we also already have staff members on hand who are very proficient in Spanish and other languages. We also have the community support; one pre-school already teaches students in Spanish immersion.”

Caracciolo said FCS will send out parent surveys to gauge response to the program.

“We will send the parent survey, receive some more feedback, discuss with elementary school principals and then bring [the topic] back to the BOE,” she said. “It may be included in next year’s budget, if findings support the program.”

Nix said it DLI programs are increasing in popularity in Georgia.

“There are thousands and thousands of schools across the nation that have dual-language immersion,” Nix said. “In Georgia, we have seen an unprecedented growth also – we doubled from 2015-16 [having] 19 programs at public schools to 38 this school year.

“We started in 2012 with three programs that have really just ventured out and then became a state initiative and has just grown tremendously.”