Anaheim district to offer dual-language immersion at all 23 schools next year

The Anaheim Elementary School District plans to offer dual-language immersion programs at all 23 of its campuses starting in August.

The move would make the 16,000-student district the first in the county — and possibly the state — to provide two-way language instruction at every school.

“The research to support the benefits of (dual-language immersion) is extensive,” Anaheim Elementary Superintendent Christopher Downing said in a news release. “We know that students who become biliterate and bilingual are globally competitive in the 21st century.”

Students in a classroomThe district recently announced that it would be the first elementary school system in the county to offer a Korean program, and it already offers two-way language instruction in English and Spanish at eight schools. But officials say the demand for dual immersion exceeds the current capacity.

When the district recently held an informational meeting, it drew a standing-room-only crowd, and more than 230 families signed an interest form.

“Our program uniquely integrates GATE strategies which have proven extremely successful in yielding high academic performance for our participating students,” Downing said. “So the effort to extend this opportunity to every one of our schools is truly our moral imperative.”

The Anaheim Elementary School District has been offering dual-language immersion in Spanish for 13 years now, starting with 26 students at Adelaide Price Elementary School in 2006. Interest has only grown since.

“We are doing our job and really preparing students,” school board President Ryan Ruelas said. “In the global climate we live in, being bilingual and biliterate is a must. I am ecstatic to see the roll out of DLI at all of our school sites so that every student has an opportunity to be educated both in English and Spanish or Korean, or whatever other languages we will add in the future.”

For those unfamiliar with dual-language immersion, the programs nurture bilingualism and biliteracy by immersing students in the target language — often Spanish — for part of the day. The idea has been gaining momentum nationally and in Southern California, with dozens of programs popping up across Orange County.

Some students start as early as transitional kindergarten, and many have opportunities to pursue two-way instruction into their secondary years.

Anaheim Elementary says a strong partnership with the Anaheim Union High School District allows its students to continue dual immersion courses in junior high and high school.

The students who pioneered two-way instruction at Price Elementary in 2006 graduated from Anaheim High School last year. According to the district, every student who continued on the dual-immersion path now attends a four-year university.