District discusses dual immersion

Castaic Union School District Superintendent Steve Doyle joins trustees Laura Pearson and Stacy Dobbs at a district meeting. For more information on the next scheduled meeting, visit Castaic Union's website at www.castaicusd.com.

With dual-immersion language programs becoming increasingly enticing to parents across the state, some Santa Clarita Valley school districts have began discussing the prospective programs with various stakeholders.

Each of the three coffee with the superintendent meetings held in the Saugus Union School District prior to the school year featured discussions about dual-immersion programs, as did a recent Castaic Union School District meeting where Superintendent Steve Doyle shared the pros and cons of a prospective program with district trustees and community members who were in attendance.

Dual immersion allows students the opportunity to become bilingual by the time they hit middle school, Doyle said during the meeting. The program can also have an effect on the children beyond the academic realm as it’s been proven to promote positive attitudes toward languages and cultures.

“Bilingual children have shown to be better at creative thinking, finding solutions and score higher than their peers who study strictly English,” Doyle said as he read from a PowerPoint that cited multiple scholarly articles.

“It takes a while for the immersion students to catch up, but once they do, they will exceed their counterparts,” Doyle said. In fact, they’ll actually outperform their peers in both of the learned languages, “and (English learners) will close the achievement gap with native-English speakers by fifth grade.”

There are not many materials available and it’s quite expensive to buy books in both languages, “so there’s a cost to it,” Doyle added, before presenting some drawbacks that are associated with the prospective program.

Another potential pitfall with the program is the district won’t be able to expect high test scores until its immersion students begin to catch up — and outperform — their peers a few years into the program, which may be a problem for some stakeholders who expect higher scores now.

“The program won’t happen overnight,” Doyle said.

After the superintendent’s presentation, trustees shared their feelings on the program before asking Castaic Teachers Association President Suzanne Graff how feasible she believed the program to be for the district.

“I hear parents say all the time that they prefer smaller class sizes,” Graff said, adding that she believes there are other programs the district would be much better off pursuing, such as those that focus on science, social studies and math.

“I’m sure there are people out there that think it’s a great program but, when they start seeing the numbers,” Graff said, “I could see there potentially being a problem.”

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