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New round of grants to expand language immersion in Indiana

Alan Petersime

School language programs that offer kids a chance to learn half the day in English and half the day in another language got an extra boost from the state today.

The Indiana Department of Education, which was able to lend more support to the popular programs with a new law creating a dual language immersion pilot program in 2015, doled out more than $500,000 in grants today to schools across the state.

Two of the eight schools that received payouts are are in Marion County. Warren Township’s Pleasant Run Elementary School received $59,472 and Global Prep Academy, a charter school opening this fall on the city’s West side, picked up $74,170 for 2016.

It was the second year of funding for both schools. Warren’s English/Spanish program, which opens to students for the first time in the fall of 2016, got about $100,000 in funding last year that it used to plan for this coming school year. Global Prep Academy received $77,000 last year.

Dual-language schools are growing around the country as research increasingly shows that the method of teaching some classes in English and the rest in another language benefits both native English-speakers and kids for whom English is a new language.

“Programs like these expand opportunities for our students,” said state Superintendent Glenda Ritz. “(They) allow them to learn in an environment that few Hoosiers get to experience.”

Seven of the eight programs that got funding today teach classes in English and Spanish. One program — in Batesville — will teach in both English and Mandarin.

The 2015 law creating the pilot grant program saw support from Republicans and Democrats in both chambers. The bill called for kids to begin the program in kindergarten or first grade and receive at least half of their instruction in English.

The law has the accelerated the growth of dual language programs in Indianapolis, where schools have historically had success with the approach.

Indianapolis Public School 74, which began its Spanish immersion program in 2004, is one of the district’s top-performers. Forest Glen Elementary School in Lawrence Township last year celebrated its 20th year teaching children in both Spanish and English, and the private International School on the city’s north side was founded in 1994.

Immersing students in a language is one of the best ways not only to teach a new language, educators say. Immersion also allows students new to English to keep up their native languages. The city’s immersion schools consistently perform well on state tests. As Indianapolis schools have seen an increase in language-learners in the past decade, the challenge has been finding ways to ensure they are successful. The bill’s original intent was also to make sure kids are exposed to other languages to better compete in a global economy, lawmakers said at the time.

The other grant winners announced today include:

  • Batesville Primary School ($85,146)
  • Poston Road Elementary School in Martinsville ($58,902)
  • Waterford Elementary School in Goshen ($11,253)
  • Landis Elementary School in Logansport ($60,727)
  • West Noble Primary School in West Noble ($85,000)
  • Eisenhower Elementary School in Warsaw ($66,200)

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