Bellflower school district expands Spanish-English immersion program

BELLFLOWER -- Bellflower Unified School District’s popular Spanish/English Dual-Language Immersion Program will add a third-grade class in 2016-17 as the initiative enters its fourth year.

The program, based at Bellflower Unified’s Intensive Learning Center in Lakewood, has operated at capacity since its launch with kindergarten students in 2013-14 – a trend that continued as it added first-grade and second-grade programs in subsequent years.

“Bellflower Unified is committed to providing our students with a host of avenues to success, including a growing language pathway that includes our dual-language program and our expanding program in world languages,” Superintendent Dr. Brian Jacobs said. “It’s a testament to the quality of the program that, as we expand, we continue to fill each level to capacity.”

Bellflower Unified’s program is part of a broad effort to increase academic success, cultural understanding and preparation for a global economy.

“Language is not only an avenue for accelerating success in school, but also a gateway to understanding different cultures and communities,” Jacobs said. “This program positions our students to compete effectively in a world where if you speak English/Spanish or Mandarin you are able to communicate with over 85 percent of the world’s populations.”

The dual-immersion program enrolls a mix of students – some are native English speakers, others are native Spanish speakers – so they support each other in mastering skills and concepts in both languages.

The District follows a model in which kindergarten and first-grade students are taught 90 percent of the time in Spanish, 10 percent in English. The ratio shifts to 80/20 in second grade and 70/30 in third grade. It will eventually reach a 50/50 balance in fifth grade.

Research shows dual-immersion students not only learn the targeted language, but also gain significant understanding of cultures associated with the language, show overall cognitive advances and earn stronger grades in school.

Instruction aligns to the California Standards for language arts and math, with students using Spanish-language versions of the District’s new online-based curriculum materials.

In 2016-17, the expansion will bring the program to three classes each in kindergarten through second grade and three classes in third grade. Sign-ups for the program are currently being accepted.