The St. Louis Language Immersion Schools blog has posted a series of essays describing immersion schools the faculty have visited recently. These will be of interest to anyone following charter schools and language immersion.
Several people have responded to my writing about charter schools and languages by pointing out the existence of language programs in traditional public schools. In some cases, these programs are indeed comparable to charter schools, like SLLIS. I believe SLLIS has visited some immersion classes within traditional districts.
However, most of the traditional public schools’ language programs are not as innovative as SLLIS and other charters. Often, schools recognize the value of immersion, but students are only immersed in the language for one class period each day — not enough time to gain fluency. Many international magnet schools, such as Bunche International Studies of SLPS, conduct the majority of the school day in English. Students are able to choose from several languages, and the school incorporates different cultures into activities and special events, but a science or math class there looks the same as in a traditional public school.
Charter schools have the flexibility to center the entire school day around a foreign language. They also have the parental support for long hours of immersion. These aspects of the charter model let them adopt immersion programs more completely than traditional districts — and with greater success.