Update on Hebrew-Language Charter School
Remember the proposed charter school I wrote about last month? The school planned to focus on Hebrew language instruction, while offering a few other languages as electives. The school board turned it down. In the board’s view, specializing in Hebrew would limit enrollment to students who are interested in Hebrew — and most such students would be Jewish. The board decided that this would violate separation of church and state.
Well, the school’s leaders have submitted a new proposal — and this time they’ve done away with the Hebrew-language specialty. Hebrew would still be an option at the school, but students would be free to concentrate on Spanish or Arabic instead.
It would be very detrimental to language-immersion charters if this board’s policy became the norm, and no charter could specialize in a single language or culture. For example, the St. Louis Language Immersion Schools teach French and Spanish — in two separate schools. This allows them to reinforce students’ exposure to the target language. Students hear the target language in class, but they also hear it on the playground and in the school office. If each school had to offer both languages, French students would end up hearing some Spanish, and vice versa.
If applied more broadly, this policy could make it difficult for charters to specialize, because as soon as a charter developed a program to focus on one subject, it would have to start over and create parallel programs for whichever students weren’t interested in that first course of study.