This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
One of the most difficult decisions parents will make is where their children will attend school. More than 10 percent of Utah's public school students attend a dual immersion program where students spend 50 percent of their school day learning in another language. Unlike most dual immersion programs in Utah, Dual Immersions Academy (DIA) which opened in 2007, follows a 90:10 model as opposed to a 50:50 model. The 90:10 dual language program was developed in Canada in the 1960s and then was adopted in the United States in the 1970s. It begins with 90 percent of the instructional time in the target language with a gradual reduction each year until reaching a 50:50 ratio compared to English instructional time usually by fifth grade. "Longitudinal studies shown that the 90:10 model is the most efficient bilingual program in getting students to grade level achievement in both languages," said Dr. Juan A. Freire, Assistant Professor Curriculum & Instruction, Department of Education, New Mexico State University.
Here's why dual immersion experts, educators and students think parents should consider this program.
1. Students learn to love reading in two languages. Katy Dark attended DIA for six years. Her mother Patricia Quijano Dark is one of the founding parents of the school. Katy is now a 7th grade scholarship student at Rowland Hall. "DIA was a fantastic academic experience! At the DIA preschool, I learned to read in two languages and started kindergarten with a love of books and stories. By the time I hit 4th grade, I learned from my teacher, Ms. Ramos, that there is a bigger world of books out there than my young mind realized. Amongst many others I read that year, I worked my way through the Harry Potter series seven times and I haven't stopped obsessively reading since. DIA taught me a lot, but the most important thing was how great books are, especially when you have the option to read culturally diverse books in two languages. With my background in languages, I have now begun to learn Chinese. I would not be the student I am today without DIA," said Katy Dark.
2. Education meets opportunity. DIA's school environment is rich in culture and community. It is located in the Glendale neighborhood about 5 minutes drive from downtown Salt Lake City. The dual immersion model creates students who read, write and speak Spanish and English fluently. DIA offers art, music, drama and physical education for each grade. "I don't think you can really describe what we are doing at DIA, you have to come see it. When you walk through our doors, you can feel the energy and vibrancy of DIA: hearing both languages, the colorful mural work and students and teachers engaged in so many different learning activities. DIA really is the place where education meets opportunity for each student," said Angela Fanjul, Executive Director, DIA.
3. Parents are always welcome and encouraged to participate fully. At DIA, parents are invited to be involved in all aspects of their students' education and volunteer at the school. Parents can volunteer for many school activities. "Red Butte gardens was here a couple of weeks ago working with our first grade. They learned the importance of plant life, planted seeds and will now transfer the sprouts to our garden. The Utah Science Consortium will hold DIA STEM FEST 2016 for our 5th through 8th grades at the end of the month. They will work with students to build and launch hot air balloons, rockets and mini drag racers," said Fanjul. DIA's middle school is full of opportunities as well with programs such as Green Power Engineering club and Medical Professions club. "We have strong connections with programs such as Latinos In Action and USUSTARS GEAR UP. Our students can shine in sports teams or in our MockTrial Team; in National Jr. Honors Society or as part of our PBS Learning Lab; and they do it all in both languages," Fanjul explained.
4. Brain benefits can last a lifetime. According to the Utah State Office of Education, dual immersion students typically develop greater cognitive flexibility, demonstrating increased attention control, better memory, and superior problem solving skills as well as an enhanced understanding of their primary language, Five year ago, Dr. Ellen Bialystok, a Canadian cognitive neuroscientist who spent 40 years learning about how bilingualism sharpens the mind was interviewed by the New York Times. In the article, "The Bilingual Advantage" she explained while you have to use both languages all the time you can have lifelong cognitive benefits from bilinguism.
5. Yes, your child will still know English. Some parents worry their children will not be proficient in written and oral English skills if they attend a dual immersion program. DIA believes young minds are ready to learn another language while maintaining English. "The English speaker is not at risk of losing the English language. English is spoken at home, in the community, and in the media. Two-way bilingual immersion programs are not replacing English with another language, but provide the students the opportunity to acquire a second language. Two-way bilingual immersion programs are additive programs in that a second language is acquired while maintaining the first language of the students," explained Suzy Ramos, Principal, DIA.
Interested in bilingual education? Dual Immersion Academy is where education meets opportunity for each of our students. DIA is an accredited, tuition-free, public charter school providing bilingual education to students from Pre-kindergarten to 8th grade. DIA is dedicated to providing an academically rigorous curriculum in a supportive, nurturing environment; preparing students to become Spanish-English bilingual, bi-literate and bicultural while developing the tools to be successful in higher education, the workforce and in life. DIA's accredited international academic staff offer small classroom size, personalized attention and support. Be a part of our success story, enroll now www.diacharter.org.