“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” – Frank Smith.
Two decades ago, the country was showing a preference for “English First” education, which aimed to reduce the amount of time spent in bilingual situations. The thought behind this approach was to quickly and efficiently teach English to non-native speakers, in the hopes that this would benefit them the most. Now the shift has moved towards dual-language education as a highly-sought-out choice for students across all backgrounds. Research has shown that second language learning enhances the students’ knowledge of English sentence structures and vocabulary. In addition, students engaged in dual language learning outperformed monolingual students in English reading skills by almost a full grade level by the end of middle school. Almost across the board, students who learn a second language score statistically higher on standardized college entrance exams. The conclusions are clear: all students, regardless of background or ability level, can benefit from dual language learning.
Fayette County Public Schools is so proud of their programs and the hard work the students put in through the entire program that in 2017 they added the Seal of Biliteracy to the diplomas of students who showed exceptional understanding of a second language.
Fayette County Public Schools pride themselves on having a wide variety of programs to guide students in specialized fields, as well as set them up for success in their daily life. One particular source of pride is their World Languages programs. There are 6 different language courses offered across the district: Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Latin. 100% of middle and high schools offer at least one language in addition to English, as well as 53% of elementary schools. In Fayette County, the goal is for the students to not only be bilingual, which is the ability to speak 2 languages, but also biliteral, with the ability to read and write.
The conclusions are clear: all students, regardless of background or ability level, can benefit from dual language learning.
One way to ensure the maximum benefits of dual language learning is through immersion programs. Immersion students overall show greater cognitive flexibility and executive function, which means they tend to be more focused in their attention and show improved capabilities to switch tasks easily. Fayette County offers 5 Spanish Immersion programs across the district in partnership with the International Spanish Academies, serving over 1500 students. Liberty Elementary and Northern Elementary offer immersion strands alongside traditional tracks, and Maxwell Elementary Spanish Immersion program serves their entire population. Students at the elementary level split their learning time between the two languages, learning Math and Science in Spanish and Language Arts and Social Studies in English. Once the students progress to Bryan Station Middle School, they have Math, Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies in Spanish. At Bryan Station High School, the students are offered advanced and AP Spanish, as well as advanced Biology, Chemistry, and Physics in Spanish. FCPS is so proud of their programs and the hard work the students put in through the entire program that in 2017 they added the Seal of Biliteracy to the diplomas of students who showed exceptional understanding of a second language. In 2017, 66 students across the district earned the Seal of Biliteracy, and it will be on their diplomas as well as electronic transcripts.
While the long-term benefits will not be seen for years to come, FCPS moves forward confident that they are putting children in a better position to navigate the challenges of an increasingly connected world. We are truly fortunate to have this amazing Spanish Immersion program here in Fayette County.