Making the best decision about your child’s education is a parental priority. In San Antonio, parents are fortunate to have numerous school options available to choose from, but this can also make the search seem somewhat overwhelming. Among public, private, and charter schools there are numerous programs and options, but one program that is becoming increasingly popular is immersion.
What is immersion?
Immersion schools or programs offer a curriculum that includes instruction in two (or in some cases, more) languages. Instruction begins as early as pre-K and continues through upper elementary, potentially resulting in a bilingual and biliterate student by fifth grade.
Generally, students in dual language or immersion programs begin instruction with the 90/10 model, or by receiving instruction 90 percent of the time in the minority language and 10 percent in the majority or native language. This heavily exposes the students to the minority language throughout the day, allowing them to learn the language to fluency standards over time. This ratio is lessened each year until reaching 50/50 in upper elementary grades.
There are different types of immersion programs to include dual language immersion and Spanish immersion (the latter language being the most common, though there are other languages available in different immersion schools/programs). Dual language immersion places an equal number of both English-speaking students and English learners in the same class. This allows the students to learn together and from each other. Spanish immersion is geared toward English-speaking students only, immersing them in the Spanish language. In most cases, instruction for these students also follows the 90/10 to 50/50 model. Each program offers the benefit of learning a new language to proficiency at an early age.
What if parents are not bilingual?
Parents DO NOT need to be bilingual for their child to be successful in an immersion program. These programs are developed to fully immerse the child in a new language for a large portion of the school day. Instruction and support are given during this time, and assignments focus on lessons the student has already learned. Additional support, if needed, can be obtained through the instructor.
Where do they offer immersion in San Antonio?
Dual language schools are becoming increasingly popular as the benefits of being multilingual in today’s world are essential. There are a good number of dual language schools and programs that can be found throughout San Antonio, to include charter, private and public school districts. Each school or district has its own program, application process and requirements.
If you are interested in an immersion program, a good place to start your search is to check with your school district, as many of the districts in San Antonio offer dual language or Spanish immersion programs (and in some cases, both). If you are interested in charter schools, you can also find a wealth of information at sachartermoms.com, and for private schools, check out saprivateschools.com.
Other Great Schools in San Antonio
While it’s easy to see why immersion programs are becoming increasingly popular, every child is different, and this program might not be the right choice for your child. There are a lot of great schools in San Antonio, and searching for a good fit doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Make an informed decision based on your child’s needs, and explore all of your options through the websites mentioned above, or use the comparison tool at www.greatschools.org.
What are some benefits of Immersion?
According to the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, “Over nearly half a century, research on language immersion education has heralded benefits such as academic achievement, language and literacy development in two or more languages, and cognitive skills.” 
In a study conducted by Rand Corporation, it was found that students enrolled in an immersion program tend to perform at the same or higher reading levels than non-immersion students. “Students randomly assigned to immersion outperformed their peers in English reading by about seven months in grade five and nine months in grade eight.” 
They are better able to understand linguistics, to include their native language, and possess better problem-solving capabilities. 
Students garner social benefits from the program, as it encourages them to think globally. By giving students in-depth exposure to a new language and culture, we are expanding their ability to communicate with different cultures and better understand the world we live in.
Being bilingual or multilingual in a global society also opens the door to future professional opportunities.
By Pamela V. Miller