(The Center Square) – Students in 21 Indiana school districts will take part in immersive language learning this year with help from nearly $600,000 in grants awarded by the Indiana Department of Education.
Language immersion programs provide at least half of student instruction in a language other than English. To qualify for a grant, the program must begin in kindergarten or first grade.
Immersion learning has grown from four school programs in 2014 to 42 programs this year. The growth has required supplemental funding from new sources, according to the INDOE.
Immersion learning develops listening, thinking, and communication skills in both languages, according to Assistant Superintendent Allison Woods of Marion County’s Warren Township schools.
“It also allows native Spanish speakers to continue to build language development in their native language,” Wood said, which is something traditional English-only instruction lacks.
Warren Township schools have 260 children in immersion learning from kindergarten through sixth grade, “We have the program in two buildings,” Woods told The Center Square. “Pleasant Run Elementary is where it started. We started with a kindergarten cohort. Every year it moves up, we add a grade level.”
The first cohort are now in sixth grade at Stonybrook Intermediate Middle School. Warren Township students learn for half the day in English and half in Spanish.
“The dual language immersion grant is a traditionally state-funded grant,” INDOE spokesperson Emily Black told The Center Square, “but with the increase in applications, was temporarily supplemented this year with federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding.
Of the $595,000 awarded this year, about $417,000 was from state funds, the remainder from the federal ESSER fund, according to information provided by INDOE. Funds were granted to 30 of the 42 schools hosting programs.
Woods said the $20,000 grant Warren Township received this year has enabled them to keep expanding the program by purchasing additional Spanish-language curriculum in all subjects and training more teachers.