Lewis Letters: A Blog from our Head of School

The Advantages of Language Immersion

Without a doubt, WIS is widely recognized for our language immersion/dual language programs. Those programs are, in fact, one of the top reasons families choose to enroll their children.

And yet…every year our Admissions team meets with families who have a few doubts about their young child's ability to thrive in a dual language immersion program. Typically, these are families where the parents and child speak only English, and one of the most common concerns is the fear that a child will fall behind in English if he/she is not receiving formal classroom instruction until Grade 1.

I've shared research about dual language learning before. You'll find many links on this page, discussing advantages of multilingualism ranging from increased cognitive abilities to stronger academic performance to better social skills.

In a four-year study conducted by the RAND Corporation and funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (completed in 2015 and published earlier this year), researchers tracked achievement of 1,625 students enrolled in dual-language immersion (DLI) programs in the Portland, Oregon public school system. The results of the study were clear: "DLI students outperformed non-immersion peers in two important ways."

Research showed that the DLI students "outperformed their peers on state accountability tests in reading by 13 percent of a standard deviation in grade 5 and by 22 percent of a standard deviation in grade 8." The study also concluded that "English learners reached English proficiency at higher rates."

These results are consistent with prior studies, but the researchers in this case also compared data in order to eliminate the question of whether strong academic performance by dual language students "should be attributed to the DLI programs themselves or to the characteristics of the families and students who chose to enroll in those programs."

And to allay another possible concern that focusing on learning two languages detracts from academic achievement in subjects such as mathematics and science, an Education Week story about the RAND study also noted that researchers "found no benefit, but also no negative effect, on immersion students' scores in math or science."

I know I'm preaching to the converted. Still, isn't it good know that research supports your decision about WIS?

Posted by clayton.lewis on Wednesday December 6 at 09:26PM
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