Change in immersion program raising some ire

By Becky GINOS

FARMINGTON—The language immersion program has been running successfully in the Davis School District for several years now, but starting in the fall parents and students will see some changes. The schedule for kindergarten will decrease from a three quarter day to a traditional half day. “It’s not a new concept,” said District Elementary School Director Dr. Gwen Hill. “There’s always been a concern that we had children at just four schools in the district getting extra time in kindergarten and why. We felt it was appropriate to look at the equity of other students and move them to the same schedule.” Hill said the district ran some data against other students in the state who don’t have immersion at all in kindergarten and they performed about the same as those who start in first grade. “It’s a great way to lay a foundation for the language in kindergarten so they have some understanding when they get to first grade,” she said. “It was never intended that children would read and write in that language in kindergarten.” However, some parents believe that children learning Chinese are at a disadvantage later on if the kindergarten day is decreased. “It takes longer to learn and they’ll have to pass the AP test like French and Spanish,” said one parent with a child at Heritage Elementary during a public comment period before the school board. “I feel like they barely have a shot at this (AP).” “There’s no good reason to end the three quarter day kindergarten,” said another Heritage Elementary parent. “It’s a no brainer to start younger. Chinese is a level 4 language so it makes sense that it takes more time and resources.” Although she understands why some parents are frustrated, Hill said they have to be fair to the whole district. “It’s very likely that Chinese is more difficult but that was never the intent of the program,” she said. “Whether that little extra time in kindergarten makes a difference on the AP tests our data says no. By the sixth grade it all levels out. We can’t provide immersion to every child, we wish we could, but we’re trying to provide it where we can.” With the new schedule, students will spend half the time in the immersion language and half in English. “The way it is now they get more time in the target language,” said Hill. “Now they’ll get the same amount of time in the target language as other languages do and it’s up to the teacher how to handle it.” Students in Davis County are already getting more instruction than the rest of the state because everyone else starts in first grade. “The state would prefer we’d be on the same model as they’re on,” said Hill. “Ours has been working so they support us. By the time students get to first grade they’re used to it and it helps them to acquire the language skills in kindergarten to set the stage.” Hill said everyone would like to be in kindergarten longer for STEM programs or the arts, but they just can’t make that happen. “We’ve talked to parents and the majority feel it is fair,” she said. “This pulls us more in line with the state and most importantly pulls us in line with the district and gives the same opportunity to all students. Morally, we have an obligation to be fair across the board.”


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