Each SLLIS elementary school conducts its entire educational program in the immersion language. Research has shown that beginning language learning before the age of ten has resulted in improved accuracy and pronunciation. Studies across the United States and Canada have also demonstrated that young foreign language learners show greater achievement in basic skills and have greater improvement in standardized test scores compared to students who are not learning another language . In addition, language learning improves not only the understanding of the students' native language, but enhances listening skills, improves memory and gives a new perspective and understanding of language itself.
A unique benefit of the language immersion elementary programs is that it provides a level playing field for all kindergarten students, regardless of economic disposition or parents' native language. Language immersion students of all socio-economic backgrounds outperform their monolingual peers.
Although language immersion has long been considered a privilege for affluent families, more and more public schools are demonstrating the positive impact of language immersion education for all students. For example, Louisiana and Hawaii, the two states with the highest number of language immersion programs, have the highest frequency of low-income students enrolled in their language immersion programs. In Louisiana, research has demonstrated the positive gains of low-income students enrolled in elementary language immersion programs. Regardless of race, gender or academic level, Third and Fifth Grade students enrolled in elementary language programs outperformed their English-only peers on the English section of the Louisiana Basic Skills Test. The students in this study were enrolled in a variety of FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary School) and partial immersion programs ranging from one hour of foreign language instruction weekly to fifty percent of all instruction in the foreign language.
Also, recent data from Lafayette Parish Public Schools demonstrates that Third Grade students in partial immersion programs consistently out-performed their English-only peers in the same elementary school and in all of the elementary schools in the parish on the Reading Comparison of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills .
For more information on immersion programs in public schools please read:
("What Parents Want to Know About Foreign Language Immersion Programs" [http://www.sllis.org/docs/parents.pdf])
Tara W. Fortune, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, University of Minnesota, Diane J. Tedick, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Minnesota