Immersion Programs in Berkeley Public Schools
Archived Q&A and Reviews
I would love to hear about experiences of anyone who has transitioned their English-language-only child into LeConte or any other language immersion program in 3rd or 4th grade. Was it very difficult? How did you do it? Was it traumatic? Did your kid learn the language? Did you do some kind of immersion program over the summer to get them ready? Thanks! Anon
Both of my children are in the TWI program in Berkeley and I'm positive the district does not transfer English only students into the program in 3rd or 4th grade (even if you are on the waiting list and want them too!). The latest I've seen is 1st grade and even that hasn't always worked out for the children who've done it. Anon
Is this even allowed? Are kids even accepted new to the school when in older grades? I'm assuming no, for sure, if the child is English-only - can someone confirm this? I'd be curious if it is allowed if the child was already attending an equivalent bilingual or immersion program somewhere else, however - does anyone have any information on this? Thanks!
I recently got word that plans for moving the TWI program in Berkeley to a single site are quickly becoming a reality. The superintendant recommended that all students who start Kindergarten in the Fall this year will transfer to the new site, LeConte, at the beginning of next year (1st grade). I'm wondering if anyone has any more information about this. Will families have the option of sticking with their original school? Will classes move as a whole, or will the incoming 1st graders have to make all new friends in a new location? What about Kindergarteners that have older siblings? Will they be sent to separate schools? Any information is greatly appreciated:) WorriedMama
Worried Mama, I'm pasting below an excerpt from an email that I received today; it's from a group of parents involved in TWI, not from the district. You can attend either of the TWI forums mentioned in the email for official information. excerpt below:
Based on feedback from members of the community, the Superintendent intends to revise the proposed timeline for TWI consolidation, and he will discuss this at the community forums on May 29, 6pm at LeConte and June 4, 6pm at Rosa Parks. (Please consider attending these forums to provide further feedback to the Superintendent.) Our understanding is that the Superintendent's proposal that will be presented to the Board on June 6th will recommend a year-by-year implementation, starting with kindergarten only the first year. Under this revised proposal, incoming kindergarten students at Rosa Parks and Cragmont in 2012 will not be forced to change schools after their first year.
This message was forwarded by our principal to the Berkeley Arts Magnet e-tree regarding BUSD meetings about the two-way immersion transition plans:
BUSD Two Way Immersion (TWI) Consolidation Forums Superintendent Huyett invites the community to join him at two community forums outlining the possible Two Way Immersion (TWI) consolidation at one instead of three elementary schools. Tuesday, May 29 at LeConte Elementary School 6:00 Cb 7:30 p.m. 2241 Russell Street (West of Telegraph) Monday, June 4 at Rosa Parks Elementary School 6:00 Cb 7:30 p.m. 920 Allston Way (West of San Pablo) The meetings are intended to allow the community to provide input regarding the consolidation and the issues related to implementation, e.g., transportation, sibling preference, staffing, time line for implementation, and impact on all sites. All school sites are encouraged to participate in these forums. Childcare and Spanish interpretation will be provided. Video of the Superintendent's TWI Recommendations to the Board on May 9, 2012: https://vimeo.com/42169154 The Board Document: TWI Recommendations from Supt 05-09-12 English: http://www.berkeleyschools.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/TWI-Recommendation TWI Recommendations from Supt 05-09-12 espaC1ol: http://www.berkeleyschools.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/TWI-Recommendation
I saw this posting just as I was about to post a question on the same topic!
It seems the superintendent has backed away from the proposal to make the 1st grade TWI students all move to LeConte in 2013, so they can stay at their own school. However, siblings that were both in the TWI program would need to be at two separate schools (current students would stay at their current school and incoming kinders in 2013 would be at LeConte). For that matter, current LeConte families who are not in TWI would also be forced to be at two separate schools as the younger siblings would not be welcome.
But is anyone else concerned about the segregation aspect of this proposal? Aren't we creating a separate school for all the native Spanish speaking children to attend? I thought Berkeley held our diversity and full integration of that diversity as one of our core principles. This feels wrong. I am increasingly worried as this moves forward
My daughter is starting Kindergarten next Fall and we are looking at BUSD's two-way immersion program. She is doing very well in her English-speaking Preschool and has strong Kindergarten readiness skills. That said, she has a low frustration tolerance at home, and does not yet speak Spanish. Her father is of Chilean descent and I speak fluent Spanish. We would love for her to speak Spanish so that she could better understand her culture and communicate with Chilean relatives. I am worried that she will not transition well to the immersion experience (not the most adaptable) and that we would have to switch out of the program. Can other parents share their experiences with the program and with transitioning their children? Especially those with children with more ''spirited'' or ''difficult'' temperaments? Thanks! Potential TWI Parent
I have two children at LeConte Elementary School in Berkeley and have had nothing but excellent teachers for my children so far. The community at LeConte is so close knit and supportive and it is made up of both TWI and English Only students and parents. I highly recomend you visit LeConte and spend some time in both the TWI and English classrooms. Having the TWI program at our school has helped create an environment of global education, all children are exposed to bilingualism regardless of the program they are in. At a school like LeConte you can compare both programs easily and get a sense of what will work best for your family and your child. We have Celebrate LeConte Assemblies the last Friday of every month, also, we have a wonderful Latino Heritage Celebration in December. LeConte Mom
We have a child who will be entering kindergarten next fall, and live in Berkeley's southeastern zone. We would love for our (non-Spanish speaking) child to be admitted to any one of the three Spanish two way immersion programs, and know that we may not get into any of them given the demand. So, two questions. Should one always list the immersion program school in one's own zone on the form to maximize chances of getting admitted? And, if we are willing to drive our kid to school across town, is there, in fact, any chance of being admitted into an immersion program out of one's zone? Has this ever happened to anyone on this list? I know that one can list the other two zones' immersion programs on the form one submits, but I don't understand how, if demand within the zone exceeds spaces as seems always to be the case, a child from another zone would be admitted. Thanks so much for any guidance! mom
Our cleaning lady's daughter goes to Cragmont Spanish immersion (Central zone) and they live in the flats (North zone). I assume she got in because they had very few native Spanish speakers in the Central zone. Apparently immersion programs are ideally kept to 1/3 native speakers with little English, 1/3 bilingual, and 1/3 with very little of the immersion language. So you might try to get into the zone/school that would have the fewest non-Spanish speakers. Although I think your chances of this are slim (sorry!). No Expert
Though our son tested bilingual through Berkeley Ed Dept, he didn't get into any immersion kindergartens on first round. We had also applied to Escuela Bilingue Internacional and are thrilled with the teachers and robust program, which is inquiry and curiosity based with warm, responsive teachers and very little rote learning. A third of kids have some scholarship. It starts in preschool and will go up to 8th grade, is located on Alcatraz near college, with a new campus in Emeryville. - glad parent
I've been told by BUSD that our son is 3rd on the waitlist for the BUSD Dual Immersion program at the school our daughter currently attends. I'm just wondering what other people's experiences have been on the Dual Immersion waitlist (even though I know that there are SO many different variables that affect placement each year). What I'd really like to know is: when did your child get in, if you weren't in the first group accepted by lottery? :) Thanks! --Hope our son can learn Spanish like his sister is!
My son got in TWI right off the bat. Our daughter was 13th on the wait list and she got in at Thanksgiving in 1st grade. I bet your 2nd kid gets in. Good luck. Feliz
My child was #12 on the waiting list at our school and was offered a spot in late February. I would think at #3 you would have a good chance -- there will probably be a bit of movement before/and right after the beginning of the year. Good luck! --Never thought we'd get in
We are new to the area and were assigned BUSD Spanish immersion for our incoming Kindergardener. We are absolutely thrilled with the language immersion concept--for all of its benefits, from social to cognitive. In fact, we suddenly turned down a spot at a good private school to do the immersion when we found out. Now we have done a little more looking at the BUSD situation (we had assumed we were doing private until we got the immersion news) and are getting confused. I am starting to feel like I'm gambling a bit with my child's education (yes, of course that can be true at private). We are not assigned to one of the high test scoring BUSD schools. Can the benefits of the immersion program help transcend the low score environment? Can we get feedback from current parents on the program, particularly from an academic perspective? How are the academics? Can this be a good college track program (even though the test scores at the school are so bad)? What about their cohorts? I understand the program has a waiting list--is this more for social reasons or academic ones or both? Are there some parents of kids who have moved through the program from start to finish who can comment? How did the program over time effect your kids high school/college/academic life? D
I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about a school from their test scores - that has more to do with the demographics of the student body (which does vary at the BUSD elementary schools despite all their best efforts) than with the quality of the teachers or programs. Our kids are at LeConte, where test scores are lower than at many other schools, but all the immersion teachers are excellent, and we're very happy with both the academic and social offerings at the school. My kindergarten daughter is learning to read, write, and count in two languages at once, and she is making weekly gains and so proud. In my opinion, you can't help but boost your childs learning by teaching them another language! Happy Immersion Parent
My two boys are in 2nd and 4th in the TWI at LeConte, a ''low-scoring'' BUSD school (though several BUSD elementaries are in ''program improvement'' and are really very good.) I am very pleased with the quality of the academics and the immersion program at LeConte (and perhaps more important the warm and thriving community feeling at LeConte.)
I can say that learning two languages slightly slowed my boys' reading fluency and spelling in English and thus has affected their scores, but the benefits of the dual language acquisition are clear even to me now - they make word connections/definitions easier than otherwise, get an ''ear'' and a better accent for the language, and we are able to do international travel to Latin America that is much more fulfilling for them at an early age. I am also aware of research that the more standard ''test-driven'' academic benefits of dual language appear later - middle school and life long.
I am happy to talk about specifics of our experience in the LeConte program if that is the school you are looking at. margi
Perhaps you are already aware of this, but looking at a school's aggregate test scores isn't a good predictor of how your child will do. Look at the sub groups within the schools--economic status, parent education level (I believe, though I'm not certain, that parent education level is considered the best predictor of children's academic success). My kid's Berkeley Public school has pretty good scores overall. But when you break it down by parent education level, the numbers look different. In the overall student body, 70% of kids in the 4th grade are reading at ''proficient and above.'' But for kids whose parents have a college education, that level is 88%. For kids of parents with advanced degrees, that number is 92%!
From the point of view of self interest, I find the numbers comforting. My kid has been and will be fine in the BUSD. As a citizen, of course, I find the numbers depressing and distressing. And I'm glad there are serious efforts underway to close the achievement gap. (No simple matter.)
Of course you know lots of people would take the spot your child has in an instant. Parent Satisfied w/BUSD Academics ( who also recognizes the imperfections)
My son will be going into Kindergarten next year, and I am considering applying for the two-way immersion program. I think it'd be a great experience, but am concerned that it might not be a good fit for my son. He's very smart, but he tends to be emotional, have short attention span, and get frustrated. I'm worried that he might not be able to hack it in TWI. Can anyone comment on this? Anyone out there who had to pull their children out of TWI? I understand the application process, and admission lottery; I know he might not get it. But I'm wondering whether to apply at all. Alex P
You can always apply and turn it down. Our child is in TWI at LeConte and we are very happy with the program, the teachers and the school. It might be that the teachers are more tuned to the problems you're anticipating, because they are teaching in Spanish to 10 kids who don't speak that language initially, which I can imagine requires special care from the teachers. Ola, TWI
Berkeley School District, LeConte Elementary Two Way Immersion (Spanish and English)
If you are even remotely interested in this program for your upcoming Kindergartener (2008), apply during the lottery. The district has said that if demand exists for the program, and overall demand for Kindergarten is there as well, the district will again enroll for two immersion classes at LeConte. That means room for 40 kids. Forty kids! There will be room for your kindergartener, despite what you may have heard, so apply. LeConte Booster
I would like to enroll my child in the Spanish immersion program at BUSD next year. However, I discovered that you fill out a separate application form for the Spanish immersion (all zones) rather than applying for a specific school in your own zone. What happens if one's child gets into a Spanish immersion school in another zone miles away from where you live? If my child doesn't get into the Spanish immersion in our zone I would probably prefer them to go to a non-Spanish Immersion school in our zone rather than them traveling or driving across town. Can you enroll for both Spanish Immersion and Non-Spanish immersion preferences and if you don't get the Spanish Immersion in your own zone then pick the non-Spanish Immersion school in your zone instead? This is not all that clear on the BUSD website. I'd like to hear from parents who have been through this process. Also those who had experiences like getting into Spanish Immersion in another zone, or not getting into a Spanish immersion program. What did you do then? Wishing for a bilingual child
The application for Spanish Immersion or non for BUSD schools all takes place at the same time(I think the deadline is in Feb to submit preferences.) Basically if you prefer the Immersion you fill out an additional form listing in order your preferences on Immersion schools. BUSD will run this lottery first---if you select only the school in your zone and DO NOT get your choice, then the system will defer to the regular preference sheet you fill out for non-Immersion choices within or outside of your zone. Bottom line is that you can choose only the school for immersion in zone and if not fulfilled you will enter the normal lottery like everyone else. Keep in mind that you may still get an assignment in your zone but further from your house than you may think ideal---this is how the system is designed, in order to keep all the schools diverse. Hope that helps. awr
Hello, we were in the same situation last year. It is possible to apply *only* to the Spanish emersion program in your zone. That is what we did. Then we also filled out the preference form for non-Spanish emersion schools in our zone. Well, we didn't get it, so we ended up at a non-Spanish emersion school.
So yes, it is easy to apply for just one. You only check th e one you want on the Spanish emersion application form so you won't be in the lottery for the other schools. Then you do the other application as well. If you have any questions about how these things work, you can call Francisco at BUSD and he will explain it all. anon
The Dual Immersion lottery is done first. Those people who get in are not put into the English lottery and receive acceptance letters to the Dual Immersion program. If you know that you only want the Dual Immersion school in your zone, you should leave the other two choices on the preference form blank. Then if you don't get your first choice (ie; your in-zone dual immersion school), you will still have an equal chance as anyone else in your zone to get into your first choice in-zone English school, as that lottery is drawn next. You may also wait-list for the dual immersion program you desire.
If Dual Immersion is your priority, you should rank all three schools on the Dual Immersion lottery form. You might be able to get into a non-zone dual immersion school, depending on that year's demand. If you don't, then you will be placed in the English lottery and have an equal chance as anyone else in your zone to get into your choice of English school in your zone.
In any case, people who want Dual Immersion must file both Dual Immersion Parent Request forms and Regular program request forms, so that your priorities will be taken into account in the lottery.
Contact the BUSD admissions office if you need further clarification. hp
You said you looked at the info on line and it was not clear. If you haven't already, you could call Francisco Martinez at the Admission and Attendance office at BUSD for clarification. He and his staff are ususally quite helppful and patient with providing information. Their phone number is (510) 644-6504 - (8 am - noon and 1 pm - ?). You could gently and respectfully inform them that,in your opinion, their web page could use clarification. If you do find out additional info, please post it back here on the site so others may learn. BUSD Mom
We would really like our non-Spanish speaking daughter to be enrolled in a Spanish immersion program for elementary school. While we are planning to apply to the new Spanish bilingual school in Rockridge, I feel pretty strongly about supporting the public schools. I know it is extremely hard to get into the Berkeley immersion programs if you are an English speaking family. Is there anything we should be doing to improve our chances (like attending a Spanish Language school in another country, etc.)? Or is it strictly lottery? She still has one more year before Kindergarten so we have some time. anon
It is lottery. Ten english speaking kids and ten spanish speaking kids. I don't know how they figure the other factor (like what census block youlive in) into the dual immersion selection process.
Taking Spanish classes before kindergarten will not give your child any advantage for kindergarten placement. Spanish speaking families probably have a better chance to get their kids in than do english speaking families, as more english- speaking families apply. Your best chance is to apply to the ''dual immersion'' program in the school in your zone. If you do not get in, ask to be put on the waiting list. Some kids who are in English speaking classes do get in in later years. These are likely to be kids who have some Spanish language capabilities from home or through afterschool or other classes. These transfers occur as spaces become available when kids move away or transfer out of dual immersion and into english speaking classes. At Cragmont it MAY be about one ''spot'' a year that opens up. anon.
There's nothing you can really do to ''improve'' your chances of securing a spot for your child in the Spanish Immersion program. According to BUSD, it is a lottery. I assume you were kidding about having her attend a Spanish language school in another country before kindergarten, but I will say that if your daughter does not get a spot in the Dual Immersion program and is waitlisted, she can learn Spanish after school, so if a spot in the Immersion class does open up and she gets it, she is not too far behind the rest of the class. BUSD Dual Immersion mom
We have been raising our daughter in a Spanish-speaking household and are eager to continue with her Spanish once she starts kindergarden. We have just moved to the area and are in the process of figuring out our school options. I know some of the Berkeley Public Schools have Spanish immersion programs, and would love any information on which schools have programs, and any positive or negative feedback on these schools. I have also heard that the waitlists are very, very long for these programs, and was wondering if there is any advice on when/how to sign up in order to make sure we don't miss the boat! Many thanks
Our daughter is in the Dual Immersion program at LeConte. It's FABULOUS. The school, principal, teachers and classmate are all wonderful. It's my understanding that the program seeks a balance of native English and native Spanish speakers -- bilingual kids are neither and not necessarily who the program is designed to reach. You should go to the district website and learn about the programs and schools. It's at http://www.berkeley.k12.ca.us/ Go meet with the director of admissions, Francisco Martinez. He'll fill you in.
My daughter is in the first grade at LeConte. Their TWI (two way immersion) program is excellent. My daughter is doing very well and loves her classmates and teacher. There is a ton of support for the TWI classes, the teachers are very prepared. There is also a strong community at LeConte and an active PTA that strives to connect the English and Spanish speaking communities. The structure of the program (each class stays together through the fifth grade) creates a strong community among the kids and parents also. So far I have been very happy with the program and so have parents of older kids. All of the kids understand Spanish and are speaking as well after only 1 year. There will be a Kindergarten information night at LeConte in January or February and a district wide kindergarten fair which is being held at LeConte this year in January. You can also call the school and make an appointment to do a school tour, sit in on a class, speak with other parents. Liz
Our son is in a spanish language preschool and we are looking into the immersion programs in the Berkeley Public Schools for next year. We live in the Central zone so Cragmont would be the immersion program for us. We are wondering if it is difficult to get into these programs and if there is flexibility in switching zones to attend different immersion programs. Any advice would be enlightening, thanks. Carly
Getting into any of the Spanish immersion programs (if you are not a native Spanish, English deficient speaker) in the BUSD is hard. At Cragmont in may(?) be even harder because it is such a great school and highly requested. I think, however, but am not sure, that if you apply to a school OUTSIDE of your zone, you will have less chance of getting into it, because there is one less priority given to new out of zone children then to new in zone children. The parent access office has good info on this too, as you can find on the annual BUSD Fairs. I believe their are 50 families for each of the ten spots in the immersion, coming from the English speaking side. My advise is: try to get into cragmont, if you can, and if you do not get into the Spanish immersion right away, go on the wait list, and try to keep up those Spanish skills. My son made it in towards the end of first grade and is doing great now (the second grade teacher, Mr. Anderson, is just BRILLIANT), and my daughter didn't make it in until much, much later but did a good transition since we had notice and all summer to prepare; I kept in contact with a lot of the families that were in the immersion, and so heard about a family moving at the end of the school year, so my daughter could take that spot next September. Good luck! Spanophile
Anybody have experience with Spanish immersion programs, especially in Berkeley elementary schools? Kim
I'm considering enrolling my twin boys in one of the Spanish immersion kindergarden classes in the Berkeley public schools next year. Has anybody had experience with any of these programs, or with any other immersion programs? My kids are native English speakers.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
We're English speakers, and my daughter was enrolled last year in a joint Spanish-English immersion program in Cambridge, MA. (Students are half Spanish speakers and half English; half of each week is spent speaking each language.) We chose it because we figured that there was nothing my daughter really needed to learn in kindergarten, so she might as well learn a language. We would have continued this year (it is a K-8 program), but we moved out of state.
I was pleased with the program overall, but the one disappointment I hadn't anticipated was the relatively low level of instruction. Since the teachers' time was so focused on helping students with language problems, there wasn't much time to provide the sort of enrichment that kids who learn more quickly need. My daughter complained regularly of being bored in the English room, although she loved the Spanish room. Overall, I think the value of learning a second language early outweighed the boredom (I was amazed at how quickly she learned to pronounce Spanish words perfectly, with no accent!), but you'll have to make your own decision after learning how the Berkeley program works and considering your own child's needs. Beth 1997
I have some indirect experience with Spanish Immersion from my stepdaughter. She was in a program from 1st through 5th grades in Davis. Her older sister had evidently gone through the program with very good results. Unfortunately, it wasn't as good for Victoria, as far as I can tell. We only came in at the very tail end (during the custody battle), so I saw very little of it directly. However, we had some cleaning up to do in her education after she was no longer in the program (some of which we would have had to do anyway, but some I think was related to the program).
The specific example that comes to mind: She was having trouble with Math. I couldn't understand why this brilliant child didn't get what seemed to me to be basic concepts. She didn't seem to know what I was saying half the time, as we worked through her homework. One day, it finally hit me. She didn't understand my words (like "common denominator"), because *SHE HAD LEARNED THEM IN SPANISH*! She literally had never heard the words I was using before. Once we understood this, it was much better.
So my caveat is this: Make sure that the program is appropriate for each child. It can be a great environment, and very stimulating for both native English and native Spanish speakers. (Victoria's Spanish is much better than mine!). But check often to make sure the child is learning everything they need to know to be successful once they leave the program. Dawn
This is in response to the query, I can't remember whose, concerning the Spanish immersion program at the Columbus Elementary School in Berkeley.
My son is a kindergartener in the program, a native English speaker, and is thriving in the program. As in most school settings, the individual teacher makes or breaks the school year for the children, and we are fortunate to have a remarkable teacher, Greg Martin. The basic idea of the immersion program is a six year sequence of classes (K-5) in which the proportion of the curriculum taught in the minority language (in this case Spanish) decreases each year, starting at 100% in kindergarten and reducing by 10% each year, to 50/50% English/Spanish in 5th grade. By 5th grade all kids, both native English and native Spanish speakers, are bilingual and biliterate. There is a lot of literature on the successes and issues of this kind of program, and anyone interested in the technical side should contact Alison Jones, the bilingual coordinator at Columbus.
In brief, the system was begun in Quebec to support the bilingual mandate for French and English. There are several hundred schools in the US that have adopted the method, and overall it's been a rousing success. One of them, Fiesta Gardens, is in San Mateo. Several major points about the immersion program: 1) the native Spanish speakers become literate in Spanish in a formal way that permits them to capitalize on their family's language background as a positive attribute, instead of a liability, and they learn English in the same way. 2) The immersion program enhances the social integration of the English and Spanish speaking kids by giving status to the ability to speak Spanish. 3) And the English speaking kids learn a foreign language when they're still young enough to do so easily, and without developing an American accent. There's absolutely no evidence that being in classes conducted in Spanish retards, inhibits, slows down or in any way negatively affects the progress of English speakers in learning to read English or improve English speaking skills. I can vouch that my son remains very articulate in English, and shows a lot of interest and progress in reading English words and books.