PRINCETON, N.J., Feb. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Following the introduction of dual-language immersion programs in a growing number of public schools around the country, New Jersey is opening its first public school with dual-language immersion in Chinese and English in September, 2011. The Princeton International Academy Charter School (PIACS) was approved by the New Jersey Department of Education in January, 2010 and will be the third public school in New Jersey offering dual-language immersion. In September 2010, a Spanish/English immersion school opened in Hoboken and a Hebrew/English immersion school opened in East Brunswick.
PIACS and other public schools (traditional as well as charter) with dual-language immersion programs are part of an important wave of innovation in US education which has developed in the past five years. Traditionally, language immersion programs were reserved for private schools or tailored to students from a specific ethnic group for whom English is a second language. However, since the launch of the National Strategic Language Initiative (NSLI) in 2006, the federal government has been advocating and underwriting a change in perspective. “For the United States to get to where it needs to be will require a national commitment to strengthening America’s foreign language proficiency,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said at a Foreign Language Summit held in December. “A significant cultural change needs to occur. And that requires a transformation in attitude from everyone involved.” Combined with greater awareness of the economic need for global competency in the 21st Century, the increased support for foreign language fluency at the national level is motivating many communities around the country to open K-12 dual-language immersion programs, primarily Spanish/English or Chinese/English, in the public school system. The goal of these programs is to produce students who are better prepared to collaborate and compete in a globalized economy.
One of the first public schools to offer Chinese/English immersion on the East coast is the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (PVCICS), which opened in 2007 outside of Amherst, MA. In 2010, the third-graders from PVCICS achieved the highest assessment in the statewide Math and English Language Arts tests (MCAS). Since the PVCICS students receive the majority of their instruction, including Math, in Chinese, these results surprised some observers. However, many national leaders, such as Representative Rush Holt (NJ-12), are well aware that these programs have benefits beyond language fluency. “According to research …children derive cognitive, academic and social benefits from the opportunity to learn another language at an early age”, wrote Rep. Holt in the “Excellence and Innovation in Language Learning Act”, legislation introduced in 2010. Based in part on the success of PVCICS, the Boston and Cambridge, MA school districts have announced plans to open public schools with dual-language Chinese/English immersion programs in 2011.
Massachusetts and New Jersey are not alone. Utah introduced the Chinese Dual Immersion program (UCDI) under the leadership of former Governor Jon Huntsman. Today, Utah has fourteen Chinese/English dual language immersion public elementary schools. According to the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL), immersion schools are defined as those in which at least half of the daily instruction in the school is taught in the targeted foreign language. Other communities which have opened or have plans to open public schools with Chinese-English dual language immersion programs in the near future include both urban and suburban districts in and around Washington, DC; Minneapolis, MN; San Francisco, CA; Chicago, IL; Portland, OR; Palo Alto, CA; Denver, CO; Madison, WI; Detroit, MI and Columbia, SC.
The Princeton International Academy Charter School (PIACS), will serve the residents of three New Jersey school districts: Princeton Regional, South Brunswick, and West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional. But it can also accept up to 10% of its enrolled students from outside these districts. The PIAC’s curriculum will use an inquiry-based framework and will follow the guidelines and practices of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) as PIACS works with the IBO towards formal accreditation as an IB World School. PIACS will also offer an innovative Math program which draws upon Chinese and Singapore Math.
The Obama administration has been very supportive of innovative, internationally-focused education programs which better develop proficiency in foreign languages. These programs are “the currency of the 21st Century”, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Likewise, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) teachers’ union supports high-quality public charters such as PIACS which “play an important role as laboratories for innovation and provide a broad array of choices for parents” according to NJEA President Barbara Keshishian.
For the 2011-2012 school year, PIACS will offer places for 170 students across three grades: Kindergarten (60 students), 1st grade (60) and 2nd grade (50). To date, over 140 places have been filled. PIACS plans to add a grade of instruction each subsequent school year.
SOURCE Princeton International Academy Charter School