My daughter is just finishing kindergarten in the Spanish immersion program at El Marino. Of this wonderful school, one of my neighbors in Culver City says that it is a “threat” to CCUSD’s other elementary schools. It's a danger, in my neighbor’s opinion, that's more harmful to our schools than the .
I respectfully disagree with my fellow Culver City resident. does not drain involved families from other elementary schools. It brings them to CCUSD in the first place.
Demographically speaking, mine is the kind of family that produces children who do well academically and score highly on standardized tests. My husband and I are educated, we value education and we are involved in our children’s schools. My daughter is well behaved (usually) and reads far above grade level in both English and Spanish.
If it were not for the quality immersion program at El Marino, however, she wouldn’t be at Farragut, Linwood Howe, El Rincon or La Ballona. We wouldn’t live in Culver City at all. I suppose you can say that immersion may also raise property values. That, however, is the topic for another blog.
But involved parents are not the only key to El Marino’s academic success (aside, of course, from the excellent teachers and staff, but you will find that throughout the district). The immersion experience itself gets lots of the credit. Studies of generations of children have consistently shown that learning two languages at a young age enhances brain function. Learning another language also helps children understand better how language works, so they do better on tests of English reading and comprehension. This instructional model is also the best way to close the achievement gap between English learners and fluent English speakers. And as if that weren’t enough, these bilingual kids will have an edge when it comes to getting a job when they grow up.
The cost of an immersion program is minimal. Kids need teachers, textbooks and materials whether they are learning in English, Spanish or Mandarin. It seems self-evident that the increased revenue from higher enrollment would more than offset the start-up costs associated with immersion.
The solution to the problem of uninvolved parents and low enrollment at CCUSD’s other elementary schools is not to weaken El Marino, but to copy it. This is what La Ballona did by starting a Spanish immersion program that now has a long waiting list. Linwood Howe, which may be down to , could start a Mandarin immersion program and draw crowds waiting to register, just as Broadway Elementary in LAUSD has done. The Broadway program is so successful that the school is adding two Mandarin immersion kindergartens in the fall.
Note to CCUSD: A real immersion program in the middle and high schools would probably raise test scores and draw more students just as it does in elementary school.
My family is dedicated to public education. I went to public schools K-12. My mother is a retired public school teacher. The best way to save our public schools is to stop pitting public schools against one another and to look at what works. It is proven that immersion works. LAUSD understands that, and is adding immersion classes left and right. CCUSD should do the same. Every child in Culver City who wants this fantastic educational option should get it.
If not, these families will go to a city where they can.