Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Spanish Immersion Popular in Minnesota Schools

Dual language immersion and bilingual programs are not limited to border states with large Latino populations such as Texas and California. They are gradually growing in number in states with much smaller Latino populations, such as Minnesota.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, in 2011-12 there were 56,751 Latino students enrolled in grades K-12 — or about 7 percent of the state’s public school students.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that demographic changes in some communities are contributing toward the trend. In Hopkins, Minn., the number of Latino students has doubled in the last decade. Districts with growing diversity such as Hopkins, Richfield and Roseville are starting two-way dual language programs that serve both English language learners  dominant in Spanish and English proficient students.

But they also are growing because of demand among parents and a desire to equip students with the skills to compete in a global society.

The newspaper reports that of about 85 immersion programs in the state more than half are Spanish-language, and most are based in elementary schools. The Minnesota Advocates for Immersion Networks keeps a list of language immersion programs in the state. The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) at the University of Minnesota conducts research on programs. It is one of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Language Resource Centers.

Parent Nelson Peralta, an immigration attorney who is bilingual, said the Minneapolis immersion program helps his sixth-grade son.

“It would be great to see these options across the state,” Peralta told the Star Tribune. “It would make Minnesota stronger.”

When writing about dual language programs, consider thinking outside the box. Explore dual languages programs in suburbs and smaller cities, and not only in the inner city. You may be surprised to discover which schools and school districts are more likely to embrace such programs.


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