As a parent of someone who got her academic start in the wonderful French immersion program in Prince George’s County Public Schools, I was saddened to read in the July 4 Metro article “Language tracks in schools stir anxieties” about the racial divide in the District around dual-language/language immersion programs. Prince George’s County has long had language immersion programs. Participation is diverse. Many of the strongest advocates for expanding language immersion programs have been African American parents, perhaps because students in the early French immersion programs outperformed those in most other county schools and continue to do so; these schools have a proven track record of excellence in Prince George’s County.
Acquisition of a second language is not the only benefit of such programs. Students in Prince George’s County’s French immersion programs outperform their peers in science, math and English language arts. Because of the demonstrated academic success of students in the program, along with parent and student advocacy, Prince George’s County has expanded the French immersion program and added Spanish immersion, dual-language programs and a Chinese program. Perhaps the D.C. school system can reach out to its neighbor to better understand the advantages and promise of second-language programs.
As one parent in the article said, these programs are not for everyone, but this dialogue should be about providing better and more educational options (and maybe a greater variety of language options). It should focus on increasing academic performance and opening future doors for our children.
Diane Wray-Cahen, University Park