Dual-immersion program brings out-of-state educators to Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of Wyoming educators came to Utah Thursday with one mission: find out how a state like Utah teaches language immersion so well to so many students.

School administrators, teachers and parents from Wyoming visited elementary schools in Salt Lake and Weber counties to observe dual-immersion classrooms and see how they are run. In these classrooms, students spend half the day speaking only Chinese, French, Spanish or Portuguese.

In Utah, one-third of the workforce is already bilingual. As the economy becomes increasingly global, Wyoming educators know their kids will need to speak another language if they want to compete, even with their neighboring state.

“I think for states that want to be globally competitive, this is going to be an extremely important strategy that will help states move that way,” said Mark Mathern, associate superintendent of the Natrona County School District in Wyoming.

Utah’s dual-immersion programs continue to expand across the state. Gov. Gary Herbert challenged educators to have 100 dual-language programs to teach 30,000 kids by next year.

The emphasis isn’t just about economics, it’s about academics. State testing scores indicate that students involved in immersion programs perform as well if not a little better than others who don’t learn a second language.

“It’s a great program, we’ve seen six or seven outstanding schools and I would love to see something like this implemented in our school district,” said Aaron Wilson, principal at Paradise Valley Elementary school in Natrona County.

Other states have made trips to Utah to observe dual-immersion programs as well, like Montana, Idaho, and Georgia. Delegations from Kansas, Texas and New Jersey plan to visit in March.

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