Local school tries for Hmong dual immersion

Thursday, March 24, 2011

By fall, Sacramento's Susan B. Anthony Elementary School may be the first public school in California and the second nationwide to implement a Hmong/English dual-language program.

The only thing that may prevent such a program from taking off is a lack of interest among parents and students, so Lee Yang, Sacramento City Unified School District administrator of elementary curriculum and professional development has reached out to Hmong elders and clan leaders about appealing to the Hmong community.

“We can have the program, but if there are no kids, you can't really have it, right?” Yang said. “We are expecting there will be interested folks out there because this is not only designed for Hmong. This is a Hmong language immersion program for all kids, regardless of what language you speak.”

Currently, Susan B. Anthony has a total of 269 students, and of those, 151 speak Hmong, and Yang said he plans on visiting the only other school in the United States that has such a program: Jackson Preparatory Magnet School in St. Paul, Minn.

Like the program in St. Paul, this program at Susan B. Anthony is set to begin with one kindergarten and one first grade classroom. This will continue to expand through high school by adding one class per grade every year. This program will follow the existing Spanish and Chinese immersion programs currently in the Sacramento schools.

At the kindergarten level, the 90-10 percent model, where instruction is provided in the Hmong language 90 percent of the time and the remaining 10 percent is done in English, will be implemented. Progressively each year, instruction in Hmong will reduce by 10 percent, and instruction in English will increase by 10 percent. The transition to 100 percent English will occur between fifth and sixth grades.

Yang said the staff members at the school are already qualified with BCLAD teaching credentials with an emphasis in Hmong Der and Mong Leng.

“But we're at the very early stage at this time,” he said. “At this point, we are in the process of exploring exactly how it will look.” He added that students who wish not to participate in the dual-language program won't have to, since traditional classes will also be offered.

This time last year, the school district began putting together the Chinese immersion program at Elder Creek Elementary. Going into its second year, Yang said he is thrilled to have 13 students on the waiting list already. Coupled with the excitement of that program and the success of the Spanish dual-language immersion program at Cesar E. Chavez Intermediate School (See stats here), Yang said he is excited about the Hmong program also because it's new territory.

By the fourth and fifth grade levels, Yang said that students who participated in the Chinese Immersion Program in San Francisco had very successful rates of proficiency on the standardized tests, and by second grade, they tested equally to their English-only counterparts. While students who are in Spanish dual-language immersion programs are tested in Spanish, Yang said tests are not offered in Chinese or Hmong.

To engage the community, the district has planned two informational meetings. The first will take place on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for the Susan B. Anthony School community, and on Thursday, March 31, at 6 p.m., the district will convene a meeting for the larger Sacramento County community. The school is located at 7864 Detroit Blvd.

Monica Stark can be reached at monica.stark@sacramentopress.com


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