Research shows that exposing children to a second language at an early age stimulates the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. We know from comparisons of the rates at which children learn to speak, that no language is intrinsically more difficult than any other language. Vocabulary grows from some 50 active words by 18 months to several thousand words by age five. The peak time for learning languages is when children are young. Children who learn a language before the onset of adolescence are more likely to have native-like pronunciation. A number of experts attribute this proficiency to physiological change that occurs in the maturing brain as a child enters puberty. As with any subject, the more years a child can devote to learning a language, the more competent he or she will become.
Foreign language immersion is a well-researched educational program in which part of the school's curriculum is taught using a foreign language. Students in language immersion programs achieve high levels of foreign language proficiency as well as overall academic performance, typically, at or better than students in English only programs. According to the Center for Applied Linguistics, in 2005 there were almost 320 immersion programs in the U.S.
Immersion teachers know that new students may not understand what is being said in the beginning. Thus, teachers use a variety of techniques to convey meaning. Immersion teachers may use many more gestures, facial expressions and the use of models and concrete objects to make students feel secure, comfortable and relaxed. The teachers will readily contact parents, as necessary, so any classroom concerns can be addressed immediately.
The Chinese immersion teachers in all grade levels will make a conscious effort to explain thoroughly the homework assignments. In addition, each Chinese immersion teacher will be teamed with his/her counterpart who teaches the English portion of the program. Whenever necessary, depending on the complexity of the material, both teachers will send home an explanation of the homework and review the completed homework.
Learning two languages has not been shown to confuse children or hinder their learning. Extensive research studies have found cognitive and academic benefits of early bilingualism. The acquisition of language may not be consistent in both languages at the same time. By the end of the elementary grades, immersion students perform the same or better than students in English-only programs on standardized tests of measured English skills. The K-8th grade Chinese immersion program at Alice Fong Yu Alternative School outperformed their district results at all grade levels for English and Math.
Created by the Education Reform Act of 1993, Massachusetts charter schools are public schools, designed to foster innovation and provide educational choices to parents and students. Commonwealth charter schools like PVCICS are overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
PVCICS is a Massachusetts public charter school and complies with state and federal laws regarding special education and English Language Learners.
PVCICS has licensed staff and procedures to support the needs of diverse learners, including those with special education and English language learner needs. PVCICS has a special education administrator, special education teachers and a licensed “English as a second language” teacher. PVCICS has small and large resource rooms for students who need special instruction or services. The school provides small group instruction for students who need additional academic support in core academic subjects including Chinese. Parents with questions about services for special education and English Language Learner students are encouraged to call the Director of Student Services for the latest information about services at the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School.
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PVCICS provides instructional supports for “sub-proficient” general education students. The term “sub-proficient” is used by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to describe students who have not scored proficient on the state mandated annual test (MCAS) which is given to all students in 3rd grade and higher.
PVCICS has implemented the Response to Intervention (RtI) process that uses a multi-tiered approach for delivering academic, social and/or emotional support to students. RtI is a regular education initiative of differentiated instruction to improve learning outcomes for students without a diagnosed disability. PVCICS’s RtI team of teachers, instructional support staff and specialists, met monthly to consistently monitor information showing how a student is progressing and make recommendations on the use of specific teaching techniques, the collection of data, and additional support.
If the student continues to have difficulties, the student is referred to the Student Support Team (“SST”) where either it is recommended that additional interventions be implemented or a referral for special education be made. The school has a certified special education coordinator who advises the Student Support Team (SST), coordinates in-house and contracted special education services, and provides professional development regarding special education for staff. Similarly, PVCICS has established procedures to identify, support and evaluate students who are English language learners.
PVCICS offers free and reduced cost lunches to students who meet eligibility requirements. Eligible students are offered social, emotional and financial support on other services, like busing. PVCICS has a licensed reading specialist supported in part through Title I funds.