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World Language Learning Boosts Student Achievement

World Language Learning Boosts Student Achievement

A superintendent's initiative to start a world language program beginning in elementary school has helped students consistently score higher than the district and state test averages.

Superintendent Debbi C. Burdick began the world language program in 2008 and integrated learning Spanish and Chinese languages into the elementary school level in her district of Cave Creek USD in Arizona.

Years later, students "in the various world language programs have excelled above and beyond district and state averages, pushing the district up in rankings to fifth out of 227 districts in Arizona," according to an article on

Burdick says she began brainstorming a world language program in 2006, when the governing board she was working with "wanted every child to have access to learning other languages." A Spanish immersion program pilot thus began in 2006.

When Burdick became superintendent in 2008, a community member got Burdick in touch with a Chinese university whose graduates taught English to children of English-speaking professors, and a partnership was forged.

"Several of us went to China to interview candidates and form a partnership with the university where they would send their employees to us for a year to teach Chinese to our students. Cave Creek USD parents housed the Chinese instructors while Sias University paid their salaries," according to the article.

With this move, Burdick got all elementary schools access to languages.

The results speak for themselves. As the language immersion students get older, they consistently score better than state and district averages on tests.

On the 2014 Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards, the math results showed "[f]ourth-graders scored 100 percent versus 82 and 61, respectively, while seventh-graders’ percentage results were 97, 82 (district) and 74 (state). For reading, eighth grade Spanish immersion students received 96 percent versus 85 and 70, respectively. Writing results showed 97 percent for sixth grade immersion students."

Burdick says students in her district Skype with sister schools in other countries and have even visited them. She says it's all part of her initiative to educate her students about the world outside of Arizona, and it's working.

Read the full story here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

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