One of the many assets of the Central Valley is the diversity of its population. Its citizens come from a variety of cultures and speak many languages. At the Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy, bilingual education has not only risen in popularity — but it's also raised test scores.
“Originally, the bilingual program was not well supported by the general public,” said Osborn principal Ed Ewing. “Part of the reason was because there were many ineffective programs around different districts that were not doing well with kids. In some programs, the teachers would go back and forth between both languages. This method didn’t force a student to learn a language because all they have to do is wait until the teacher switches to their dominant language. In our program, we have separation of language. In other words, when it’s Spanish time, its Spanish time. If Spanish isn’t the student’s primary language, the teacher uses visuals and gestures to help make meaning of the language.”
Osborn’s bilingual program was placed in jeopardy when Proposition 227 was passed by the state in 1998. Under the legislation, bilingual classes were eliminated in most California public schools.
“There was a huge turnaround by the parents through the past years because they see the effectiveness and success of the program and the positive impact it does for our students,” said Ewing. “In fact, our program is so popular that we have hundreds of students on the waiting list to be enrolled to this school."
Osborn offers students the unique opportunity of learning to communicate in two languages: Spanish and English. Osborn’s goal is to educate students who are bilingual and biliterate and enable them to meet the challenges of a global society. Students acquire the skills to read, write, speak and listen, and think in two languages. The development of fluency and literacy in two languages requires several years of continuous participation in the Immersion program. Enrollment occurs primarily at the kindergarten level. At Osborn Spanish is used as the language of instruction throughout the primary grades. English is introduced gradually into the curriculum.
Last year, Osborn had the largest increase in the district on state testing scores .
“When I entered as principal six years ago, we were still a neighborhood school and our school was scoring under the 700 percentile in state testing. This year we scored 799 in our Academic Performance Index for the state,” said Ewing. "We have improved a significant amount and will continue to work hard to climb on the ladder.”
Osborn was also honored as an outstanding program at the 32nd annual Golden Bell Awards program of the California School Board Association.
“We are laying a foundation for our students for them to be successful when they pursue higher forms of education beyond the elementary level,” said Ewing. “We are giving them a gift by being bilingual and biliterate, and whether or not they decide to pursue higher education they will carry it on for the rest of their lives.”
This year, three former Osborn students received the Seal of Multilingual Proficiency, an award given by the Stanislaus County Office of Education of attained proficiency in English and at least one other world language by high school graduation. Appearing on the transcript of the graduating senior, the Seal of Multilingual Proficiency is a verification of linguistic proficiencies.
“This seal recognizes students who have acquired proficiency in English and additional languages,” said Ewing. “This seal will benefit students in many ways, including their marketable skill. Osborn is leading our students in the path toward success and it is all towards the bilingual program we have in place.”