Up front: January 2013

Do the write thing

Last month, I joined business and education leaders to see firsthand how global learning takes place in a local school. In the Splash language-immersion program at Sun Valley Elementary in Monroe, 90% of the core curriculum is taught in Spanish. While mastering basic courses, kids become bilingual and biliterate. It’s definitely not your father’s lectura, escritura and aritmética. But there’s more to it than that. Not only do these students learn a second language, a valuable tool they need to compete in an increasingly interconnected world, but the rigorous academic standards that are required hone their skills in their native tongue as well as other subjects. “In Splash classrooms, our teachers use a balanced literacy model,” Karl Rectanus says. “This includes equal time on reading, writing and word recognition/vocabulary. So in terms of research findings, the data is stronger for the end-of-grade reading tests starting in third grade. Since our work reinforces English language arts common-core standards, which have a particular focus on critical thinking and application in writing, we have high confidence in the teachers’ reports about increased writing ability.”

Rectanus is director of partnerships for Chapel Hill-based VIF International Education, part of The Center for International Education Inc., which creates global-learning programs and coordinates teacher-exchange programs. More than half the language-immersion programs in the state use VIF Splash. Results from 2011 end-of-grade exams showed their students outperformed those in traditional class settings regardless of socio-economic background. In math, they had a 95% passage rate (11% higher), and 85% passed reading (23% higher). Rectanus also manages the Global Schools Network, which sponsored the event with the State Board of Education, Department of Public Instruction and North Carolina Business Committee for Education, of which our company is a member.

So why are programs such as this one important to business in our state? We are increasingly becoming a global society. The ability to communicate in a second language — VIF also has Splash programs in Mandarin Chinese — is vital to the growing number of employers that have an international presence. The increasing Latino population in North Carolina makes it a valuable asset even on the local level.

Plus language-immersion programs focus on an aspect of education often overlooked these days — command of the written word. We are communicating through writing more than ever, especially electronically, but doing so clearly, concisely and precisely seems to be a lost art. I see that in the texts and emails I get and even in the letters that arrive by snail mail. How employees express themselves reflects on their employers and speaks volumes about our businesses. Programs such as Splash are what our state needs to stay competitive.

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