The Frederick News Post’s feature highlighting the international backgrounds of Frederick Cadets’ soccer team shows a new opportunity Frederick County should consider exploring as we are becoming more diverse. Many people living in the city have been hoping that rumors concerning adding an IB (International Baccalaureate) program duplicating what they currently offer at Urbana High will become reality for Frederick High School . There may be another avenue that would help to build up the community in that area, and benefit the students who were born and raised here equally well.
Looking at the high school academies, there are many options for specialized interests in the high schools in Frederick County (biomedical science, ROTC, technology, leadership, arts and communication, business, environment and conservation, engineering, teaching). When you check that list, it seems that FHS is left behind in this regard. The only academic program listed for the campus is an Advanced Placement focus. While being a good option for college bound students, an AP program does not cater to any particular interest or draw a magnet population toward what is currently a school under capacity by about 400 students. What if we look at linguistics and language learning for everyone?
According to the article there are 280 students in the English Language Learner (ELL) program at Frederick High–up from 100 just 3 years ago. As they construct the new facility they should build on that positive development by using the international community’s assets to benefit everyone. We should explore a bilingual immersion environment. ELL students are not exclusively Spanish speaking, but we know that Frederick County is now experiencing what has been a long term trend in the U.S.. Spanish speaking immigrants are arriving here faster than any others. Putting newcomers into an environment where their unique circumstances are valued and respected as learning opportunities for everyone will help them to assimilate. We can do this for their minds just as well as FHS is doing this with their enthusiasm for soccer.
Dual immersion is most frequently offered at the elementary level, but there is no reason that a dual immersion environment can not be provided to some degree at a high school level, even if it were modified and targeted to language classes alone to start. This creates an advantage that may benefit ELL students and those learning a language other than English. The ability to create student partnerships so that they learn from one another is a unique opportunity that can only be achieved in a diverse student population. ELL students are learning a second language concurrent with their other coursework. It should be possible to provide the opportunity to at least become conversant in a second language to our students who are native English speakers. A more international focus would certainly complement an IB program–a rumor many of us would still like to discover is a true thing.
This writer is completely aware of the sentiments of the supporters of English-Only ordinances, as well as the general preference toward miserly financial support for school programs (along with the awareness that these attitudes are shared by largely the same group of people). Recognizing that this is the stuff of fluff, fantasy, and idealism does not make it any less a missed opportunity. We can strengthen our community by involving everyone in greater goals. To borrow a phrase from FIFA, “Vers le grand but!”