15 new elementary schools receive “passport” for Spanish language instruction

Announcements at selected schools bring to 25 the number of participating schools  

TOWSON – Bearing banners and lollipop bouquets, Baltimore County Public Schools administrators surprised principals at 15 elementary schools on February 6 with the news that their schools will be the second cohort to implement a Spanish language instruction program for Grade 4 students.

The new “Passport Schools” join 10 other elementaries named last May to pilot the program during the current school year. The original Passport Schools will extend instruction to students in both Grades 4 and 5 during 2015-2016, while the newly designated Passport School will introduce the second-language acquisition in Grade 4.

The new Passport Schools announced on Friday are Franklin, Fullerton, Glenmar, Glyndon, Halethorpe, Hernwood, Lyons Mill, Mars Estates, Perry Hall, Pine Grove, Randallstown, Seneca, Shady Spring, Warren, and Woodbridge elementary schools. Lyons Mill Elementary School is currently under construction and will open to the students in August 2015.

“We know that becoming proficient in a second language is almost a prerequisite for future academic success, and certainly for success in the future global economy,” said BCPS Superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance. “What has been gratifying with the Passport Schools, however, is seeing how hungry our students are for this instruction, and how easily and eagerly they have taken to learning new languages and cultures.”

The new schools join the 10 pioneers — Bear Creek, Hampton, Johnnycake, Padonia, Pleasant Plains, Prettyboy, Reisterstown, Sussex, Vincent Farm and West Towson elementary schools – in the program.

“Certainly when you see the kids in action, either in their Spanish class or with their headsets accessing the digital content, the impact and excitement are immediately obvious,” said Brian Schiffer, BCPS director of social sciences, fine arts, and world languages. “We are honored to be working with so many great schools and teachers, and have learned a great deal in this first year.  Next year, we’re thrilled to be able to apply all those lessons learned to the benefit of nearly a quarter of Baltimore County’s fourth graders.”

Selected schools were chosen from among schools that applied to participate in the program. Schiffer said the selection committee reviewed applications with an eye towards achieving geographic and student demographic balance.

Students at the Passport Schools will continue to use Middlebury Interactive, a research-based, interactive, self-paced program developed by Middlebury College and Middlebury Interactive Languages. The course focuses on listening and speaking; language instruction also includes conversational lessons taught by a BCPS elementary Spanish teacher.