The language immersion concept began in Canada with the duality of French and English within the culture. It came to the USA in the 70s by way of California to improve our educational efforts in the area of foreign language learning. Tulsa Public Schools first implemented the concept as a "school within a school" at Eliot Elementary School in 1981 to bolster flagging enrollment at that site. Students from throughout the school district could apply to participate in the immersion program.In 1991, with the passage of HB 1017 that mandated lowering class sizes, the Eliot site could no longer serve all students within the current building. By that time, neighborhood enrollment had increased due to rejuvenation of the neighborhood. The solution to the overcrowded situation was to relocate the Spanish Immersion program (145 students) to the Eisenhower site in 1992. The Spanish Immersion program became the cornerstone for the International school. The following year, French immersion was added to expand immersion opportunities due to community interest, measured through the increasing numbers of applicants for the kindergarten entry point. As the school's popularity grew, another Spanish immersion program was established at Zarrow International School in 2002.
Language immersion is the most effective method for developing second-language ability with young learners in a school environment. The process of “immersing”students in another language for classroom learning allows students to naturally learn the target language. Teachers for immersion classrooms are either native speakers of the target language, or demonstrate near-native proficiency. Since students begin the process at an early age (5 or 6), their brains are primed, physiologically,for language learning. Students learn the second language proficiently and with a near-native accent. At EIS, students participate in either French or Spanish immersion. They begin the process with a full-day kindergarten program that exposes students to all of the required kindergarten learning objectives in a foreign language, called the “target language”. With the exception of one 45-minute daily period for PE, art or music, all instruction is presented entirely in the target language (Spanish or French).This full immersion approach continues until the mid-point of second grade, at which time English reading/language arts is introduced into the curriculum for about an hour each day. The English portion of the curriculum is gradually increased in third grade, and reaches a 50/50 balance in grade five. During that last year, some students are selected to participate in the exchange program with schools in Spain, Costa Rica and France.
Immersion students score exceedingly well on all of the state and district-mandated standardized tests, with composite scores consistently at the 80th percentile or higher on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests. Students continue to demonstrate both high academic achievement and leadership qualities at the middle school level. A super-majority (>80%) of former EIS students achieve honor roll status for academic performance at the middle school level. For the past two years at Thoreau Demonstration Academy, former EIS students have won 1st place in the all-city Martin Luther King Essay Contest, as well as 1st and 2nd place in the all-school spelling bee.
Measures of Student Success:
- Eisenhower is the top-performing school in the State of OK, winning the Academic Achievement Awards based on a perfect Academic performance Index (API) 4 years in a row (2006-2009).
- More than 80% of the 5th grade students will earn Honor Roll recognition at the middle school level each year.
- EIS French Immersion students participate in the National Concours (French National Exam), and each year a number of EIS students (and former EIS students at the middle school and high school levels) rank in the top 10 national rankings. This is a test taken by thousands of immersion students across the country.
- Fifth grade students travel as ambassadors in our school’s academic exchange programs with Spain, Costa Rice, France and Canada. These students sit in class in a French or Spanish school and fully participate in the curriculum.
- More Eisenhower students place in the District Speech Arts Festival than from any of the other 55 elementary schools in the Tulsa Public School District.
- Students develop a broader, international mind set at EIS. For example, when learning to sing The Grand ‘Ole Flag, an EIS 5th grader remarked in class, “How do we know this is about the American flag? It just says red, white and blue flag and many countries have red, white and blue flags.” Then he proceeded to name of few of those countries for the music teacher. The staff thought this was a huge measure of success in critical thinking and international attitudes!