El Marino Language School

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What is El Marino Language School?

El Marino Language School is a public elementary school operated by the Culver City Unified School District. The school was originally built as a neighborhood school, but later closed due to declining enrollment. El Marino reopened in 1994 to house the district’s two elementary school Language Immersion programs, the Spanish Immersion Program [SIP] and the Japanese Immersion Program [JIP]. The goal of both programs is for students to master grade level content while learning to speak, understand, read and write in both English and the target language – Spanish or Japanese. Depending on the grade level, most instruction takes place in the target language. English Reading/Language Arts is taught according to program guidelines. Students are expected to master the District-adopted content standards in all academic areas.

What is El Marino’s attendance area?

El Marino Language School is open to any resident of the Culver City Unified School District attendance area. The school has no neighborhood attendance area. Some students are from English-speaking homes, while some are from homes where Spanish or Japanese is spoken.

How are students selected for kindergarten enrollment?

There are no entrance requirements for Immersion Program students, other than an assessment of their language proficiency.  Students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) are considered on a case by case basis following a review of the program guidelines and a recommendation by the IEP team.

Because of high interest in El Marino’s program, the district has established priorities for enrollment, in compliance with the California Education Code and Culver City Unified School District board policies. The following priorities are dependent upon space availability:

  1. Culver City resident siblings of students who will still be enrolled when the sibling begins kindergarten
  2. Culver City residents who speak the target language, either Spanish or Japanese, as determined by the Home Language Survey and the District’s initial language proficiency evaluation, 30% - 50% of the class
  3. Culver City residents who speak English, 50% - 70% of the class
  4. Spanish- or Japanese-speaking students who are non-residents with an approved interdistrict permit
  5. English-speaking students who are non-residents with an approved interdistrict permit 

How many kindergarten spaces are available each year?

Currently the Culver City Unified School District maintains a 22:1 student to teacher ratio in each kindergarten through third grade classroom. There are four Spanish Immersion kindergarten classes and two Japanese Immersion kindergarten classes, for a total of 132 kindergarten spaces. Space may become available at other grade levels as families move.

How do families indicate their desire to enroll a student at El Marino?

Kindergarten registration opens on the same date at all Culver City elementary schools. Siblings of currently enrolled students complete the kindergarten enrollment package at El Marino. Other prospective students must register at their neighborhood school, as determined by their street address. The receiving school completes a “Verification of Registration”, which is brought to El Marino. Parents then complete the “Application for Immersion Program”, which is used to determine native speakers and to establish a lottery if needed. Other families from outside Culver City Unified School District must apply for an inter-district permit through the District Office.

What is the Kindergarten lottery?

Available spaces are filled according to the above priorities. In the event that requests for enrollment exceed available space, personnel at the site conduct a lottery. Based upon the lottery, a prioritized list is established. Students are assigned to classes, according to the order of the list, until all spaces are filled. The remaining students are placed on the waiting list.

When and where is the lottery held, and who is involved?

School staff members conduct the lottery under the supervision of the Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services. A member of the community is invited to observe. The lottery is held in the school office. The date is chosen to allow time for parents to complete their applications, and for the school to conduct the assessments to determine which students will be accepted. After the lottery, each family is notified by mail of the placement of their student.

How do families get on the waiting list, and how are students selected from that list?

Prospective kindergarten students who are not placed in a class are placed on the waiting list, in the order their names were pulled in the lottery. Occasionally families move, or the family determines that El Marino is not a good fit for their student. When a student transfers out, the school notifies the family of the child who is first on the waiting list. If that family does not accept the placement, the next person on the list is called. 

Can students enter in other grades?

Students in grades other than kindergarten may enroll, space permitting, if they have sufficient background in the target language to be successful. Immersion teachers screen students for target language proficiency. Depending on the grade level, testing may include oral language, reading, writing and/or mathematics in the target language. Families should contact the school to indicate that they have a student with target language background and that they are interested in enrolling if a space is available.

Can non-residents be admitted to the program?

Non residents may be admitted by inter-district permit, on a space available basis. Families should contact the Permit Office at the District Office to determine the time period to apply for an Inter-District Permit. For further information, please contact the school office.

What is a Dual Language Program?

A Dual Language Program is a program that integrates English-speaking students and speakers of the target language for academic instruction.  Here at El Marino, all students begin learning academics in one of the target languages – Japanese or Spanish – and gradually add English until the fifth grade, when about 60% of the day is taught in the target language and 40% of the day is taught in English.  Students exit elementary school proficient in both languages: orally bilingual and academically biliterate.  Special emphasis is placed on the active use of instructional strategies that promote cross-cultural cooperation and learning.

What are the critical components of the Dual Language Program?

Classes are made up of both English and target-language speakers
Languages are separated for instruction
Instruction of District curriculum and academic standards through two languages
Highly trained and committed quality teachers
High standards where language instruction is integrated with challenging academic instruction
Strong parent involvement
Strong administrative support
Integration with other school programs
Cross-cultural emphasis

How do we know it will work?

Research studies and established programs show the dual language program model to be the most effective way to become proficient in two languages.  Results from over 20 years of research show that students in dual language programs develop higher levels of bilingual proficiency and academic achievement than in other program models.

Why not wait for my child to learn a second language until high school?

High school foreign language programs teach languages separately from other academic subjects in the day, thereby reducing the opportunities for natural language acquisition.  Students in a dual language program spend the majority of the school day learning in the second language for years before entering high school.

Will a second language interfere with my child’s English ability?

No.  Research shows that students who achieve advanced levels of proficiency in two languages often experience cognitive and linguistic advantages when compared to monolingual students.  Bilingual students perform better on tasks that require divergent thinking, pattern recognition and problem solving, and have higher levels of metalinguistic awareness.

Do Dual Language students learn the same curriculum as the regular English program?

Absolutely!  The standards and curriculum at El Marino Language School are the same as for all students in the Culver City Unified School District.  The only difference is the language of instruction.

Does it matter if no one at home speaks the second language?

No.  The home language must be kept up in the home.  Read to your children daily!  Talk to your children daily, and have them talk to you!  Continue the literacy experiences you would naturally encourage.  One of the advantages of this program is that students with strong home language skills (in English, Japanese or Spanish) transfer those skills to the new language as they continue their studies.  

How will my child understand if he/she does not speak the second language?

Teachers in the Dual Language Program are specially trained to make the information meaningful through the use of visuals, objects, gestures, and specialized instructional strategies.  The students also help each other!

What about reading in English?

In order to avoid confusion, language of instruction is separated.  At school, formal reading instruction is in Spanish until students master decoding skills.  Japanese students receive 10% of the day in formal English instruction, to compensate for the lack of alphabetic exposure.  However, all students are exposed to English every day in a variety of activities.  You are also encouraged to read to your child in English if you so desire, and accept any attempt (with no pressure) to read in English on your child's part.

Is any English used in the Dual Language classroom?

Yes, during English time.  During target language time, the teacher only speaks Spanish or Japanese.  However, student expression is accepted in whichever language the student uses.

How can parents support their child in the program?

Participate! Show your interest.  Discuss what your child is learning.  Listen to him/her read in the target language.  Try to learn the second language along with your child, if you do not speak the other language.