1. Educational Philosophy
The BIA Baltimore City's first international language immersion school, and, in contrast to most other existing international schools, BIA is a public school that is available to all of Baltimore’s students. Beyond the international emphasis, the philosophy of the BIA is to use innovative (in Baltimore) yet proven teaching and learning methods to improve student learning and to expand school choice for students in the City of Baltimore.
The particular aspect offered by the BIA is that starting from kindergarten and grade 1, students are immersed in a foreign language and are taught all their academic subjects in that foreign language, with English taught by specialist English Language Arts teachers from grade 2. Furthermore, in lieu of concentrating on a single foreign language for the immersion experience, BIA has chosen to offer four different immersion possibilities, to enhance cultural diversity and the school’s international context.
The founders of BIA firmly believe, based on existing research that enriching our curriculum with an emphasis on foreign language improves the academic performance of our students. A full professional treatise on the benefits of early second language learning and the benefits of being bilingual is available on the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) web site, in Kathleen M. Marcos’s report “Second Language Learning: Everyone Can Benefit” at http://www.cal.org.earlylang/benefits/marcos.html. Research on local programs in Fairfax, VA showed that students who had participated for five years in immersion scored as well as, or better than, all comparison groups on achievement tests and that they remained high academic achievers throughout their schooling (Thomas, W. P., V. P. Collier, and M. Abbott. 1993, “Academic Achievement Through Japanese, Spanish, or French: The First Two Years of Partial Immersion.” Modern Language Journal 77 (2): 170–180). A case-matched, controlled, longitudinal study completed in 2002 by the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ Office of Testing & Accountability demonstrated a “valued-added” component to the academic performance of the students in the French Immersion Programs; that is, after exposure to the programs, students scored better than comparable peers not in the program when matched for grade, gender, race, socio-economic status, and initial test and aptitude scores.
Our philosophy emphasizes academic performance. Though it is an extensive process, it is our goal for Baltimore International Academy to become certified as an International Baccalaureate Organization “IB World Primary School” because we subscribe to the philosophy of the IBO’s Primary Years Programme, as expressed in their “series of desired attributes and traits that characterize students with an international perspective.” The IBO lists ten attributes and traits in their profile of an IB World School PYP student. Three examples of those traits are:
“INQUIRERS ~ They have acquired the skills necessary to conduct purposeful, constructive research. They actively enjoy learning and their love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.
COMMUNICATORS ~ They receive and express ideas and information confidently in more than one language, including the language of mathematical symbols.
KNOWLEDGEABLE ~ They have spent time in school exploring themes that have global relevance and importance. In doing so, they have acquired a critical mass of significant knowledge.
We believe that all students can succeed in learning, and that Baltimore’s children deserve a learning experience that is the equal of the best schools, nationally and internationally; hence, our pursuit of the IB World School certification. The IBO’s “Schools’ Guide to the Primary Years Programme” is in Appendix 2, and full details about IBO are on the organization’s web site at www.ibo.org.
2. Academic Standards
The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum (VSC) defines what students would know and perform at each grade level in reading/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Baltimore International Academy conforms to and is working hard to exceed all requirements of the Voluntary Maryland State Curriculum. Information on these requirements are found in Appendix 3.
Theoretically, the curriculum in language immersion programs is the same as the state and district curriculum. As such, Baltimore International Academy follows the same curriculum as other Baltimore City Schools which in turn is aligned to the Maryland State Curriculum. The difference, however, is in the delivery of the curriculum. At BIA, students study mathematics, science, social studies , reading and language arts through the medium of French, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish or Russian. As they acquired skills in the score subjects, students learn to understand, read, speak and write the foreign language as well as English. In Kindergarten and First grade students learn all their core subjects entirely in their target language. Formal English Language Arts Instruction begins in the second grade . Beginning second grade students receive a period of Reading Language Arts instruction per day.
Immersion programs must by necessity start at school entry (in pre-school, kindergarten or grade 1). Beyond the early grades, the gap in knowledge of the immersion language is too great for students to be able to integrate into the program if they have no comparable knowledge of the language. Thus, in the first year, only the kindergarten and grade 1 classes were full immersion classes. Grades 2 to 8 used and continues to use the Rosetta Stone Program, in French only. The Rosetta Stone Program is an interactive multi-media language-learning set of software programs to replicate the environment in which learners naturally acquire new language. It provides individualized learning to students of differing abilities, and is widely used in English as a Second Language teaching because, with no translation, students’ successes do not depend on literacy in their native languages. Rosetta Stone programs have been successfully used by government agencies and corporations—including Deutsche Telekom, IBM, and Lockheed Martin—and by thousands of schools and universities around the world. Further details about the Rosetta Stone Program are at http://www.rosettastone.com/en/ and in Appendix 5.
D. Assessment / Measuring Student ProgressE. Support for Learning
Assessment is the heart of teaching and learning. Our assessments are used to inform students, teachers, parents and guardians about where a student is succeeding and about what needs strengthening. On-going assessments serve as a feedback system to guide teachers in planning lessons and in individualizing instruction. In our classrooms, assessments are (a) timely (given while learning is in progress), (b) focused on the current learning tasks, and (c) specific about improvement needs.
We administer the Maryland State Assessments (MSA) in grades 3-8, as required. The MSA results from the first year (2007-2008) is used as our baselines from which to judge the performance and progress of the school. We compare the current year’s scores with scores from preceding years to show the academic progress of the school, including information regarding each of the required subgroups. We also do a longitudinal examination of academic achievement for students individually, so that we can establish rates of academic improvement for each student while attending BIA. We compare the rates of academic improvement of students in BIA against results for students in both the City of Baltimore and in Maryland.
Classroom assessments may include standard-based unit tests, class observations, quizzes, demonstrations, portfolios, work products, essays, and oral language proficiency.
Independently run national tests: BIA encourages all of its students to participate in various national language tests, such as the American Association of Teachers of French national French exam, “Le Grand Concours,” and the American Council of Teachers of Russian “Olympiada” and annual Russian Essay Contest. The performance of BIA students as a group is compared to those of other state and national schools’ students who participated in the same tests.
Report Cards are issued four times each year. Opportunities for parent conferences are scheduled for each quarter, and may be arranged at other times should the need arise. As a part of these conferences, standardized test results are released to parents and discussed.
Baltimore International Academy welcomes its families and community into the school and supports families in their efforts to be involved in their children’s education. There are unlimited opportunities for parents to serve as volunteers in classrooms, with clubs or sports teams, in supervision, in leadership roles on the board, as coordinators during family sessions, on committees, or other activities. There is an area within the school (possibly a part of the Media Center, or in the administrative offices) where parents will be able to come to learn about the school, to work with other parents, or to have parent/teacher meetings. In May of each year, BIA conducts a family satisfaction survey, the data from which will be used to modify, enhance or support programs.
The official colors of Baltimore International Academy are red, white and blue, in a gesture of international solidarity by drawing upon the mutually shared colors of the national flags of Russia, Spain , France, China and the U.S. Students at the BIA wear uniforms. This is for not only the usual reasons that school uniforms are supported but also to identify the different language strands within the school and to promote a sense of school pride and community. BIA’s uniform policy is in accordance with Baltimore City Public School System’s policy on the student dress code, as per Appendix 6.
BIA has high expectations for student behavior and participation in the life of the school community. As indicated by our stated Goal # 4, service learning is incorporated into the educational program at every grade level in order to help students develop skills needed to become caring, involved citizens. BIA has a discipline policy that is compatible with the policies of the Baltimore City Public School System. This policy is in writing and is distributed to all families and students to sign and return, to affirm that they were informed of the policies. All disciplinary actions are compatible with IDEA and IEP requirements. The discipline policy is part of a complete parent handbook. A sample policy and BCPSS policy are included in Appendix 7.
The BIA creates a culture of high expectations of our students’ families and similarly, we want them to hold the school’s professional staff to the highest expectations. Expectations will be written and agreed upon by signature. Language immersion requires a long-term commitment to a school, and families need to be fully aware of that commitment when they first enroll a child in the school. BIA also expects its parents to provide a minimum commitment of their time in support of their children’s and the school’s activities each year.