Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Dear Cambridge parents,

I am writing to ask for expressions of interest in your child or children enrolling in a new Mandarin Chinese and Spanish language immersion private tuition-supported school. We are planning to open with just the kindergarten classrooms in September and add grades 1 and 2 (possibly higher, depending on demand) next year. As our cohorts move through the grades, the school will extend its offering to the eighth grade.

Immersion teaching offers a child a chance to become fluent in another language through learning academic content in that language as an integral part of the school day. Immersion teaching does not mean learning a language, but learning and living in the target language while at school. We propose a one-way immersion model in which the majority of students speak English as their native language.

Our plan is to offer language immersion for two groups of children, one in Mandarin Chinese and one in Spanish. We believe fluency in another language is essential in today’s world, and languages will be our core focus. We will introduce elements of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) through student-driven projects to foster inquiry, creativity and complex thinking. We will use a set of evaluations that rely on project-based learning and real-world skills. We will not teach to standardized tests such as MCAS.

We have chosen Spanish and Mandarin Chinese because they are two of the world’s most widely spoken languages, Spanish being relatively easy to master for an English speaker and Chinese being one of the most difficult (however, when starting in kindergarten, it does not seem to matter much). Both are increasingly important for the future of U.S. commerce and politics.

Other immersion learning advantages:

  • Language acquisition significantly improves children’s cognitive abilities.
  • Fluency in another language will provide our children with economic and professional advantages in an increasingly global and interconnected world.
  • Research shows that immersion teaching helps close the achievement gap.

In summary, I am tempted to say this should be the easiest sell: It’s convenient (there’s no extra time outside of school needed), free (no extra expense for language lessons) and delivers fluency in a second language with improved cognitive abilities.

The need for a language immersion school comes from the frustration that mainstream education here in Massachusetts, whether public or private, does not seem to sufficiently recognize these advantages.

We envisage our students will come from the area stretching from Boston to Newton, including Cambridge, Watertown, Belmont, Arlington and Somerville.

We do not know yet where the school will be based. In part, it depends on the level of interest (and therefore the size and availability of real estate needed) and in part on funding (a funding effort is already underway for seed capital). Operating expenses will be covered by tuition.

I myself am the parent of an 8-year-old girl attending a partial immersion program in the Cambridge Public Schools system. I am also an entrepreneur who launched a number of different ventures and organizations. For this project I have teamed up with experienced educators (including immersion specialists) and am determined to get the school off the ground.

We realize time is short and that our proposal is not yet fully formed. However, we are determined to succeed in creating an academically challenging, friendly and stimulating school.

To proceed, we need your expressions of interest by the end of January. If you know others who might be interested, please pass this message on.

Please send all communication to: [email protected].

Wojciech Szczerba