The Baltimore International Academy (BIA) East is Baltimore City's first international language immersion school, and, in contrast to most other existing international schools, BIA East is a public school that is available to all of Baltimore’s students. Beyond the international emphasis, the philosophy of the BIA East 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 immersion program offered by the BIA East starts in kindergarten or grade 1, when 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 beginning in grade 2. Furthermore, in lieu of concentrating on a single foreign language for the immersion experience, BIA East has chosen to offer five different immersion possibilities to enhance cultural diversity and the school’s international context.
The founders of BIA East firmly believe, based on existing research, that enriching our curriculum with an emphasis on foreign languages 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) website, 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 “value-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 a grade, gender, race, socio-economic status, and initial test and aptitude scores.
Baltimore International Academy East (BIA East) is an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) IB World School for Primary and Middle Years Programmes.
IB World Schools share a common philosophy—a commitment to improving the teaching and learning of a diverse and inclusive community of students by delivering challenging, high-quality programs of international education that share a powerful vision.
We believe that all students can succeed in learning and that Baltimore’s children deserve a learning experience that is equal of the best schools, nationally and internationally; hence, our attainment of the IB World School authrization. The IBO’s “Schools’ Guide to the Primary Years Programme” is in Appendix 2, and full details about IBO are on the organization’s website at www.ibo.org.
The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum (VSC) and Common Core standards define what students would know and be able to perform at each grade level in reading/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Baltimore International Academy West conforms to and is working hard to exceed all requirements of the Common Core Standards.
Theoretically, the curriculum in language immersion programs is the same as the state and district curriculum. As such, BIA East follows the same curriculum as other Baltimore City Schools, which in turn is aligned with the Maryland State Curriculum. The difference, however, is in the delivery of the curriculum. At BIA East, students study mathematics, science, social studies, reading, and language arts through the medium of Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, or French. As they acquire skills in the core 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 (ELA) instruction begins in the second grade when students receive a period of ELA instruction daily and continues through the eighth grade.
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.
Assessment/Measuring Student Progress
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 to individualize 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.
As required, we administer the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) in grades 3-8. The MCAP results from the first year are used as our baselines to judge the school's performance and progress. 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 conduct a longitudinal examination of academic achievement for students individually so that we can establish rates of academic improvement for each student while attending BIA East. We compare the rates of academic improvement of students in BIA West against results for students in both the City of Baltimore and in the State of 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 East 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.
Support for Learning
Baltimore International Academy East 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 in 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 East conducts a family satisfaction survey, the data from which will be used to modify, enhance, or support programs.
BIA East has high expectations for student behavior and participation in the life of the school community. 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 East 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.
The BIA East creates a culture of high expectations for our student’s 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 must be fully aware of that commitment when they first enroll a child. BIA East also expects its parents to provide a minimum time commitment to support their children’s and the school’s activities each year.