School Tours: Midvale Elementary School

As a follow-up to our 4K and K registration post, Carousel shares her experience touring Midvale Elementary School.

I have heard such great things about Midvale Elementary School. It’s innovative: cutting-edge principal and teachers who work collaboratively and out of the box. It’s uniting: high parent involvement and a strong parent/teacher organization; a school garden on the property that both student and members of the neighborhood care for. It’s diverse: the student body is 36% Hispanic, 16% Black, 11% Asian, 6% multi-racial. Plus, it’s a SAGE school, meaning it has a large percentage of low-income children but has smaller class sizes because of this. And, for the kicker!—Midvale is now a dual-language school. Parents can opt for classes where both English and Spanish are being spoken and taught.

My husband Tim is sold on dual immersion. He loves the idea of Cass learning a new language at such a young age, especially in an immersion setting (compared to the sleep-inducing language classes we all had in high school). Tim also likes that this is a new program for Madison schools. He believes Midvale will garner more resources and innovation than other schools to help ensure dual immersion’s success.

I am not as sure. Everything I heard about dual immersion is great, and I love the idea in theory. Yes, this is the time when children’s brains are most open to another language. Yes, Cass will be close to bilingual by middle school. Yes, the curriculum is the same as in all other Madison classrooms, so there will be no loss in substance of her education. Yes, Yes, Yes. But other realities of the program scared me. No, the teacher would not speak to parents in English because the teacher only spoke in Spanish for the majority of the day; No, I don’t know Spanish (beyond the cursory that I know from living in Los Angeles for part of my life); No, I can’t help Cass with homework if it’s in Spanish.

And, with new bilingual teachers replacing English-only teachers, and a brand new principal, I was worried that the vitality and community spirit I had heard so much about at Midvale might be gone.

So much built up, before Tim and I even entered the school.

Visiting the school was exciting! The hallways were filled with student art in bright colors and signs reminding you to be quiet in the hallway, don’t run, and treat others as you would like to be treated. Inside the classrooms there were maps and posters, calendars and dates, math workbooks and beginning reading books. The world was wide open, and it was overwhelming to think that Cass could be here soon discovering the magic of learning. It is an awesome moment when you can envision your child’s future and possibilities.

As for the school and program itself, we liked it overall. The classrooms themselves had lots of teachers and support staff. It seemed like every kindergarten class of 18 kids had at least 3 adults in the classroom with them, helping out the lead teacher in various ways. Very impressive! Our tour guide, Midvale’s learning resource director Mary Kay, was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Students kept running up to her to giver her hugs. But, we didn’t spend much time within each class, and when we did stop in the dual immersion classes, I didn’t understand what the teacher was saying. One class was reading a book called “The Carousel” (but that title was in Spanish). Mary Kay tried to get me to tell the teacher that my name was Carousel. But, instead of saying “My name is Carousel,” I said, “Yo soy Carousel” (“I am a Carousel.”). To which the teacher look at me with a very quizzical look. Un-huh, this is just what I was fearing.

Other things I loved about the school: the art class (could this be the greatest art teacher in the district? They were learning about Andy Warhol and drawing self-portraits. So cool!); the gym and the great climbing wall; the community/school garden; the 45 minute lunchtime (vs. 30 minutes at other schools). And Mary Kay told us they go on field trips about once a month. I don’t know if she’s exaggerating, but if she isn’t, that’s pretty great.

The new principal was certainly enthusiastic for dual immersion classes. She gave a bit of a hard sell, and you could tell she was confident in the success of the program, even to put-down other Madison schools.

So, now what? Tim and I are scheduled to visit the open-classroom program at Lincoln Middle School this week and then our other neighborhood school, Van Hise Elementary, next week. Stay tuned!

(By the way—I would like to officially blame my older sister Jodi for my failure to know Spanish. As the younger sister of a brainy, perfect student, I disliked being in Jodi’s shadow. “I have high expectations from Jodi’s sister,” a math teacher told me. So, when Jodi choose to study Spanish in 6th grade, and I had the option of taking French—with the French teacher who never met my brilliant, perfect sister Jodi—I jumped at it. Some good speaking French does me now. Thanks a lot Aunt Jodi!)

Is your child in a dual-immersion program? Does your child attend Midvale? We’d love to hear what you (and your child) think of it!

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6 thoughts on “School Tours: Midvale Elementary School

  1. Yes, and yes! My son started at Midvale’s DLI program in September. Carousel and I have talked and I’m sure will again. (And YES, this is the greatest art teacher in the district, music is fantastic too!) We have been really pleased with the DLI program, the community feel, and the classroom curriculum. I’m happy to share more specific information with anyone who is interested, but I would highly recommend it.

  2. Thanks for your great post! We are moving to Madison this summer with two girls (they will be in Kindergarten and 3rd grade), and I love being able to find these insights.

    We currently live in Minnetonka, MN, and my 2nd grader is in a school where Spanish immersion is offered as an option. We chose to enroll her in English classes. One reason we chose not to participate in immersion is that we are concerned that it will lead to later problems with language and writing in English. Also, our daughter was already struggling with becoming easily frustrated in a classroom setting; having a teacher who was only supposed to speak Spanish could only exacerbate that problem.

    At first, we were happy with our choice. Our daughter was in a small class (because demand for immersion was so high), and she had a teacher with many years of experience. The teachers hired to teach the immersion classes were right out of school.

    However, as time has gone on, the immersion option has meant that the English classes are where all the new kids and the kids with special needs or behavioral challenges end up. Also, the gender ratio of her class is about 2/3 boys. The immersion classes are about 2/3 girls.

    I am thrilled to be moving to Madison for many reasons, but one reason is getting away from the immersion school. The way it divides kids has had a negative impact on our school. And, as I said, I believe the students in immersion will be challenged when it comes to communicating in English. But, time will tell.

    For next Fall, we are looking at Franklin/Randall or Northside in Middleton. I hope neither are planning immersion!

    • I know this is years later and you probably won’t see this but I would love to know what school you ended up at! We recently moved here and are trying to sort this all out before buying a house.

      • we’re at Van Hise Elementary School. my oldest daughter is in 4th grade, my youngest is in 1st. we’re very happy there– it is a fantastic public school.
        good luck in your home decision / search.

  3. Pingback: School Tours: Lincoln Elementary « Raising Madison

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