Utah immersion program the envy of the nation

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SALT LAKE CITY - Thousands of Utah students have something directly in common with one of the country's most famous kids -- Suri Cruise.

Suri - daughter of actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes - attends Avenues: The World School in New York City. Her tuition is $40,000 a year. Class size: 17.

Then there's Cierra, daughter of Dave and Robin. She attends Spring Lane Elementary School in Holladay. Tuition: free, if you don't count taxes. There are about 25 kids in her class.

Strip away location and tuition costs, and Suri and Cierra are receiving close to the same education. In fact, they're learning from the same program that was developed here in Utah.

This is a gift that Utah is giving its children. A gift that you really can't get any other time or any other way.

–Myriam Met

Avenues is the new school many rich and famous are choosing for its dual-immersion language program. Kids learn half the day in a new language and half in English.

It is the same program spreading like wildfire in Utah schools. Both are designed by educator Myriam Met.

"For about $40,000 less out of your pocket," Met said. "That's a plus for sure."

While Suri may steal the magazine headlines, Utah actually has the celebrity status when it comes to language programs in the U.S.

"Everybody has Utah on their lips when they talk about immersion," Met said.

Wyoming was so worried about "losing jobs to Utah" that the school board voted this fall to move full-speed ahead to get a similar dual-immersion program. The Harvard school that trains teachers asked Utahns to address their students on dual immersion.

Most recently, the Spanish Embassy sent a delegation to Utah to bestow a prestigious designation on Alta View Elementary. These budding, bilingual students were the real stars of the show.

Educators agree, while the recognition is exciting, the real success is how programs like these are preparing young Utahns for the work force of the future.

"Right now with the global world and the global economy, I don't see how people can be really successful without a second language," said Maria Contreras, a 5th grade Spanish immersion teacher.

"This is a gift that Utah is giving its children," said Met. "A gift that you really can't get any other time or any other way."

New state test data shows students are not only holding their own but actually scoring a little higher in core subjects than kids not learning a second language.


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