The Cloud Forest School is proud to offer excellent instruction in both Spanish and English to all of our students. The method of instruction is based on the goal of graduating bilingual, bi-literate and culturally sensitive individuals. Our student body is comprised of over 90% local Costa Rican students who speak Spanish in the home. Within that 90%, the CEC seeks to maintain a strong diversity in socio-economic levels of families. Currently more than 70% of local families receive financial aid in the form of tuition discounts.
In the fall of 2014, the Cloud Forest School took on a programmatic change that seeks to elevate the level of academics, enrich the development of identity within the student population, and create leadership roles for long-term Costa Rican teachers. The primary school has adopted the dual immersion model, dedicating 50 percent of classroom instruction to each language from preschool through fourth grade. Prior to this year, about 80 percent of instructional time was dedicated to English, while 20 percent was dedicated to Spanish.
Over the course of last year, a steering committee was formed by various stake holders in the school
community to consider how to strengthen our teaching of both language and content material. This committee considered anecdotal evidence from current staff and the most recent research regarding
learning language through content. We came to the conclusion that a shift to a dual language immersion model would be the most beneficial for our students in regards to gaining mastery in both languages. All primary school students now receive content classes (Math, Science, Social Studies/Civics) in both languages over the course of the year, in addition to daily instruction in both English and Spanish
Language Arts. In pre-school through 4th grade classrooms, students have English and Spanish co-teachers and English co-teachers are bilingual.
Language, culture, and identity are deeply intertwined. Since the majority of our students speak Spanish in their homes, we want our programmatic model to demonstrate that Spanish is valuable in social, academic, and professional settings. A dual language 50:50 model attributes equal value to both languages.
The Cloud Forest School has the marvelous ability to attract international teaching and administrative staff, affording the school multiple perspectives. At the same time, the fact that there is frequent change in the international staff makes it challenging to pass on institutional knowledge. By adopting the dual language model, we set the stage for both Spanish and English language staff to be familiar with curriculum across content areas. This allows for generally longer-term Spanish language staff to take on leadership roles in supporting new staff members.
A year after pilot program of the dual immersion program, we celebrate the way in which teachers are collaborating and beginning to integrate content material. We look forward to involving the steering committee in the development of a five year strategic plan to grow the program with intention and thoughtfulness. We are excited and enthusiastic about the value of these changes for our students and families. Given that English instruction is intensive from a very early age, students beyond 3rd grade are required to take an English assessment test before being admitted.
It is important to note that our international students receive intensive, small-group Spanish as a Second Language (SSL) classes. International students attend these very small SSL classes when the rest of their classmates are in their regular Spanish class.