The foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains

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CFSD's Chinese Immersion Program

The Catalina Foothills School District offers the opportunity for students to learn Mandarin Chinese in a partial immersion program. In immersion programs, language is not taught as a subject; it is the medium in which instruction occurs. Research shows the most effective way for children to acquire a second language is to integrate instruction into the standard curriculum that children are already learning.

CFSD's Mandarin Chinese immersion program provides students with linguistic skills, higher-order thinking skills, and a global perspective that will help them engage and succeed in a rapidly changing 21st century world. Continue reading below to learn more about CFSD's Mandarin Chinese immersion program.

Which immersion model does CFSD offer?

CFSD’s Mandarin Chinese immersion program follows the partial immersion model. All students in CFSD, both those in the immersion program and those who are in the traditional (non-immersion) classroom, engage in meaningful learning experiences that are designed to address challenging academic standards. Students in the immersion program accomplish this by spending part of the day addressing academic standards using the immersion language and the other part of the day using English. CFSD's Chinese immersion teachers are required to be native speakers or demonstrate native-like proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Teachers in each grade level collaborate to design and implement lessons that will support students as they work to meet and exceed grade-level expectations for CFSD’s curriculum.

What are the goals of the CFSD immersion program?

CFSD’s immersion programming encompasses four overarching goals. Students will:

  • Meet or exceed academic achievement levels in all areas of the district curriculum;
  • Acquire a high level of communicative and academic proficiency in English;
  • Demonstrate progress toward proficiency in the immersion language;
  • Gain an appreciation of other cultures and a deeper understanding of their own culture; and
  • Increase their capacity for creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

Who is eligible to enroll in CFSD’s partial immersion programs?

CFSD’s Mandarin Chinese immersion program is open to all English-proficient students entering Kindergarten and Grade 1. (No previous experience with Mandarin Chinese is necessary to enroll in Kindergarten or Grade 1.) English-proficient students who enroll in Grade 2 and beyond must take an assessment to demonstrate a comparable level of proficiency in the immersion language as compared to their grade level cohort.

Do immersion teachers use English during instruction?

No. By definition, immersion classrooms are those in which English is never spoken. In CFSD we maintain the integrity of this component of the program by requiring that anyone who is in the immersion classroom—including administrators, other staff members, visitors, etc.—only speaks the immersion language or does not speak at all. Many immersion teachers place communication envelopes or boards outside their classroom doors so that parents and others can leave messages in English without disrupting the immersion environment.

There is only one exception to the rule for exclusive use of the immersion language in CFSD’s immersion classrooms: Immersion teachers will use English when necessary to ensure student safety.

What if I want to remove my child from the program?

Parental support for the student and the teachers is very important for a successful learning experience. Parents who choose immersion for their children must understand that language immersion requires a long-term commitment. Children do not become proficient in a language without exposure and practice over an extended period of time. The time it takes for children to begin speaking, reading and writing in another language varies from one child to another. Parents who have questions or concerns are encouraged to speak with their child’s teacher and principal.

Does living in the school’s neighborhood increase my child’s chances of gaining entrance into the program?

Residents of District 16 have priority to enroll in CFSD immersion programs through the last day of the Open Enrollment period. (Consult the CFSD Home Page for the exact date each year.) After that date, immersion programs are offered to new open enrollment families. If an immersion program reaches capacity and a resident expresses interest in enrolling after the last day of the Open Enrollment period, the resident can be added to call-back list and will be notified if there is a change in enrollment.

How can I learn more about immersion education in CFSD?

Attend one of the parent information sessions that are offered each spring. Consult the school website or contact the school office for details:

  • Sunrise Drive Elementary (Chinese): 520-209-7900

Information adapted from the following sources:

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. ACTFL proficiency guidelines 2012.
Retrieved from:
Association of the United States Army. DLI’s language guidelines. Retrieved from:
Brondum, J. Stenson, N. (1998). Types of immersion education: An Introduction. Retrieved from:
Fortune, T. W., Tedick, D. J. (2003). What parents want to know about foreign language immersion programs. Retrieved from:
Lexington School District One. Immersion FAQs. Retrieved from:
Portland Public Schools (2015). Dual language. Retrieved from: