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Help us to save the only Public School Russian Language Program at Argonne ES!

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“It's a treat to be able to learn a foreign language in school" – Argonne 4th Grader in Russian Students at San Francisco's Argonne Elementary School are about to lose a valuable part of their education, one that makes this school distinctive within San Francisco Unified School district and the state of California’s public school system. Argonne is the home of the only Russian language and cultural program in the state, and one of only two public programs across the country. This program is a model of motivational language instruction and the instructors have presented their cutting edge curriculum at conferences nationally. Congress eliminated the sole source of funding for this nationally recognized program when it cut Foreign Language Assistance funding earlier this year, and shocked a diverse school community of more than 425 students and their families; who now are fighting for the survival of the program. At Argonne Elementary, nestled in the Richmond district, an old Russian neighborhood in San Francisco, two Russian teachers provide every child with two forty-five minute Russian lessons each week. They teach Russian language and culture through storytelling, folk and contemporary literature, poems, songs, games and drama. The Russian program draws together a culturally, ethnically, socially and economically diverse school community. Every single child in the school participates in the beloved program, and the children speak Russian, sing Russian songs, and recite Russian poems together, regardless of their differences. Every child develops an awareness and understanding of the Russian neighborhood that surrounds the school, and an appreciation for the Russian businesses and organizations that are integral to the neighborhood. The families at the school of all backgrounds love this program: “For my 1st grader, who also has autism, it has been amazing to see him blossom in this class. His teacher is so animated she has drawn him into Russian culture without any effort on his part. He loves Russian class and will happily count in Russian or sing songs while playing at home. Both of my children have gotten so much from this program and from these dedicated teachers who have made learning fun.” - Janet Yieh About 30 Argonne students speak Russian at home as a first language. These “heritage speakers” are ambassadors of Russian language and culture for their peers. They experience the pride of sharing their culture and language with their peers, and the non-native speakers benefit from hearing and seeing native speakers in Russian classes and within the larger community. They not only participate in the program, but attend an after school program for Russian heritage speakers. Children who learn languages in the early grades show improved overall school performance, superior problem-solving skills, and better scores on standardized tests. They score higher on the SAT verbal section and in mathematics. Learning a language provides students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening. It gives a child the ability to communicate with people s/he would otherwise not have the chance to know, opens the door to other cultures and helps a child understand and appreciate people from other countries. Learning a foreign language also improves a child’s understanding of their native language and later in life, learning Russian, a major economic language from a political world power, improves an individual’s chance of getting a job. The cost to maintain this program is only $170,000 per year, but at time where SFUSD is facing a considerable deficit, the only sure way to save the program is through outside funding. The program was initiated in 2007 and is truly a jewel. The risk is that if it does not continue next year, education will be diminished and other popular languages may take its place in the future. Will you support for Russian Language Education die in San Francisco this year?


Argonne Elementary school Parent Teacher's organization together with teachers of Russian program


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