Baltimore International Academy West (BIA West) is a replication school of the original BIA (now identified as BIA East), which was Baltimore City's first international language immersion school. In contrast to most other existing international schools, BIA West is a public school that is available to all of Baltimore City's students. Beyond the international emphasis, the philosophy of the BIA West is to use innovative (in Baltimore) yet proven teaching and learning methods to improve student learning and to expand school choice for students in the City of Baltimore.
The particular aspect offered by the BIA West is that starting from kindergarten and grade 1, students are immersed in a foreign language and are taught all their academic subjects in that foreign language, with English taught by specialist English Language Arts teachers, beginning in grade 2. Furthermore, in lieu of concentrating on a single foreign language for the immersion experience, BIA West will offer five different immersion possibilities, to enhance cultural diversity and the school’s international context. These five language options will be offered as the school grows. The school began it first year with French and Spanish Immersion, and its second and third years with Spanish, Chinese, and French Immersion programs.
The founders of BIA, East and West, firmly believe, based on existing research that enriching our curriculum with an emphasis on foreign language improves the academic performance of our students. A full professional treatise on the benefits of early second language learning and the benefits of being bilingual is available on the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) web site, in Kathleen M. Marcos’s report “Second Language Learning: Everyone Can Benefit” at http://www.cal.org/earlylang/benefits/marcos.html. Research on local programs in Fairfax, VA showed that students who had participated for five years in immersion scored as well as, or better than, all comparison groups on achievement tests and that they remained high academic achievers throughout their schooling (Thomas, W. P., V. P. Collier, and M. Abbott. 1993, “Academic Achievement Through Japanese, Spanish, or French: The First Two Years of Partial Immersion.” Modern Language Journal 77 (2): 170–180). A case-matched, controlled, longitudinal study completed in 2002 by the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ Office of Testing & Accountability demonstrated a “valued-added” component to the academic performance of the students in the French Immersion Programs; that is, after exposure to the programs, students scored better than comparable peers not in the program when matched for grade, gender, race, socio-economic status, and initial test and aptitude scores.