Last spring, nine brave eighth-graders at Denver Language School (DLS) took and successfully passed college-level Advanced Placement (AP) exams in either Chinese or Spanish Language and Culture. This represented a 100% pass rate in the pilot of year of DLS’s AP program.
“We knew our students were at a really high level,” said principal Kathy Benzel, “And we wanted to give them the opportunity to show what they know and to have that excellent acknowledgment of where they’re at in terms of their linguistic journey at that point in time.”
The school selected nine eighth-graders, out of a class of about 22, that it felt would be able to rise to the challenge and helped them to prepare. Middle schools don’t typically offer AP exams, according to Benzel, and DLS is the only Denver school she knows of that does.
Credits from AP exams don’t expire, noted Benzel, meaning that it is likely that the middle schoolers who passed these exams could use them for college credit and/or placement in future language classes
Students at the public charter school typically begin full immersion into Mandarin Chinese or Spanish in kindergarten or first grade. They take all of their classes in the “target language,” said Benzel – even math classes – yet continue to post impressive results on other tests administered in English, such as PARCC tests and, now, AP exams.
The 100% immersion model that DLS offers is unusual in DPS, where schools typically offer a more graduated program. Benzel says that, while it is a challenge for young learners to adapt, the rewards in terms of fluency and “brain benefits” are extraordinary.
The West campus of DLS, which is just southwest of Cherry Creek Mall, serves grades K-2 and the East campus, located just west of Lowry, serves grades 3-8, with a current total enrollment of about 750 students. Although DLS is a popular choice among DPS families, Benzel reports that spots regularly open up from their waitlist, particularly in Chinese. To learn more, please visit their website at www.denverlanguageschool.org.