173 schools, 94 cities, 34 states! These are the recent data on French dual-language immersion programs in the U.S. Most of the schools surveyed are public schools with a majority of them at the elementary level. While fewer secondary schools offer French dual-language education more states are now developing plans for creating strong high school programs (Utah, Louisiana, Florida, New York, etc.). All schools follow the local / state curriculum which is taught in English and French through teaching models that vary from school to school. The survey did not include the 47 French curriculum schools that follow France’s National curriculum.
While Montgomery County Public Schools boast the oldest French immersion program opened in 1974, Louisiana’s historical roots place the state at the helm of French dual-language immersion in the United States. From 405 students in 1991 there, 5,279 students now attend a French immersion program offered in 34 schools in 2018-19. Second on the list, and catching up with rapid growth, Utah’s French dual-language programs serve 5000 students in 31 schools in 2018-19. With its bilingual revolution, New York City offers the most French dual-language programs as a city with 12 schools serving 2000 students.
There is room for growth given the number of French language speakers in the United States alone – based on the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey, 1.3M of Americans older than 5 years-old speak French at home. The number of school-aged children who live in French-speaking homes in the U.S. is estimated to be at 250,000. Less than 10% are actually benefiting from French dual-language programs.
The growth of these programs also reflects their popularity among non-French-speaking families whose children represent the majority in French dual-language classrooms across the nation. And many more have shown interest in these programs given the long waiting lists and lotteries put in place in many schools.
This data was presented during the Seventh Annual International Conference on Immersion & Dual Language Education in Charlotte, NC on February 8, 2019. Special thanks to Solene Burtz & Massinissa Baleh for their collaboration on this survey.