The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 10, 2006


Carlisle elementary students to learn Spanish next year

Beginning this fall for the first time, all elementary students at the Carlisle School will learn Spanish. The Spanish program, funded by a grant from the Carlisle Education Foundation, is the first language program for all the elementary grades at the school.

At a presentation by the World Languages Department for the School Committee February 1, Principal Steve Goodwin gave an outline of how the program will work. Kindergartners and first graders will learn Spanish for 20-30 minutes once a week. Grades two to four will learn Spanish for 35-45 minutes, either once a week or in two shorter time blocks.

Language survey results

Spanish was chosen for elementary students based on a survey sent home to parents this year, asking their language preference for students. The survey preference results were: 55% Spanish, 25% Chinese, 15% French, with 5% indicating no preference. Goodwin said Spanish was also chosen because it is fast becoming the second language in America.

Starting in fifth grade, students can choose from one of three languages now taught at the school: Spanish, French, or Mandarin Chinese. Students will then study the language they choose from grades five to eight, throughout middle school. Early language study should give students a basic structure of four to five years before they enter middle school, Goodwin said.

School Committee member Nicole Burkel said she was pleased to finally see an elementary language program implemented at the school, noting that elementary language has been in the school's improvement plan for more than five years.

Mandarin Chinese classes started at the school this year and Chinese is now offered as a language for students in grades six and seven. Chinese is also offered at Concord-Carlisle High School where students can continue studying the language.

The non-profit Carlisle Education Foundation funded the new elementary language program through a grant to the school in 2005. This is the first year of the multi-year grant. Students in grade five began language study in January and are learning Spanish, Chinese and French through the end of the school year.

After a task force studied how best to implement the elementary language program, it will begin in full this fall. Elementary world language is not part of the regular school budget and at this time is not funded by it. Goodwin said foreign language was part of the fifth grade curriculum five years ago, but the program was cut from the budget for fiscal reasons. World language for the middle school, grades six to eight, is included in the budget.

With elementary language being added to the curriculum, some parents wondered what subjects will be dropped from the school day. Alex Krapf asked, "What else is removed for language?"

Goodwin said later that teachers are now developing curriculum benchmarks for each grade with an educational consultant. The benchmarks will determine what is essential to know, important to know, and nice to know, and will help determine what areas, if any, can be reduced. "Students may not have to know every last detail," of some subjects, he said, and removing a non-essential curriculum area may allow some space in the schedule for elementary language.

After the meeting, Goodwin was asked if French will be reduced because of the new emphasis on Spanish and Chinese. "The intent of the program is not to diminish any language," he said, "but to offer an elementary program to contribute to a great middle school program." The school does not plan to hire staff to teach the new Spanish classes. Goodwin explained that language teachers may switch to cover some of the Spanish classes, if needed.

French teacher Nicole Baker, who said she was hired back in 1992, thanked the Carlisle Education Foundation for the new Rosetta Stone software for French and Spanish, and the Kurzweil 3000 software purchased for the language program by the CEF and the Carlisle School Association. "We are very grateful for these programs." Spanish teacher Andrea Steffek and Chinese teacher Chiao Bin Huang also spoke at the meeting to give an update on the language program.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito