Teachers bringing study to the table
CHAMPAIGN – Foreign language teachers would like to see the Champaign school district restore an exploratory language course and add another year of language instruction at the middle school level.
Their long-term goals include initiatives at the high school level, such as adding heritage classes for students able to speak a second language but who need to improve their grammar and writing skills; and, ultimately, adding foreign language classes at the elementary level.
Those are among the recommendations the teachers will make to the school board Monday night.
The group developed short- and long-term plans for improving the foreign language program in the school district, with the help of a $25,000 state grant they received last summer. The grant allowed them to look at other programs, research the best practices for teaching foreign languages, then make recommendations on how to create the ideal program for the district.
Champaign currently offers Spanish, French and German in grades 8-12.
The teachers involved in the study visited schools in the Chicago suburbs, Normal, Edwardsville and Indianapolis.
"We saw some things we loved. We saw some things we really would not want for our district," said Stacy McAndrew, a Spanish teacher at Centennial High. "But it was a great opportunity to see what other schools are doing.
"Other districts view foreign language as a core class, just as important as reading, science, math and social studies."
They conducted a survey of parents and community members beginning in January, asking them if foreign language instruction is important to them and what they would like to see offered by the district, among other things.
The teachers know it will be difficult to expand foreign language when the district has other pressing financial needs and a tight budget – and when schools also need time to provide additional help in reading and math, for testing and for enrichment programs.
But they also say foreign language study can reinforce and enhance what students are learning in core classes, and research shows that foreign language instruction – especially when it begins before high school – improves test scores.