Written by Gabriella Iannetta, firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday, 05 December 2012 11:37
The North Shore School District Board of Education meeting took place Thursday, Nov. 29. The meeting started with going over the minutes from the meeting before and making announcements of current student activities. As Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick announced the upcoming holiday concerts, he encouraged meeting participants to attend so all can witness the “wonderful accomplishments of our students.” The student representative for North Shore High School also enthusiastically had news of the highly engaging extracurricular activities. The Robotics Club recently attended the Robotics Divisional and the Key Club will be ringing the bells for the Salvation Army at the Stop and Shop in Glen Cove on weekends in December. Kenny Daley, the North Shore High School football all-star, is currently being nominated for the Timex Heart of a Giant Award. You can still vote for Kenny today at: http://www2.usafootball.com/ app/webroot/timex/.
The next order of business was the World Languages Phase-In Proposal, the reason the majority were attending the meeting. Before the debate commenced, however, Dr. Melnick put an empty chair in front of all the members sitting in the front of the room.
Melnick started by saying, “When we get into discussion about policy and programs, we tend to get too emotional and get passionate about our beliefs, what we desire and what we like, and we can make those decisions based on emotionality, passion and desire …but we need to base our decision for that student sitting in that seat.”
After placing the imaginary student representative in the center of the board, the meeting began with Dr. Melnick’s tri-state review of Language Other Then English program.
“First of all, we must change the name to World Language. We are a global society,” he said. Dr. Melnick noted that he did intensive research based on the languages the district has today versus the languages that will help students in the competitive job market beyond high school. While the district offers four languages to students, of the top 10 languages used in the world only two, French and Spanish, are offered in the district. Dr. Melnick went on to say that geopolitical studies show that Americans are at a disadvantage for not knowing another global language, and that international students have a better chance of getting jobs because of their education in second and third foreign languages, outside of their native language. Studies also went as far to show that students who held a proficiency in Mandarin, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, and Azerbaijan had better chances of receiving scholarships. Today, Mandarin is the most commonly spoken language in the world, according to studies.
Out of the critical access languages reports show today, Italian did not make the cut for many researchers. In fact, the only list Italian language was found on, it was still listed as 27 most important. When the language was implemented in the district more than 10 years ago, it was a response to the over-whelming number of Italian-American residents in the area, not based off life-after high school. Latin research backs up that even though the language is not spoken as a national language around the world, that the education of Latin is still integral for developing necessary skills to improve the English language, critical thinking, higher SAT scores, higher math results and more. Latin is the parent language of almost all languages in the world.
The importance of knowing a second language is not disputed. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) reports that only 18.5 percent of American students obtain a second language in their lifetime, which is substantially low compared to the rest of the world. Knowing a foreign language gives students around the world the opportunity to obtain more competitive jobs and communicate to a larger percentage of the global population. There is no way to reach proficiency by starting a second language in sixth grade; it must be done at the age where minds absorb the most in kindergarten. Dr. Melnick’s recommendations are to implement a three-tier phase-in program. Tier one would be between the grades K-6, tier two would include grades 7-12, and tier 3 would be electives offered in the middle school and high school. The program is more specifically known as FLES: Foreign Language in Elementary School.
The FLES program as suggested by the superintendent would allow students to begin to learn Mandarin from kindergarten to second grade, have the option to continue Mandarin or switch to Spanish in third-grade through fifth grade. In sixth grade, students will have the option to continue Spanish or Mandarin or the chance to study either Latin or French. From 2012-2020, the phase-in would slowly eliminate Italian as a graduate requirement, and offer it as an elective. This implementation would not cause any students who are taking Italian now to not make their graduate requirement or teachers to lose jobs. Students taking Italian now will still have the opportunity to finish their selected language until their senior year. Italian teachers will not lose their jobs because there will be Italian-language and culture electives offered. This new program would increase the language department by 30 percent within eight years.
During public discussion, concerned French, Italian, and Special Education teachers spoke up. A French teacher expressed how Latin is a dead language, can be taught in other subjects such as English and Science, and is not spoken around the world. The special education teacher expressed concern about losing Latin in the curriculum because it is so closely related to English, and is said to improve the ability of students with Asperger’s to understand and achieve a successful understanding, over other languages. Lastly, two Italian teachers spoke passionately, agreeing with the French teacher that Latin is a dying language and Italian should stay a major language in the curriculum, not only an elective.
One of these teachers explained how Dr. Melnick’s research was extremely useful, however, does not include other facts about the Italian language. She said that Italy is the eighth largest exporter in the world, and is a head player in industries such as the fashion and food industry. She claimed that though it is not the most commonly spoken language, the country still deals with major industries around the world, making the language still a valuable asset to students.
Ultimately, there was not a definitive conclusion at the meeting. The board members said that much review will be needed before any definite plans are made, and the decision of what language should be eliminated is still undecided, though Dr. Melnick’s recommendation suggests the removal of Italian be necessary. The budget does not allow the district to have five languages and no matter what decision the board and administration come to, board members acknowledged there will likely be some parents, teachers and students disappointed by the final choice. The board does agree that regardless of whatever languages are chosen, this program will make the North Shore district up to speed with current times by starting students at a young age, and further their success in the future.