School District Abandons Both Rhyme and Reason in Language Programs

Douglas J. Buege:

As budget cuts extract another ton of flesh from Madison’s public school students, classroom teachers reel from the aftershocks. Keeping a smooth, consistent curriculum takes a lot from an educator, yet as our well-trained teachers meet tough demands, we witness a loss of both rhyme and reason at both the school and the district level. Nowhere do the wounds from budget cuts show more clearly than in foreign language education. If you think Junior should learn a second language, you might consider relocating once you learn the facts.
A child’s chance of learning the language of their choice depends heavily upon where they live within the district. In the fall of 2007, high school students at West, LaFollette, and Memorial will be able to choose from five non-English languages; kids at East get two. The German program, recently axed at East, leaves Spanish and French as the only options, stranding several students like Daniel Schott who’d devoted his time and energy to learning German. Daniel’s choice of German will carry with him through college where his opportunity to earn back credit for high school work diminishes—unless he’s willing to travel to LaFollette daily, an option that will disrupt his daily schedule beyond reason.
Imagine your child taking a novel language, say Italian, as a middle schooler. Students at Spring Harbor and Wright Middle Schools have that option. Unfortunately, the high schools to which Spring Harbor and Wright feed do not offer Italian, creating an academic dead-end for those without the resources to move to the LaFollette area. Even then, the Italian program there may disappear given the recent exodus of the Italian teacher for greener soccer pitches.

Vie the Daily Page.

2 thoughts on “School District Abandons Both Rhyme and Reason in Language Programs”

  1. Fluency in another language is important for many reasons, not least of which it’s often how students learn basic English grammar rules, so I appreciate the author stressing the value of our kids learning other languages. However, his argument stumbles when he goes seriously offtrack dividing up the town into eastside v westside . Check out the other academic offerings at West, the paucity of AP in general, for example, and compare that to East or LaFollette would be my first suggestion.
    I’d hope the author would follow closely the redesign of the high school curricula in general (and speak up for a wide menu of foreign languages at each school in particular). I think he’d have alot to offer, provided he can get over his obsession with class and side of town.
    Finally, Rainwater shut down the opportunity for students to attend UW to take a foreign language not offered at their home school. For many, getting to UW or MATC is doable, schedule-wise, but getting cross-town is not. Not only does the district not pay for these non-MMSD courses, students don’t get credit either towards graduation or for “full-time student” status. Thus, even if your working class German student could get help through a TAG or other scholarship program to attend UW, it wouldn’t count. I appreciate that in tight budget times, MMSD can’t pay for these classes, but why shut off the chance to do it? For those who can afford to, let them take those UW or MATC or on-line language classes. For those who can’t, let’s find scholarships or other funding sources. We hold bake sales and other fund raisers for athletic programs, why not foreign language opportunities? Or the Foundation for Madison Schools?

  2. There are MANY differences between our four high schools. Here are two posts about 9th and 10th grade offerings in English, science and social studies:
    In addition, the four schools differ in terms of the number of AP courses they offer their students:
    East – 8
    LaFollette – 12
    Memorial – 17
    West – 9
    Many of us are, of course, hoping that the high school study and redesign effort will address these inequities in educational opportunity.
    If you have specific concerns, you might consider contacting the members of the High School Redesign Committee —
    I have been told that there will be a public information session about the Committee’s progress to date and a District-wide “small learning communities” grant in the next week or two.

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