F-M superintendent presents plan to start Spanish in seventh grade

— Fayetteville-Manlius Superintendent Corliss Kaiser presented a plan at Monday night’s school board meeting to start offering Spanish to seventh grade students. Currently, the district offers Spanish, German, Latin and French starting in eighth grade.

The plan was drafted by a foreign language task force of 14 district employees, including the superintendent.

“This is not what we feel is the best way to go, but perhaps a feasible way to begin this journey,” Kaiser told the board and about 15 residents, most of whom were F-M foreign language teachers, gathered in the Eagle Hill Middle School library.

Kate Stewart, the district’s sole German teacher, is not on the task force. She said she was "quite surprised and disappointed” by the plan to start only Spanish in seventh grade.

Kaiser said the plan would add considerably to the 2012-13 budget and beyond, and the district will search for grant monies or consider using federal dollars if they become available through additional stimulus funds.

"We would like this to be considered as a 'shovel ready' project that will be considered when the budget forecast begins to improve," Kaiser said.

Kaiser said the district’s planning team last year found that 248 students in the district completed a foreign language at level four, and 74 students took the Advanced Placement course (level five) in 2010-11.

“We equate the AP course with proficiency, so you can see that very few students are advancing on to a proficient level before they graduate,” she said. “[We think] that without the earlier start, the students don’t have that proficiency level and perhaps don’t have that interest to continue.”

The plan would create 10 sections of Spanish at both middle schools, taught by two teachers per school. Students would receive Spanish instruction every other day as well as supplemental instruction through Rosetta Stone computer software monitored by two teaching assistants. Twenty-five computers at each middle school would be designated for the software.

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