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F-M Superintendent: Language plan 'shovel ready' in case funds become available

— A Fayetteville-Manlius task force last week announced several recommendations aimed at elevating the number of F-M students proficient in a foreign language, including the possibility of offering Spanish earlier than eighth grade.

“We want to always have this as a ‘shovel ready’ project,” Superintendent Corliss Kaiser said in a press release. “We want to have a plan in place so that if funds become available, we are ready to move forward.” 

The district now offers French, German, Latin and Spanish beginning in eighth grade.

In 2010-11, 328 students took a level 3 foreign language, 248 completed a level 4, and 75 took the Advanced Placement level course, according to a report drafted by a District Planning Team task force. The decrease in the number of F-M students enrolling in the AP level is due in part to the late start that F-M students get in learning foreign languages, the report states.

“The brain of an older learner is stable and less able to reorganize … The critical period for language learning is during the early childhood years,” the report stated.

The task force reviewed a number of options for offering earlier all four of the district’s current languages before settling on one long-term goal: introducing one foreign language, Spanish, for two or more years with a systematic development of language skills within the parameters of themes, topics or content areas. 

According to the district’s press release, Spanish was selected because it is the language of study chosen by the most number of students.

“Though this is a long term goal, there remain essential short-term changes that should be addressed as soon as practicable,” the report stated.

Short-term goals include beginning foreign language study in grade seven as soon as feasible; beginning foreign language study with all students at the same pace; having all students begin credit bearing foreign language study in grade eight after implementation of the proposed seventh grade introductory language study; exploring and developing a plan to implement foreign language grades 1-6; and  further exploring the use of software to enhance foreign language study.

As administrators develop future district budgets, they will look for opportunities to implement the task force recommendations, Kaiser said.

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