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Bring back seventh-grade foreign language in Liverpool

— Three years ago, the Liverpool Central School District eliminated foreign language, also referred to as Languages Other Than English (LOTE), in seventh grade in order to save money.

The move was a mistake.

Now, as part of his 2013-14 budget proposal, Superintendent Dr. Richard N. Johns is asking the board of education to restore that year.

New York is one of 28 states that requires a foreign language in order to obtain a state diploma. According to the New York State Department of Education, students must earn one LOTE credit before entering ninth grade. This can be done in one of two ways:

Successfully completing two units of study and passing a locally-developed test that is aligned to the state’s “Checkpoint A Learning Standards” prior to grade nine, or

Passing a year-long grade eight accelerated program of study and passing a locally-developed test that is aligned to the same standards.

By eliminating the seventh grade program in the 2010-11 budget, Liverpool moved toward the second option. The cut also did away with 5.4 full-time LOTE teachers. That same year, the state raised the bar for students to meet its Checkpoint A standards. In the past, they just had to pass a state proficiency exam; now they must pass a final exam, as well as the course. This left Liverpool’s students at a deficit, as they now were expected to learn two years’ worth of material in just one.

Prior to the cut, Liverpool had a rigorous curriculum that required 65 grammar points taught within 14 topics required by NYSED. These included listening, speaking, reading, writing and cultural skills. Eliminating seventh-grade LOTE, however, resulted in the removal of 26 of those 65 grammar points. Instead, those had to be taught later (in ninth grade and beyond). As such, program requirements at those levels were eliminated. The time allotted for language acquisition in each unit was cut in half. The end result? Our students were not as well-prepared in foreign languages as their peers from other districts.

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