2 school districts adding elementary Spanish [Wisconsin State Journal]

by Gena Kittner for the Wisconsin State Journal

Two Dane County school districts will be saying “hola ” to new language programs at the elementary level this fall.In the Oregon School District, Spanish will be taught in kindergarten through fourth grades starting this fall, with fifth and sixth grades added in the fall of 2009, said Courtney Odorico, Oregon School Board member.

Teaching only Spanish is a scaled-down version of what the district originally considered — teaching a different language such as Japanese, Chinese or German — at each of its three elementary schools.
“I think parents were a little worried about not having a choice, ” Odorico said. Also, “there were very few certified teachers in Chinese and some of the other languages we were looking at in the state. “The School Board approved the program at a meeting Monday.Spanish also is the language of choice for elementary students in Monona Grove, where the School Board approved the program earlier this month.The parent response was overwhelmingly for Spanish, said Bill Breisch, curriculum director for the Monona Grove School District.

Spanish will be phased in starting in kindergarten this fall, adding a grade each year through fifth grade. The initial cost will be about $40,000 — mostly for salary and benefits for a part-time teacher and some start-up costs.

The district won ‘t have to buy a Spanish textbook, and Spanish won ‘t be taught as a separate class at the elementary level. Instead, it will be delivered to students using existing academic content and skills that teachers will identify at each grade.

“It ‘s implementing world language instruction directly into the current elementary curriculum, ” Breisch said. Instruction in Spanish will be for 30 minutes, three times a week, at each grade.

“World language skills need to be part of our K-12 core academic curriculum, not just an elective for middle-school and high-school students, ” Breisch said. “This is not a fad. In these times, all of our students need to have strong world language skills when they graduate. ”

Oregon ‘s program will cost the district about $190,000 for three full-time teachers and start-up costs.

The language teachers will rotate through individual classrooms, spending about 30 minutes with each class every other day.

Odorico said she hopes the district can open up additional language options in coming years at the middle school.

Last year, about 15 percent of Wisconsin schools offered an elementary language program, with Spanish being the most popular, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

Pam Delfosse, DPI world language consultant, said a growing number of school districts are contacting her for information on such programs, as are parents, teachers and business leaders.

“We ‘re tremendously excited about this shift in priority to the elementary level, ” she said.


State lawmakers are proposing legislation calling for $500,000 in funding through the Department of Instruction to help schools interested in starting a world language program in grades 1 through 6, said Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie. Hebl, along with Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster, plan to announce the initiative at 9:30 a.m. today in the library of Netherwood Knoll Elementary, 200 Soden Drive, Oregon.