My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

World Language Report

Note: Given the interest in world language on my blog, I am posting the entire world language report issued in July 2008.

K-12 Foreign Language Committee Report July 2008


In the past decade, parents, community members, and teachers in Amherst have expressed a strong interest in beginning the study of foreign languages in the early grades. Elementary school language programs are growing nationally, statewide, and in our own schools. The exposure to other cultures and different ways of seeing the world will help our students develop a better understanding of themselves as members of a global community. In response to these initiatives, we believe that it is time to implement a foreign language program in all Amherst elementary schools.

Research indicates that the early study of a foreign language results in the following benefits:

• Academic achievement and cognitive gains for ALL students, including:
➢ Mental flexibility, divergent thinking, and higher-order thinking skills
➢ Development of student’s memory, creativity and listening skills
➢ Greater progress in the acquisition of English Language Arts, specifically in the areas of reading and writing
• Higher standardized test scores, especially in the verbal areas
• Positive attitudes toward diversity
• Insight into one’s own language and culture
• Sharpened awareness of one’s self, of other cultures, and of one’s relationship to those cultures
• Heightened self concepts and sense of achievement in school
• A “head start” in language requirements for high school and college and thus also increased career opportunities where knowing another language is an asset

We believe that, for all of these reasons, Amherst should start language instruction early, take it seriously, and fund it well.


1. K-6 FLES Program:

We believe that the best option for an Elementary School Foreign Language program is a K-6 FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary School) model, along the lines of the Chinese program we began at Wildwood in 2006-2007. A program beginning in Kindergarten and offering engaging curriculum based on the National Standards and integrated with the elementary classroom curriculum provides students with the best opportunity to develop proficiency in the target language and to continue study successfully through their years in secondary school. There is a wealth of research on the characteristics of a successful elementary foreign language program.

Elements of a successful foreign language program:

• All students begin the study of a foreign language in Kindergarten.
• All instruction is in the target language and oral proficiency based
• Content-based thematic units in the foreign language enhance, reinforce and articulate with the English language classroom curriculum
• Staffed by certified teachers who utilize developmentally appropriate methodologies and differentiated instruction
• Incorporation of the five C’s of the Massachusetts Frameworks and the National Standards: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons and Communities
• Ongoing authentic assessments embedded in engaging learning activities
• Include a component of exploration within the 6th grade language program that will increase students’ knowledge and enthusiasm for further language study in the secondary school.

A FLES program could begin as a small program at the early grades, with the plan that it would grow as the first students progress through school (6-7 years to full implementation). Alternatively, we could follow the model of our Wildwood program, beginning in grades K, 1 and 2 and having the program fully implemented in three years.

In considering what languages to offer, we are attuned to several factors:

• The success of the Chinese program at Wildwood and the availability of federal funding for further Chinese study
• The range of offerings in our secondary schools (Chinese, French, German, Latin, Russian, Spanish)
• The characteristics, desires and interests of the various elementary schools
• Meeting the needs of heritage speakers

We are aware of the possibility of a new configuration of the elementary schools, and have recommendations that would be practicable with any of the future arrangements. Further, the committee formally endorses a K-6 Spanish program in the Pelham Elementary School.

1A Chinese at Wildwood and Mark’s Meadow
Spanish at Crocker Farm and Fort River

This recommendation recognizes the success of the Chinese program and the desire of many in the community for Spanish instruction in our elementary schools. It also recognizes the possibility of schools being paired in a primary school / elementary school model.

1B Language Options

There are additional possibilities for languages other than Spanish and Chinese that could be considered in the elementary program.

We are aware that research shows that the group finalizing decisions (informed by a survey) concerning language choices for each school should include all those who have a stake in the implementation of the program – parents, foreign language teachers, classroom teachers and school administrators.

We were charged to consider three options. We feel strongly that the above option is far superior to the following two, which we rejected:

2. 4-6 FLES Program:

This is a scaled-down model which is not as effective. Students will develop some proficiency, but typically a program of this magnitude does not give students enough instruction for them to skip a year of language at the middle school level.

The one language that does work at this level is Latin. Not being a modern language, Latin has different goals and different methodology. Songs, skits and stories are still used to develop oral and reading proficiency, but in addition students spend a lot of time in the study of English word roots, and ancient mythology. The research shows that students enrolled in such a program achieve lasting benefits in language arts and other areas of the curriculum.

3. FLEX in Grade 6 or 5-6

FLEX (Foreign Language Exploration) programs offer exposure to a variety of foreign languages. They do not provide the benefits of increased proficiency that a full FLES program offers. The goal of a FLEX program is to introduce students to the concept of language study and to give a taste of it in a variety of languages. The benefits of a well designed FLEX program are increased enthusiasm for language study and more information for students to make an informed decision as they choose a language to begin in 7th grade.

A FLEX program would be an inexpensive option that would fit well if we were to have an elementary configuration with one 5-6 school. Students could study each of our six languages for one third of the year over the course of two years. FLEX language courses focus on basic proficiency and introducing the cultures where the language is used. They are multi-cultural, fun, and increase students’ knowledge and enthusiasm for further language study. A Grade 6 FLEX program could offer students a snippet of each language and offer the same benefits, though in a diminished form.

Respectfully submitted by members of the K-12 Foreign Language Committee:

Carol Carson-Leinhart
Irene Eigner
Liz Elder
Roberta Issler
Alicia Lopez
Paul Lipman
Judi Newcomb
Sean Smith
David Brule
Karen Lowe


Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying the attempts to change the narrative in order to shoot down this effort regarding foreign language instruction, seemingly from teachers and administrators who don't want to be bothered.

I'm enjoying it because it won't work. This is why we have elected school committees, because democracy actually matters. We have SC elections every year so the concerns of voters get brought to the fore and something is done about them.

Good luck to the School Committee candidate who wants to run against an incumbent who is trying to build "a love of language" into an elementary school curriculum. Knock yourself out.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 10:55 - I have frankly wondered whether the opposition to Spanish language instruction K to 6 is fierce simply because I've proposed it, and it therefore seems like something good only for "elite" children. And I can't recall any criticism of adding K to 6 Chinese in Wildwood just a few years ago. However, I continue to hear from parents and community members that they are thrilled with adding Spanish for all kids, and it is clearly, clearly something that the community has wanted for years.

And I guess this is as good a time to announce as any -- I will be seeking re-election in the spring of 2011. I'm certain other very good candidates will emerge to campaign for this seat, and I look foward to an active and energetic campaign season -- which frankly will give voters a chance to decide who they believe is the best candidate to serve on School Committee. So, this may well be the final year of my blog (which I certainly won't continue post my time on SC!).

Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering, is instrumental music going to be offerred in the third grade again next year? No? Then the $400,000 is not extra money.

Has Reading Recovery been restored in the elementary schools? No? Then the $400,000 is not extra money.

Have the math coaches and teacher mentors been restored for 2010/2011school year? NO? Then the $400,000 is not extra money.

These are just three items that have been cut from the schools budget in the last few years. There are myriad others. Things that have been cut and not restored for the 2010/2011 school year. They have not been restored because the schools don't have the money to restore them. There is no extra money. So to keep insisting that we have all this extra money just laying around is disingenuous.

I think people are not opposed to the idea of world languages in the elementary school. What they are objecting to is adding a new program NOW when so many things that have been cut over the years still lie on the cutting room floor.

Yes, the idea of adding world language to our curriculum has been discussed for years but has not been implemented because of budgetary constraints. Don't forget, the Wildwood Chinese program was totally funded with a grant. And yes, part of the terms of the grant was that world language would be taught in all the schools at the end of the grant period. But, then the budgetary woes hit, not just in Amherst but across the country. That is why there has been an objection to adding world languages now. NOT because teachers and administrators can't be bothered.

Catherine: I would like to know 2 things, if you have the time to find out the answers to these 2 questions. And perhaps at this point the answers are't known at this point.

1. What cuts have been made in the last couple of years, or just the last year for that matter, that have not been restored yet? Ahead of the addition of world language.

2. 1.5 hours of instruction in a new area is alot in a school week. Do you know what will be removed from the instructional day to make room for Spanish?

Yes, adding world language to the elementary school is exciting. But I would be alot more excited about it if we had first restored so many other good programs that had been cut over the years.

Anonymous said...

I am pleased to hear that you are seeking re-election to the SC. You have helped to enact change in the schools that was long overdue. Some of these changes you and other SC members proposed; and other changes (like the redistricting) were considered years, if not decades ago, and no one had the drive to get it done, even though it is in the best interest of all the children of this town.

Thank you Catherine for your hard work, in the face of much criticism. I assume much of the flak you receive is from people who are resistant to change.

Change to improve the schools is good.

I support your re-election.

Anonymous said...

To Catherine and 10:55PM How about given the budget realities teachers, administrators and many parents think that we have other more pressing needs?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:31

I completely agree with you that it is SO wrong to be pushing Spanish when music instruction has not been restored. (Musical instruction, by the way, has a lot of research showing it improves academic performance in general.)

And Catherine, please don't dismiss opposition to the "language instruction" as opposition to you. I think more credit is due to all the commentators who put forth reasoned arguments for ALL the other things that ought to be done with the "extra money". Like restoring cut items, which is what voters thought it was for!

Wildwood Parent

In support of CS and maybe Spanish said...

I have skimmed the comments about adding Spanish and there have been a few pointed comments against your motivations. It seems to be the same posters that chime in on your every blog who aren't appreciating all of your hard work and dedication. For the most part though I didn't get the feeling that anyone is opposed to Spanish because you support it.

There seem to be 2 areas of concern and one area of interest that haven't been addressed.

1. Some people prefer that the money be used for other things. That is legitimate and not targeted at you. Anonymous 5:31 summarizes seveal of those thoughts really well. Who can respond to why Spanish was chosen for funding vs. math coaches, reading recovery, instruments in 3rd grade? People who supported the override tended to express that they wanted to recover these things that have been recently lost or were in danger of being lost.

2. Many want to know where in the schedule Spanish will be added. What will be taken out of the schedule to make place for Spanish? Who will decide? If it is left up to individual teachers then curricular alignment will surely be affected.

3. Some people are interested in how adding Spanish promotes social justice.

I know this is CS's blog, but Rick Hood often seems to add his perspective. The more information on these questions, the better!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 5:31 - I do not know if instrumental music will be offered in 3rd grade next year -- although the SC has asked that it be restored. There were 3.05 positions last year teaching instrumental music, and currently there are 1.8 positions. For next year, there is an increase from 1.8 positions to 2.4 positions, so some instrumental music has indeed been restored -- and again, the teachers now must cover 4 buildings, whereas next year, we will only have three buildings. In addition, there are now 2.6 positions allocated for music instruction (NOT instrumental music, but regular music) and that will climb next year to 2.75. Thus, we have indeed increased from projections in December/January of 4.4 music positions (combining instrumental and classroom) to 5.15.

The decision to cut Reading Recovery was NOT made based just on money -- the superintendent had concerns about the effectiveness of that intervention program. However, there were going to be 7.9 ELA/math intervention teachers as of December, and now there will be 12.7 positions -- an increase of 4.8 positions.

So, you are in fact wrong that "These are just three items that have been cut from the schools budget in the last few years." These items have been largely restored, and in addition, OTHER programs have been added. For example, we are spending $90,000 on a new preschool classroom. That's an addition. Do you oppose it? We are spending money on a summer school program for struggling kids. Do you oppose that? We have also increased from December/January to now in number of special education secretary positions - it was going to be 2 positions in three schools, and it is now 3 positions. Similarly, we were going to have 1 computer teacher for 3 schools and now we have 3.

Is it "extra money"? Well, I guess it depends on one's view. I believe that the SC and the administration should constantly be evaluating how we are spending money and whether we have the right priorities. If our priorities last year or two years ago were perfect, and haven't changed, we should focus on restoring those cuts. But if priorities have changed, then it is entirely appropriate to re-allocate funds accordingly. So, this year we are adding NEW things and NOT just restoring OLD things -- things like a new preschool classroom and a summer school and Spanish. I think those are good decisions.

And although the WW Chinese program was funded through grants, it certainly took time away from other things ... which also seems to be a recurring concern on this blog. Yet the SC never heard concerns from parents or teachers about how bad this program was, which makes me wonder why the sudden opposition now (at least on this blog!) to adding Spanish.

To answer your questions:

"1. What cuts have been made in the last couple of years, or just the last year for that matter, that have not been restored yet? Ahead of the addition of world language." I don't know the answer to this question, although I bet you could contact HR and they could likely tell you. I frankly don't see this question as super-relevant, for the reasons I've noted before -- my goal is not to restore things to the state of 2007 or whatever. My goal is to use whatever resources we have NOW in the best way possible for all kids.

And your second question:

"2. 1.5 hours of instruction in a new area is alot in a school week. Do you know what will be removed from the instructional day to make room for Spanish?" This decision will be left up to principals and the superintendent. I imagine they will be informed by the Wildwood experience with Chinese. I also believe that implementing Spanish language can be included in some other parts of the school day -- e.g., you can talk about literacy/reading/sounds in English classes, you can sing Spanish songs in music classes, etc.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

More from me:

Anonymous 7:08 - thank you for the kind words. I really appreciate it.

Anonymous 7:28 - just to confirm, here is a list of things that have been added from December/January (initial budget projections) to our elementary schools:

move from 2 SE secretaries to 3
move from 2.6 music teachers to 2.75
move from 1.8 instrumental teachers to 2.4
move from 1 computer teacher to 3
move from 7.9 intervention teachers to 12.7

Those are all ADDITIONS that have been made over the last 4 months - totaling 8+ positions. We've also added this year a new afterschool program, a new summer school program, and a new preschool program. I haven't heard any talk by parents, teachers, or principals over the last year saying "what we really need is more preschool for low income kids, more SE secretaries, and a summer school for struggling kids." But the superintendent has added those programs -- and again, I didn't hear outcry. Are those programs all worth having? I think yes. But these are not programs that were identified by parents/teachers/principals as "pressing needs."

Wildwood Parent - as of next year, we will have 5.15 music positions in our district. We will have music twice a week for any child who does instrumental music in 4th through 6th grade. That strikes me as a lot of music. In addition, I know many parents who supported the override BECAUSE the SC asked for an additional $400,000 to add new things -- like world language. I don't know any parents who supported the override hoping we could move from 2 SE secretaries to 3, or hoping we could move from 1 computer teacher to 3, etc. Yet those are all additions to the budget. If you oppose adding Spanish, that's fine -- write a letter to the SC. But I find it somewhat odd that of all the additions that have been made (including restorations to previous levels of computer instruction), this is the program you find particularly concerning.

Abbie said...

Hi Catherine,

In fact I did talk to the SC about my concerns about the Chinese program at WW. I believe you were at that meeting(?) My EXACT same concerns apply to the Spanish program. (1) What might be lost educationally? Some folks might think 1.4 hours Sapnish/week is small but the number of instructional hours is also small. Do all those schools presented as examples that have WL have such small numbers of class-time hours? Early release days, etc?

(2) This is another EXACT point I raised at that SC mtg and this should excite CS: what methods of evaluation will be used to determine whether or not adding Spanish is helping or hurting student achievement (or is it neutral)?

Don't get me wrong- I would absolutely LOVE to have spanish (as I think a lot of other folks would). THE ISSUE is whether adding Spanish (in our current schedule) will be a positive addition or a negative one? If you are going to add it, then you need to empirically evaluate it, not just whether or not is 'seems' good. Here I agree with Ken, that it is likely that our struggling students might be most negatively affected by those lost hours of instruction. Those struggling kids come in ALL flavors. But it might also push kids who currently aren't 'struggling' into the struggling category.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Abbie - you definitely have made your concerns about the WW Chinese program known -- although you were the only parent who has done so over the last year! However, I meant that when this program was started, no one raised these concerns -- which is the parallel to where we are now (e.g., starting Spanish). Two more things -- first, I will check into how other schools allocate this time and how many hours they spend in school. Also, I will certainly push for an evaluation of this program -- and that really should have been done with the WW Chinese program but I do not believe it was.

Anonymous said...

"The decision to cut Reading Recovery was NOT made based just on money -- the superintendent had concerns about the effectiveness of that intervention program."

I have heard the exact opposite about the Reading Recovery program from many sources, teachers, parents and administrators. Reading Recovery is a VERY effective program. In fact, I was quite stunned when Dr. Rodriquez announced he was ending the program (I was equally stunned by the way he announced its end - sarcasm dripping in every word). If Reading Recovery is not reinstated I hope a program at least as effective as it is put in its place.

Anonymous said...

I recall reading several newspaper articles saying that Reading Recovery, which was pushed for years by the federal government, was turning out not to be an effective program. Maybe some kids did well with it and teachers liked it but at the end of the day, the numbers didn't show improvement. I'm sure there is an answer to this question -- or perhaps several answers.

Janet McGowan

Anonymous said...

Why does it matter whether/when people voiced concerns about Chinese or any other program? Why not just answer the specific questions about when Spanish instruction will be fit in.

My kids have had pathetic amounts of recess and I hope that they aren't further reduced. They have also watched movies (popular culture-type) at school which I think is a big waste of time. I just want to hear from people what the plan is for fitting Spanish into the schedule at each grade level, expanding it to all grades, funding it and evaluating it. If there isn't a plan in place to keep funding it or expand it, as wonderful as it is, why start it?

Reading Recovery said...

Is there any data on Reading Recovery? Anecdotally, so many families have expressed great gratitude for it. Are the sup's specific comments available anywere to be read?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 1:17 - I am certain that parents, teachers, SC members, and the superintendent all are interested in effective intervention programs. That may be why we have added an additional 5.3 intervention teachers to the 3 elementary schools over the last few months.

Janet - that is precisely what Dr. Rodriguez said at the time he proposed dropping the program. He also stated his intention, which I'm sure is Maria's intention, to provide effective literacy intervention.

Anonymous 2:09 - two things. First, I've stated very clearly that I do not know the answer as to how Spanish language will fit in. That really isn't my role, and I'm quite certain that if I were to give my thoughts, I'd be quickly accused of micro-managing. As I've said repeatedly, a world language committee which included elementary school teachers and principals suggested implementing this program in 2008. I have to assume they did their homework and believed it would fit in PRIOR to making this recommendation. Second, I certainly have no interest in implementing a program for one year. That is why the proposal is to create a POLICY requiring world language instruction. It would then be a permanent part of our schools, until, of course, people ran for SC on platforms of eliminating world language (which certainly could be done!). The plan as stated by the superintendent at the last meeting was to start it in K to 1 or K to 2 and then expand it with these kids so that in 3/4 years we would have it fully implemented K to 6.

Reading Recovery - I believe families have expressed appreciation for intervention support ... we certainly have no idea whether they would also appreciate a different model of support. The superintendent's comments are well minuted -- see the Amherst SC meetings from December/January.

Abbie said...

Hi Catherine

we weren't yet in the school system when Chinese was introduced and I don't know 'how' it was introduced. I wonder whether is just 'showed' up. I can tell you as a WW parent we got NO information about the status of the program this year. Some grades got it and some didn't and there WAS no announcement about it. Hence, my mistake when I once said there was NO chinese this year (just because 3rd grade doesn't have it but some grades do). This information had to be gained through the grapevine.

But things are DIFFERENT now, thanks to you and your blog we have TONS more information and transparency. So to use the argument that no one brought up issues with Chinese seems a bit weak. But that still doesn't change what I think is an important issue and one that seems relatively simple to address. With the numbers of students involved (and maybe with Spanish through 2nd grade), a pre and post examination of 3rd grade MCAS scores seems a reasonable evaluation of the program. This could be done BEFORE extending the program to more grades.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Abbie - my impression (and I wasn't as informed/involved in 2006 as I am now, though I did live in town and have kids in the schools) is that the Chinese program popped up largely as a response to pressure from parents who wanted Chinese language exposure (and that ultimately led to the Chinese charter school) -- so, the WW program was sort of a way to at least provide "some" exposure (obviously not immersion like the Chinese charter school). The other advantage was that this program was free in terms of money (grant funded) -- though NOT, obviously, in terms of time. But regardless, my point was just that from the comments on this blog, one would have to believe that there has been massive discontent with the Chinese program over the years and what that program has "taken away time from" -- and seriously, other than you, we just haven't heard any concerns (and I've certainly heard from parents who have LOVED it). So, the concern expressed on my blog about adding Spanish just seems odd to me since we've had about 1/3 of kids in our district spending time on world language for several years, and again, this has been a non-issue in terms of complaints.

And I 100% support your idea in terms of evaluation ... and even an annual evaluation (some quantitative, some qualitative) seems entirely appropriate. The SC has recently approved a policy requiring regular evaluation of on-going curricula/programs, and the intention has been to also develop one for new curricula/programs. If that policy gets developed/approved (which it probably will be early fall), this would actually require an evaluation of a new Spanish program. Good idea!

WW parent said...

Catherine - I don't want to post my name just because I don't want to offend any teachers/staff at Wildwood - but to let you know who I am, I'll tell you that I have a fifth grader at WW who played on the Blades this year.

I completely support what Abbie says about the chinese program at WW.

I have three kids at WW who have experienced the chinese program. Some of them have had it for 3-plus years, 2-3X a week. I understand chinese, so I can assess what they've learned over the years.

The answer: not much at all. At their peak, they learned the colors and numbers and a few really cute songs.

When a chinese friend approaches my kids and asks "how are you" in chinese, they stare dumbly, not at all aware that they are being addressed. When someone thanks them in chinese and I try to prompt them to say "you're welcome" in chinese - nothing.

And we parents were never informed of when and why the program was starting, or what the current state of the program was. We weren't informed of any progress (or lack thereof) either - it didn't show up on the report card.

I have no idea where they found the time to pull the kids out for chinese. Again, parents were not informed. I suspect that during the peak of the program, it happened occasionally during math time because my kid would say "Oh we didn't have math today because we had chinese instead." This year, my fifth grader gets chinese once every other week and it alternates with his reading buddy time.

So I am not a supporter of spanish (or any other WL) lessons, even though I speak spanish myself, because I do not want time taken out of the core curriculum for WL. If it was "optional" like instrument lessons are - then that would be OK as it would be up to the parents whether to have the kid taken out of the core curriculum. Or why not have spanish as an optional afterschool program on wednesdays? If you integrate into the daily curriculum, it'd be great if it weren't during math or science times.

I feel WW is weak in math and science (but very very strong in reading/writing) - so I want to make sure that math or science is not sacrificed for WL.

Thanks for listening.

Mary May said...

The concerns I am hearing about WHEN Spanish will occur in the daily schedule are very real. Frankly, there is no "extra" time in the day. As teachers, we can barely squeeze in all the curriculum that is supposed to happen already. At WW, I believe two years ago, 6th graders did not get music class. They had Chinese instead. WW 6th graders were the only ones in town who did not get a regular music class. This was decided by the administrators and the music teacher at the time was quite suprised to discover she had no 6th grade class time. This is a typical issue that comes up when there isn't a clear PLAN about how the language will be integrated into the schedule. If it is left up to each building principal, it is likely that students in different buildings will miss something, and it's not known what that will be. I certainly don't object to having foreign language AND I have a difficult time imagining how it will fit. I do believe parents and staff should be told what it replaces because it has to replace something that's already there! There is no "empty" time in the day!

Anonymous said...

OK. I give up. It can't happen.

Happy now? I think that the nay-sayers would be.

Shoot at this idea all you want. But those of us who have been seeking this and think that this TOO is "core" are not going away.

I'm told that we had this until the early 1990's and then it got cut.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

WW parent - thanks for your post! A few responses:

1. The WW Chinese program was implemented under a different superintendent and a different principal. At the time, there was little (if any) focus on alignment across schools/grades/classes, and I think a real plus for the Spanish program is that this will be implemented in precisely the same way in all schools with a real focus on integration and alignment (since ALL schools are involved, not just one). Thus, I'm just not concerned about issues in alignment -- which I know are salient for our superintendent and principals in terms of improvement.

2. I think Spanish is a lot more intuitive than Chinese for kids who already speak English, and thus will be easier to integrate into curriculum. So, kids in kindergarten/first grade can focus on sounds/letters/words in English or in Spanish ... they are both teaching LITERACY. This is really different from Chinese.

3. I agree that our math program isn't great ... I hear a lot of concerns. But I do NOT hear concerns about "time" -- I hear concerns about "content" (e.g., what is our math curriculum), and that curriculum is being evaluated this spring, with potential changes (if recommended) next year or the year after. But this isn't about TIME spent on math -- that isn't the issue I hear from parents.

3. I also agree that there isn't enough of a focus on science ... but no one has said we will take away time from science and give it to Spanish. There is a review planned for next year of science K to 12, and I believe that will lead to a stronger science program. But again, we are voting on Spanish versus Science.

4. The principals have recommended moving from the 1 computer teacher in three schools right now to 3 teachers next year. Are you in favor of more computer instruction, because this is definitely an increase, and yet I haven't heard any parents ask what that additional computer time is going to come from, or what we aren't doing in order to provide more computers. Again, there are lots of choices in our schools -- Spanish is simply one of many.

5. If you read the research (see my latest post), it shows that spending time on world language actually increases scores on ELA and math tests -- even when you are spending LESS time on those subjects! This work suggests that adding Spanish actually enhances scores on other things ... like we know about the link between music and math, and thus we don't suggest cutting instrumental music to make room for more math -- we know that skills in these areas actually complement each other.

Mary May - The research suggests that spending time on world language ENHANCES scores in other disciplines ... and this occurs even if spend less time on other disciplines (e.g., math scores rise when you add world language even when you decrease time spent in math). I imagine you, as a music teacher, are familiar with the benefits of teaching music on math scores -- hence we don't say "let's cut instrumental music to make more room for math." We understand they go together.

Anonymous 10:27 - I believe you now "feel my pain"!

Anonymous said...

after reading other's comments, I wouldn't be in favor of any extra computer time either.

Nina Koch said...

The technology resource teachers do a lot more than teach kids how to use a computer. They provide important mentoring to classroom teachers about how to incorporate the use of technology in teaching multiple subject areas. Also, as Maria explained at the April 7 school committee meeting, many of the enrichment activities for differentiated instruction are web-based and the technology teachers will help with the implementation of this. Furthermore, she intends that the technology teachers will be important members of the data team that will be active in each building. She wants to build the capacity of staff members to work with data, and that is going to require important professional development.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it illogical to ask for greater accountability in learning outcomes and not have tech staff in elementary buildings? Who else can help staff implement quantitative systems for assessing learning outcomes?

Example: there are many new Special Ed learning materials on line now. These can assess, generate learning activities based on assessments, and then retest. These are not easy programs for teachers to use (initially). These are not meant to replace but rather supplment existing methods and materials. However, w/o the tech teacher there to support -- forget it.

The computer teacher does so much more than show kids how to boot, save, draw, and create Power Points.

I don't feel the district does a very good job of explaining the all the key roles specialist staff play if taxpayers/parents think the computer teacher is merely showing the kids how to do things many of them are doing at home already.

jackie said...

Some people have been questioning Reading Recovery's effectiveness and have been posting misguided information. According to the Federal What Works Clearinghouse, "Reading Recovery is still the only beginning reading program to receive high ratings across all four domains evaluated: alphabetics, fluency, comprehension, and general reading achievement. Reading Recovery ranks number one in general reading achievement. " Please see below links for more information:

In fact, other interventions widely used, such as Fundations, has no studies meeting evidence standards, according to the What Works Clearinghouse.

Information has already been sent to both the school committee and to the Superintendent. More information can be supplied upon request.
Richard Allington, among others, has sited RR as having one of the best on-going professional development models and is a vital component of an effective RTI model. He states when asked about an effective professional development model
" And one good example of how to do that is the much-criticized Reading Recovery program, which isn’t a scripted program in the sense that most commercial programs are. Instead, it’s a year long—or even life long—professional development plan. Of the 150 reading-intervention programs that the What Works Clearinghouse looked at, it was the only one determined to have strong evidence that it worked. And I’ve been telling principals for 20 years that the good thing about a program like Reading Recovery is that, if your district ever decides not to continue funding it, your teachers still have that expertise, and you can’t take that away from them. You can take away the one-to-one tutoring that’s part of the program, but even more important than that is the expertise of the teachers." The entire article can be found at
With this, for a number of years state legislation has supported RR through a line item in the budget or through competitive continuation grants. This means that all professional development is paid for and up until recently a partial salary was awarded to districts. Ellen Story has been a long time active supporter of RR at the state level.
I ask that people please check the research before making inaccurate accusations about an effective intervention.
Thank you,
Jackie, Amherst Teacher