Si puedes leer esto, gracias a un profesor de español. (If you can read this, thank a Spanish teacher.)

I received several reader emails asking if we could talk about a story on the front page of today’s AJC about the expansion in foreign language classes in Georgia schools.

(Also, here is a link to a related essay by a Dunwoody High language arts teacher.)

The AJC story reports record-setting demand for language courses. In the past four years, the number of Georgia students studying a world language has increased from 17 percent to more than 23 percent, according to the state Department of Education.

AJC reporter Jaime Sarrio says the growth reflects changes in Georgia’s high school diploma track, which now requires all students to earn a college-ready certificate. While foreign language is not a requirement to graduate, students are advised to take at least two years of it.  (Georgia colleges require two years of foreign language for admission.)

The story focuses on Atlanta, which is one of the only school systems in the state to offer foreign language instruction at every elementary school. (Although some APS schools begin foreign languages in first grade, while others start in fourth.)

According to the story:

Until this year, Spanish was the only foreign language offered to students at South Atlanta High. Middle school students studying French at Bunche couldn’t take that language when they entered high school at Therrell. And Latin was offered only at Grady High.

Atlanta Public Schools is introducing changes this fall to its foreign-language program to address these issues and more. The district has one of the most comprehensive foreign-language programs in the state, but as in many systems, access to different languages varies from school to school.

Atlanta school officials say they can’t meet every demand for foreign language offerings, but they are trying to give students access to more languages and more higher-level courses without increasing spending in a tight fiscal year. To do that, elementary instruction will be reduced from 150 to 90 minutes a week. The reduced class time will free up teachers who will be reassigned to middle and high schools, where services will be expanded.

The changes will allow the district to increase the number of middle schools offering yearlong languages and to increase the course options at high schools. Students will be able to continue taking the same language as they move through their “cluster” of elementary, middle and high school.

“Our goal is for students to complete courses with a level of proficiency that will allow them to put on a resume, ‘I’m bilingual, ‘ as opposed to, ‘I’ve had exposure to another language, ‘ ” said Anita Lawrence, world languages coordinator for the district.

Most metro districts offer a few languages in high school, but options at the elementary and middle school levels vary. Clayton County is home to one of the state’s few immersion schools, Unidos Dual Language Charter, where elementary students learn half the day in English and half in Spanish. In Cobb, foreign language is offered in grades 8-12, along with optional exploratory language courses available for grades 6-7.

In Gwinnett, the state’s largest system, the decision whether to offer foreign language in the early grades is left to the local school based on staffing and the interests of students and parents, said a district spokesman. High schools offer three to four languages.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

31 comments Add your comment

NTLB

June 21st, 2012
12:10 pm

Good for APS! Now, POR FAVOR–Can someone tell me how does one get a teaching job in APS? It seems virtually impossible to get in there if you don’t have the right “hook up”. Comprendes?

Fred ™

June 21st, 2012
12:10 pm

Maureen: Things may have changed, but when my daughter went to Pre-K at a DeKalb County school, she took a language. It was my understanding that had she stayed there it would have continued through out her elementary and middle school.

It’s better for kids to learn other languages as soon as possible. It expands the mind and thinking abilities as well as makes it easier to add more languages.

Jeff

June 21st, 2012
12:17 pm

I’d be glad to thank a teacher. Do I also get to thank my parents and study partners? Because, as we’ve been told, parents carry just as much of the blame as teachers when I DON’T learn something.

bj

June 21st, 2012
12:21 pm

I work at a fortune 500 company in Atlanta. We need bilingual employees as we expand overseas, especially spanish, french and german. We are unable to hire many natural born americans for these new job openings as most applicants from the atlanta metro area are not bilingual. We usually end up hiring newly arrive immigrants for these positions.

Hello metro atlanta schools, please implement programs for our kids to learn other languages. Seems like almost no one with a southern accent is bilingual, especially among our young people.

In the mean time we will continue to hire employees newly arrived from other countries. SO SAD….

janet

June 21st, 2012
12:23 pm

Recent studies have proven that people who speak more than one language are more successful and have a better ability to learn and comprehend. So learn a langauge other than English and start now. Humans’ ability to communicate within our species makes us different from all the other species on the planet.

Solutions

June 21st, 2012
12:31 pm

bj – If you are hiring people based solely on their ability to speak a foreign language, then you are making a major mistake. I seriously doubt you represent a Fortune 500 company. I would rather hire a high IQ person who does not yet speak the native language than a recently arrived native of dubious intellect. Our public schools are never going to train students to speak like a native unless they are in fact natives to that language. Hire based on high IQ, the new hire can learn most anything if they have a high IQ.

williebkind

June 21st, 2012
12:33 pm

Here we go again, being an American is just not enough.

Recent studies have proven that people who speak English in the US have a better chance of landing a job and obtain a job that could lead to a career.

Rick in Grayson

June 21st, 2012
12:33 pm

Since China already has a top economy and a very large population why does the APS choose Spanish? China is poised to become the top performing economy over the next two decades and they have choosen to teach their students English!

Why aren’t we teaching Chinese if we want our students to get jobs in the future. China will be a better choice based on economic/business criteria. Really, how much commerce is accomplished in Spanish versus Chinese, German, and Japanese. Spanish would be way down on the list of languages to choose.

williebkind

June 21st, 2012
12:34 pm

bj

June 21st, 2012
12:21 pm
Please Metro Atlanta schools, do not help this company export jobs overseas.

Rick in Grayson

June 21st, 2012
12:36 pm

Oh…I forgot, US citizens will need to learn Spanish to work at the local fast food eateries or as stockers at the large retail chains.

williebkind

June 21st, 2012
12:36 pm

Rick in Grayson

June 21st, 2012
12:33 pm

To answer your question is because they can vote now–whether illegal or not they do.

dekalb Teacher

June 21st, 2012
12:38 pm

I teach in DeKalb county and I do teach a World Language. It is no longer called foreign language since for many it is their first language. That is not my point however. It is very hard to teach a world language to students who cannot even use their first language correctly. Secondly many of the other teachers in the building and the county seem to think that the world language teachers are elitist since we can converse in a second language. I have been trying hard to convience studnets that they need to take more than just the 2 years that is required. Many students do not see the need to learn a second language and feel that the world should learn to speak English. Add to this the reat of the mess in DeKalb county and then you have a major lack of caring and apathy that is tough to get through.
@bj: let me know where I can apply for one of those jobs. I can speak French, German and am kow learning Russian

dekalb Teacher

June 21st, 2012
12:40 pm

@ Rick The answer to question is that they can not find qualifed Chinese teachers. However there are programs from the Chinese government to bring a teacher here. The problem with that is the behavior of the local students.

NTLB

June 21st, 2012
12:42 pm

@Solutions, then you would have to spend more and hire a bilingual person to translate for that High IQ individual.

Hillbilly D

June 21st, 2012
12:47 pm

From what I’ve seen of recent high school graduates in my area, a lot of them haven’t mastered English, yet.

NTLB

June 21st, 2012
12:48 pm

Learning a second language is also healthy and protects against Alzheimer’s.

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-205_162-20033422.html

Solutions

June 21st, 2012
1:04 pm

NTLB – There is no known protection against Alzheimer’s disease, there are only correlations with various life styles, habits, and foods. A correlation is not a proof, rather it is a number that ranges between -1 and +1, with a 0 being no correlation between the two events.

NTLB

June 21st, 2012
1:07 pm

@ Solutions, don’t shoot the messenger. Read the article.

NTLB

June 21st, 2012
1:12 pm

Since you are so interested in statistics, why don’t you find out how many people in Europe (bilingualims prevails) suffer from Alzheimer’s disease versus those in the U.S.A? Wouldn’t learning a second language be included in your “life styles” correlation?

Solutions

June 21st, 2012
1:23 pm

NTLB – In the interests of presenting correct information, the headline in the CBS article contradicts the words of the researcher: “”It’s not that being bilingual prevents the disease,” Bialystok told MyHealthNewsDaily. Instead, she explained, it allows those who develop Alzheimer’s to deal with it better.” That is a big difference.

another comment

June 21st, 2012
1:35 pm

My daughter had Spanish in the Ga. Pre-k, program. Then Cobb County offered no language at Elementary School. What a loss. You had to pay in after school, an outsourced company. My daughter then told me that they learned next to nothing in the class due to the bad behavior of boys in the class who would just run around and distrupt everything. I would complain and nothing would be done about the disruptions. Then evey year, no matter what grade the students were in they still learned the same thing. Very basic, equal to what was taught in the Ga. Pre-k Progam.

I took my oldest daughter out in the middle of 3rd grade and sent her to Catholic School. At Catholic School they taught Spanish for everygrade. Mandatory for all Students.

When she came back to Public School, she wanted to take French. First year we got a British teacher teaching French. Then for French 2,3, and the higher ups they have an Eastern European teacher with a thick slavic accent. The Slavic guttorial accent is not productive to teaching French. Now my daughter does not want to take French 4, because she will be stuck with the Eastern European teacher.

My daughter also felt handicapped in the class because most of the students were native Spanish speakers and this teacher would rather teach french from Spanish. My daughter complained to the teacher about her doing this. When I went to open house the teacher even said to me that “B” complains that I go from Spanish to French. I said that is right, I don’t think it right either. You should teach from English to French. My daughter’s only saving grace has been that my best friend is a Native of Paris. She helps her with the proper French.

Beverly Fraud

June 21st, 2012
1:36 pm

See Spot Run.

If you CAN’T read that, yet you still scored “Exceeds Expectations” on the CRCT, thank APS.

NTLB

June 21st, 2012
1:47 pm

@ Solutions–stop with the semantics tug of war, and just accept the fact that it is not BAD thing to learn or know a second language. Comprendes?

Howard Finkelstein

June 21st, 2012
2:04 pm

World language. All these World languages, Citizens of the World (Carlos Santana, Joy Behar, Im talking to you) are sickening.

choichoi

June 21st, 2012
2:35 pm

gracias Profa.!

James

June 21st, 2012
2:36 pm

Thanks so much for posting, Maureen. You are an awesome blogger and journalist! The only change I’d make to the title would be as follows: “Si puedes leer esto, dale gracias a un profesor de español”.

Solutions

June 21st, 2012
2:54 pm

NTLB – I never said it was a bad thing, I just put the hype into perspective.

Anonmom

June 21st, 2012
10:20 pm

a number of years ago there were some (a handful) of DCSS schools (maybe also in APS) offering language k-12 as part of some pilot on language instruction — each had a different language — the intent was to ultiamtely roll it out to other schools but it never made it that far. Ultimately, I think it was cancelled at some of the elementaries and only a few DCSS schools (Kittredge may be the only one) offer foreign language at the elementary level — KMS begins German in 4th grade — I’m not sure if any others still do language anymore. My younger sons did get some Spanish in elementary school — my oldest a touch of spanish in elementary — much more scattered. Fernbank and maybe Oak Grove have (at one point or another) had PTAs funding foreign lanugage instruction. It’s not consistent. Henderson begins language in 7th grade for kids who “qualify” (the “standards” to qualify changes from year to year). Private schools start language by 6th grade, if not before. I’m not sure what other schools are doing.

Betty

June 24th, 2012
8:30 pm

What a wonderful blog entry! We desperately need to help our children truly become world citizens equipped to function with the demands of an ever shrinking world. As a parent of a child in the Cobb County School District, I would love for you, Maureen, to explore the painful disservice in language learning at the High School Level due to 4×4 block scheduling. The higher achieving high schools in Cobb, Lassiter and Walton, are on a traditional schedule and those students take language every day year round. They actually are able to learn. Pope realized the detriment to learning of the 4X4 block schedule, and recently reverted to a traditional schedule as well. When I asked the principal of my local West Cobb High School, why the students were not able to take languages each semester, as are the students matriculated in the aforementioned schools, he responded, “Ma’am, this is not East Cobb.”
The students on a 4X4 block at this High School that were at the top data retrieval rankings in eighth grade are given Spanish 2 Fall Semester of ninth grade and then forced to wait for the possibility of taking the 3rd year level an entire school year later. These students will be less in number in the future, as one of the two Spanish teacher allotments at one of the feeder middle schools was slashed for the upcoming year, making the rubric for entering the coveted Spanish classes more selective. This is simply not right. The focus in West Cobb seems to be in diminishing, not augmenting language learning ,contrary to what many experts suggest. If we are to truly support language learning, we should provide more, not less, opportunities for our students to compete globally. I believe strongly that the 4X4 block experiment should be abandoned, especially in the area of language and math learning.

Raisin Toast Fanatic

June 25th, 2012
8:56 am

I didn’t learn espanol from a teacher. I learned it in the streets of Peru, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, and one time in Mexico.

A lot of people don’t learn from a professor. No need for me to thank one. Can’t get the same kind of education sitting in classroom as compared to learning the hard way what it means to be a visitor to another country (and how the world REALLY works sometimes).

Marney

June 25th, 2012
4:09 pm

To the DCSS bloggers

The International Community School is a Dekalb County start-up charter school where the school day is longer and every child studies a second language daily. English for those not fluent in English, and French or Spanish for those that are. (and this includes many of the refugee kids that become fluent by 3rd grade, and then start their 3rd language as either French or Spanish). The staff reflect the many languages. In fact, when a European news program came to do a profile piece on it, there were enough staff fluent in French(the principal is originally from Paris), that they could do most of those interviews directly in French. Not sure you will find the link active, but it is below:

Watch the French language film about ICS broadcast on European channel Arte on February 6, 2010 by following this link: http://www.arte.tv/fr/Comprendre-le-monde/arte-reportage/3052304.htm