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Article updated: 4/7/2013 6:23 AM

District 25 reviews world language curriculum changes

By Melissa Silverberg

Arlington Heights Elementary School District 25 board members heard a review of its world language and bilingual education programs on Thursday night that reflected new teaching methods and increasing diversity in some of the district's schools.

Officials from District 25 presented the results of two language-related curriculum reviews that have been ongoing the past few years and implemented this school year.

Several languages are taught at the middle school level for sixth- through eighth-graders.

Earlier this year, though, the district decided to discontinue its elementary world language program, which consisted of mandatory Chinese education for all fourth- and fifth-graders.

Board members decided not to fund the program when the federal grant that previously paid for it was eliminated.

Part of the curriculum review, which has been in place since 2010, included expanding the middle school program from two years to three, said Dale Truding, assistant superintendent for student learning.

Previously, sixth-grade students tested different languages for a few weeks each before selecting a language to learn in seventh and eighth grade. Now, the district does a world language fair for fifth grade students to learn about the languages offered and select one before entering 6th grade.

This year the district also started a new instructional method that includes teaching in the world language for 90 percent of the class time to immerse students in the language and put more of a focus on communication rather than just memorizing vocabulary words.

Truding said this change was inspired by national changes at the Advanced Placement level for world languages.

"The focus has shifted to communication," said Tina Wilson, a French teacher at Thomas Middle School, in a video shown to the school board. She added that her students seem more comfortable speaking in French now that they are doing it more often.

Other language-related curriculum changes are being made to accommodate an increasingly diversifying student body, officials said.

More than 50 languages are spoken in District 25 households, and a few have seen significant increases since 2010, said Soojin Suk, teaching and learning facilitator for English language learners.

Ivy Hill Elementary School has seen increases in native Spanish- and Hindi-speaking students, Windsor Elementary has seen an increase in Spanish-speaking students and Dryden Elementary has seen an increase in native Polish-speaking students, Suk said.

Because of those increases and a state mandate that any school with more than 20 students speaking one language needs to have a bilingual program for those students, the district is working out the details of starting programs at Windsor, Dryden and Ivy Hill, she said.

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