News

Menlo Park school district expands language programs

 

The Menlo Park City School District is working hard this year to achieve a goal it adopted in 2008: to offer world language programs to all district students.

Last year design teams of parents, educators and students from each school met at the Stanford Design School to create prototype world language programs to launch this school year.

At Oak Knoll, fifth-graders will boost their Spanish speaking skills prior to entering Hillview Middle School. The school eventually wants to offer the classes from kindergarten to fifth grade.

"Our goal is for everyone to learn a little Spanish," said principal Kristen Gracia. She said fifth-graders will receive consistent language instruction from a Spanish teacher, while all classrooms will offer at least some language experiences throughout the year.

Encinal and Laurel schools will have Spanish language instruction in primary grade classes not already in the Spanish immersion program. Principal Sharon Burns said Encinal's new "Spanish as a World Language Program" for kindergarteners "makes language learning a cultural adventure." She said students will have lessons focusing on the gradual development of listening and speaking, while fostering excitement toward language learning.

"This program supports all students, from beginners to heritage speakers," Principal Burns said.

Principal Linda Creighton said at Laurel, all kindergarten and first-grade students will learn Spanish, either in an immersion classroom or from a Spanish specialist teacher.

"The entire student body will participate in school-wide cultural events throughout the year," she said. She said that as the program expands, she "envisions a school where Laurel students learn more deeply about culture and language, which will strengthen their development as globally minded citizens."

Hillview Middle School will continue to offer both Spanish and French. Principal Willy Haug said Hillview students can take two years of high school level languages or choose to complete one year of high school Spanish over two school years.

In addition to these options, Hillview offers a Spanish for Spanish Speakers program to students who have either attended elementary school immersion programs or are native speakers.

Principal Haug said Hillview may add more world languages if there is interest. Last year, both Mandarin and Latin were given as choices, with the commitment to offer the one that received the highest registration if a minimum enrollment was reached. The minimum was not met for either option, however, so neither is offered. Principal Haug said the school will explore interest in Mandarin and Latin again for the next school year.

The district is also adding two Spanish speaking interns who will work in the Spanish immersion classrooms, with the elementary school Spanish language specialists, and in the Hillview Spanish for Spanish Speakers class. Two more interns will be added next year to support the growing world language program.

Superintendent Maurice Ghysels said "language learning can benefit all students." He said research shows language study can make reading easier and that language learners develop a more positive attitude toward the target language and those who speak the language.

"We are excited to build on the successful language programs that we already have, as well as provide more opportunities to celebrate, learn and open doors for all Menlo Park City School District students," Superintendent Ghysels said.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 29, 2015 at 11:26 am

SteveC is a registered user.

Gee. What happened to all the parents demanding Mandarin be offered? Not sufficient enrollment?


8 people like this
Posted by Puzzled
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 29, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Aside from working at Taco Bell, I question the choice of learning Spanish. Some of the other European Languages, plus Chinese or Russian would appear to be a more useful skill set for tomorrow's citizens. Spanish speaking economies are and have always been in the tank during our lifetime, whereas French, Italian or German would make more sense for our students.


13 people like this
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2015 at 3:23 pm

"Aside from working at Taco Bell, I question the choice of learning Spanish."

Nice to see such backwards-thinking sentiments being expressed here on The Almanac web page..


11 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 29, 2015 at 3:56 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Is there something wrong with working at taco Bell? You must be talking to the Donald. Very rude and unnecessary comment.


7 people like this
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 31, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Aaron is a registered user.

@Puzzled:

If you want to focus on business prospects and ignore the plethora of other practical and sensible reasons why Spanish is probably the best local choice for bi-lingual education in our public schools, then consider this:

In 2013, 13.2% of US trade was with Mexico, making Mexico our #3 global trading partner after Canada and China. In fact, the % of US trade with Mexico was equal to the % of trade between the US and Germany, France, the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Italy COMBINED.

Seeing as California comprises ~12.5% of the US GDP, I'd argue that better preparing Californian citizens for a future of business relations with our neighbors in Mexico is an extremely wise use of educational/tax-payer resources. We have not even begun to discuss the inclusion of trade/business relations with other Spanish speaking countries in our hemisphere, which at last check included...most of the other countries in our hemisphere.


5 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 1, 2015 at 7:01 pm

Regardless of what language people learn as their second, doing so early in life makes it easier to learn additional languages later on. Let's face it most students in America only learn English and that not very well. I am all in favor of having student learn Spanish or any other second language.

And for the person who made the idiotic Taco Bell comment you might be interested to learn that Spanish is spoken in more places that Mexico, like SPAIN for example and many countries in Central and South America. Granted I am siteing a dubious source but Spanish is more widely spoken than English and second only to Mandarin (Web Link)


Like this comment
Posted by Puzzled
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 2, 2015 at 2:10 am

You might be interest to learn that California has the most Taco Bells in the country.

Granted I am citing a dubious source but we have more Taco Bells then any other State. Web Link

Is there something wrong with Taco Bell? Since we have so many of them in California, this makes Spanish a very practical and sensible language and probably the best local choice for bi-lingual education in our public schools.

Your words and logic are inescapable and result in a Spanish for Spanish Speakers program for native speakers at Hillview Middle School. Now that is really helpful. Its great for school administrators, anxious to show how successful our tax payer support Language Programs are in Menlo Park. Talk about a self licking ice cream cone.


4 people like this
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2015 at 11:51 pm

Aaron is a registered user.

@puzzled

It seems that you may not be aware that the Spanish for Spanish Speakers program at Hillview is targeted for students who are graduates of our Spanish Immersion programs for grades K-5, as a vehicle to solidify their bi-lingual language skills. I'd guess that perhaps half of these students are not native Spanish speakers. I'm not entirely sure, but my impression is that the class isn't provided to prove success for the language programs, but rather to solidify the return on that investment in the language programs. Dropping the ball after grade 5 would erode the returns to the community on that 6-year investment.


2 people like this
Posted by Puzzled
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 3, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Thanks Aaron,

And thanks to the other contributors that pointed out what an important trading partner Mexico is to the USA, As well as those that advocated that Spanish is a world language.

I do not hold Spanish in high regard. I've always regarded Spanish as a "low brow" language in the world of art, culture, business and influence. My children have been studying foreign languages since preschool and Spanish has not been on our menu.

What Spanish has going for it, is that it is one of the easiest languages to learn. I also believe there is a cultural issue at play here in California (I'm from the East Coast) which has a long history with Mexico as well as a large Mexican and Central American populace.

Be that as it may, my question still stands, is this the most useful language for our students in Menlo Park? In my opinion, it is not useful for my kids and family, as I have had little need for Spanish, and I have found German, French, Italian and Latin to be far more useful in the course of my life. If I had to redo my languages, I would add Chinese and Japanese to the mix.

My comment regarding Taco Bell was a status based question. My hopes for my kid's futures extends beyond fast food and low earning services positions which are the predominant job opportunities that Spanish is important for in this area.

Are there multimillion dollar deals being done between Mexico and California? Of course there are, but to be honest, Mexico isn't regarded as the land of opportunity. The flow of people from Mexico to here, are citizens voting with their feet. Our country has always had a Eurocentric focus, which is slowly pivoting towards Asia. Mexican arts, culture and food have a regional focus, not a global one.

Thanks for the input on the Spanish for Spanish speakers course at Hillview. But by your own admission, over half of the participants are native speakers. Here's the thing. My kids are taking language validation tests administered by European countries that present certificates upon successful completion of the tests. These certificates offer them the opportunity to attend college in Europe. The goal of these programs is to teach fluency in another language, not to get a language credit so you can skip a US college language requirement, as is all too often the case.

Unfortunately too few of our schools offer a quality second language program, and those that do offer a second language program, do not offer a good quality program. Too many parents are half joking about the 6 years of Spanish their kid took in Menlo Park and they can barely order something off of the Taco Bell menu. I challenge the school district to get their Spanish speaking students certified or tested for fluency. I think we all know what those test results would be for non-Native speakers. They would not pass.

I am saddened, but not surprised about the lack of response to Mandarin. That old saw "what do you call someone that speaks 2 languages?" "Bilingual". "What do you call someone that speaks 1 language?"

"American"


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

puzzled:

my aren't you and your children "special." I'm guessing you paid private schools to educate them. That's as it should be.

[Part removed. Please make your point without negative characterizations of other posters.]


2 people like this
Posted by Puzzled
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 3, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Dear Menlo Voter,

You are a true American.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

dear puzzled:

and you are a true snob


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2015 at 6:07 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

puzzled:

by the way, I speak Spanish and French (not as well as Spanish but, I don't have many opportunities) as well as American English.


2 people like this
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2015 at 6:22 pm

@Menlo Voter -- "[P]retentious snob"? My, are you handling the character with kid gloves.

Anyone who states that "I do not hold Spanish in high regard. I've always regarded Spanish as a "low brow" language in the world of art, culture, business and influence" is someone who possesses more arrogance than intellect.


3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

stop the trolls:

I was trying to be polite. You are quite right.


1 person likes this
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Politeness works to a certain extent. However, it requires the other party to recognize what is actually going. The person we're talking about here clearly doesn't have the necessities for that.


Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Ooops -- should be "what is actually going *on*"

Grrrrrrr


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

stop the trolls:

I got it. I doubt "puzzled" does.


Like this comment
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2015 at 10:10 pm

Aaron is a registered user.

@ puzzled,

I think this "discussion" has run its course, but I'd just say that there's not a single kid that after having been through the Spanish Immersion program in our schools for just one year (even kindergarten), would not be able to order off the menu (assuming they have learned how to read). Furthermore, your statement that SI parents half joke about their kids not being able to do so after six years of Spanish, and you seriously think that the Spanish-as-a-second-language students would not pass rigorous Spanish fluency tests indicates that 1) You've clearly not spoken to a single SI parent about the program or their child's Spanish fluency, 2) You've not bothered to see the test results from the school district. This program is not about passing language credits in US colleges. These kids will be speaking, reading, and writing Spanish at a level of fluency well above and beyond that of your certificate wielding test-takers.

The final proof of your completely astounding ignorance of the reality around you is that you seem to consider that jobs such as "physician" or "attorney" are "low earning services positions...that Spanish is important for in this area".

(and lest anybody else think "Puzzled"'s viewpoint is simply a general east coast attitude, I'm also from the east coast, I also studied French and Latin in school, etc.)


1 person likes this
Posted by Puzzled
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 4, 2015 at 10:29 am

Dear Aaron,

It is patently obvious the school district is focusing on the "cultural" aspects of the language program as opposed to language proficiency.

The astounding ignorance of reality on this thread, is believing that non-native speakers in Spanish Immersion Kindergarten can order off a Spanish menu.

No, the non-native speakers can not read, write or understand the Taco Bell menu after one year in the immersion program, as much as you believe that they can. People with expertise, and that excludes you, understand that learning a minority language (ie living in the US and learning another language) is a 5-6 YEAR enterprise. Its another story, if the students were living in Mexico and were older than Kindergarten.

The end state of a good foreign language program is fluency and certification (another word for measured verification) at the end of High School (not 5th grade as you seem to believe) when this skill set is put to practical use. The students at MPSD are not achieving this skill set, as AP Spanish test results at Menlo Atherton indicate.

You demonstrate a total lack of understanding of what the district was trying to achieve, as evidenced by offering Spanish for Spanish speakers. Why is there a 50-50 mix of Native and Non-Native in the Spanish Immersion program, when it is in such high demand. Why would you give 50% of the slots to learn a foreign language (albeit a 3d world language) to native speakers. That is just insane.

The answer, if you had any knowledge of this program, is two fold. They wanted the kids to teach each other (as opposed to a teacher), and they hoped to use this program to improve the English and Math test scores for the Native Speakers.

Not so long ago we had this bankrupt academic philosophy that existed of sticking Spanish speakers in a Spanish track in our public schools to educate them to California school standards. These programs were a complete failure and disservice to the kids and we eliminated them from our schools a decade ago. The MPSD again rediscovered that Spanish kids can't keep up with the non-native speakers in Math and English while in a Spanish immmersion program. It just doesn't work. Lets abandon the Social Justice philosophy and focus on results.

Web Link

So we have 46, non-native speakers on a waiting list to get into the Spanish Immersion program, which is 50% filled with native speakers, for cultural reasons. The article cited makes clear, what an abject failure this policy was.

Referring to the language program, Laural Principal Creighton said that "The entire student body will participate in school-wide cultural events throughout the year" emphasizing that the expansion of the Spanish language program to the rest of the school district is mainly cultural, and not to achieve language proficiency. Encinal's Principal says "Its a cultural adventure".

The analogy of how many Taco Bells we have in Californa (the most in the USA), went right over your head. Its quality and not quantity that counts, when selecting a foreign language. Just because we have so many Taco Bells, doesn't mean I want my kid to work in one. Mexico is a 3d world nation, with no middle class and a concentration of wealth in the top .5%.

I'll give you a hint, the rich Mexicans aren't here. So if you think physicians and attorneys serving the Spanish speakers here in Menlo Park are performing high earning services, you are demonstrating "an astounding ignorance of the reality". If you aspire for your child to be a SJW, and work in Guatemala, god bless you.

Our students take foreign language classes with our instigation, encouragement and support. If they are not taking the classes, and the track record at Hillview makes it clear that the interest is not there, then we have only the parents to blame. As SteveC crowed at the beginning of this thread "Gee. What happened to all the parents demanding Mandarin be offered? Not sufficient enrollment?"

I think you are absolutely correct when you stated this content devoid "discussion" has come full circle. The East Coast focus on learning a foreign language for fluency and usefulness versus the local focus here on teaching Spanish to native speakers, and teaching cultural awareness to those that want to learn a second language are stark contrasts.


5 people like this
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 5, 2015 at 12:23 am

Aaron is a registered user.

@ puzzled,

My personal experience as a parent of a non-native Spanish-speaking student in the program says that you're wrong; Of those that could read after kindergarten, none of them would have a problem ordering off a menu. It's simply ludicrous to state that non-native Spanish speaking students who go through 6 years of this program can't order from a menu. Furthermore, as a parent of a child in the program, I have a pretty good understanding of the purpose, methods, and aims of the program. You are simply wrong, wrong, wrong about the focus of the program. By the way, have you actually seen the study results on the achievements of native speakers in the program? It was not statistically powered to conclude anything.

The physicians and attorneys here are serving their community, which contains a sizable portion of native Spanish speakers. You argued that Spanish was only useful for people aiming for low-level service industries. I think most would argue that physicians and attorneys are not low-level service industries. Enough with this east coast elitism. It's not like they don't teach Spanish on the east coast. They do teach a lot of Latin though (I know, I took it), and boy, that really comes in handy in high-profile, high-earning workplaces, doesn't it?


5 people like this
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 5, 2015 at 12:30 am

Aaron is a registered user.

@ puzzled

one more thing as your post is all over the map:

Why are you using AP Spanish test results from MA to measure the progress of the SI program? The oldest class of SI program graduates is in...7th grade this year? They are not the ones taking the AP tests at MA.


Like this comment
Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 5, 2015 at 1:38 pm

I challenge the authorities to first prove that after graduation students can even use the foreign language courses they took and those few (5%?) that can make sense out of what they learned just what if any use it was to them.

The glamour of foreign language courses is still with us from the 1950s. But, in China a student can not get out of high school without passing and English test. English is the lingua franca.

Especially for black and Hispanic students, forget about foreign languages (most Hispanics take Spanish, anyway) and give them an extra period a day of math and reading/writing in English. This makes so much sense it is disgusting that this advice isn't followed yet alone demanded by black and Hispanic parents.


2 people like this
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2015 at 10:12 am

Some of my best Spanish lessons were translating gorgeous Spanish poetry into English. Puzzled's comments remind me of an ignorant mom I heard complain about her kid learning Spanish because he'd only need it to "talk to nannies and gardeners." She was ignorant about our state's economy, our partnerships with Mexico, and the gorgeous cultural richness in Spanish-speaking countries. I remember seeing old movies with east coast characters of the same narrow-mindedness of Puzzled. Not only have I used my Spanish to talk to nannies and gardeners, I've used mine for Consulate work and editing. Consulate contacts come in handy over the years. So can the whisperings of nannies and gardeners. No quiero Taco Bell.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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