By Karen Billing
Roger Rowe parent Linda Leong came before the Rancho Santa Fe School Board on Oct. 2 to request that the school bring back foreign language for kindergarten through fifth grades, presenting the trustees with a petition signed by 60 parents.
Leong said the Mandarin program has been a very successful middle school class, as is Spanish. She thinks the same enthusiasm for foreign language could be captured among the lower grade levels.
“I think the demographic has changed and the interest has increased among young families,” Leong said.
In January 2013, the board last discussed bringing back K-6 Spanish (when the elementary school configuration was still K-5 and the middle school was still 7-8). At that time Superintendent Lindy Delaney said for it to be truly successful, it needed to be offered five days a week, which would not only cost around $220,000, but would come at the expense of another program being cut.
“I understand that we have a packed schedule for children, however, we can be creative,” Leong said.
She suggested foreign language could be offered before school in the mornings, like the music program, or after school like robotics, which has turned into a very robust program.
As for the cost, Leong said she thinks they should be able to find the money, possibly from the savings in utility bills after the district’s Prop 39 energy-efficiency projects are completed.
Prior to 1997, Spanish was offered in middle school only but when the RSF Endowment was established, then-Superintendent R. Roger Rowe pushed for Spanish to be provided to grades K-6. In 1998, students K-6 were in Spanish three times a week for 30 minutes but there was not a lot of carryover into middle school.
In 2001, Spanish was reduced to just two times a week and from 2002-04 it went down to one day a week for 45 minutes. In 2004-06 it was not offered at all for K-6, but was brought back in 2007-10 as an elective class for fifth and sixth grade students. For the elective, students took Spanish three times a week for 45 minutes but could not take any other elective for the year. At its peak in 2009-10, there were 14 students in fifth grade Spanish 1 A, and 20 in sixth grade Spanish 1B but those numbers dropped to seven in fifth and eight in sixth by the following year.
RSF School Board Vice President Todd Frank recommended that the district consider a survey of parents to gauge the interest level for Spanish. The last time a survey was conducted regarding foreign language was in 2009, related to electives choices. At that time, parents ranked art and science at the tops of elective preferences and Spanish came out at the bottom.
Delaney said she would bring the Spanish topic back for board discussion at the district’s November meeting.
Advanced math pathways set by Rancho Santa Fe School District
By Karen Billing
The Rancho Santa Fe School District recently adopted an advanced math pathway for fourth through eighth grade.
In meeting with the district’s team of teachers, math specialists and principals, Delaney recommended they offer advanced math at every level because they have students that are ready to accelerate.
The district will offer advanced math in fourth through sixth grade, with an assessment test given after sixth grade to allow students to skip seventh grade math and go into eighth grade math.
Between fourth and fifth grades they will do assessments to see which students are ready for the next step, offering a 5/6 accelerated math class in fifth grade and a 6/7 class in sixth grade. The eighth grade honors class is aligned with San Dieguito Union High School District’s pathway.
Identifying students that go into the advanced math program is always the biggest challenge, Delaney said. She always wants to give students a chance but she wants them to be ready to succeed — if the district finds that the student needs more basics or if the program is too rigorous, they can always be pulled back.
At the Oct. 2 meeting, Delaney said that at the well-attended Common Core math information sessions held last month, she learned that the parent population needs more support and more resources to help their children with math. She said the district is discussing future meetings to offer more information and tools on the curriculum and possibly having teachers send home goals of the week for parents and offering after-hours help.
“I really appreciated the meetings, it really gives you an opportunity to hear where the parents are coming from,” Delaney said. “I learned some things. I love to learn how we can make it better.”