For almost two years, the Board of Education, district administrators and K-12 world-language teachers have been discussing ways to improve the Aspen School District’s languages program.
Most of the discussions have focused on the expected levels of proficiency in the world languages for students exiting the different educational levels — elementary, middle and high school. As a result of these discussions, improvements will occur in the languages program for the 2014-15 school year, with the most significant strides occurring at the elementary level.
After determining the high school level of proficiency, district staff looked more closely at the current curriculum to ensure that students would be prepared to meet expected proficiency levels as they moved through the world languages program.
What the district learned was that high school students in a traditional language course, not including those in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, will exit the language program at the intermediate to low level as defined by the Colorado Department of Education standards and American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages guidelines. High school students in the IB program left the languages program at the intermediate-mid level.
Aspen Middle School students completed the eighth-grade level with a novice- to mid-level proficiency, while elementary students left the fourth grade at a novice to low level.
To improve those rankings, the district is placing a new emphasis on early education for world languages, starting next school year.
“We want our kids to be as well-prepared as possible as they advance in their school careers,” said Julia Roark, the assistant superintendent for the Aspen School District. “We recognized the need to improve our world-languages results, and to accomplish that, we’re looking at giving the kids more exposure to world languages at a younger age.”
Starting in the fall, kindergarten and first-grade students will have both French and Spanish offered for 30 minutes a day, four days per six-day rotation. Pre-kindergarteners also will be included if time permits. Second-graders will select the language of their choice after completing grade one.
If a student changes their mind on their language choice, the district will address the decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Grades two through four will take the language of their choice 30 minutes a day, replacing writing within their six-day rotation.
Grade-four students will be assessed with the Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages, a performance-based assessment of standards-based language learning, in late spring to measure the number of students achieving at the expected novice-low level.
Grades five through eight will continue taking the language of their choice in middle school. Eighth-grade students will be assessed with the Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages to measure the number of students achieving at the expected novice-mid level.
Grades nine through 12 will continue taking the language of their choice in high school. High school students at a Level III of their language (not including IB students) will be assessed in late spring to measure the number of students at the expected intermediate-low level. High school students in the IB program will be assessed through an International Baccalaureate exam to measure the number of students achieving at the expected intermediate-high level.
“The desired outcomes we’re looking for speaks to the Aspen culture and the high expectations we have here,” Roark said. “We want our students to be well-rounded in all subjects by the time they leave our high school.”
There are two world-language informational meetings set this month. The first is today at 8:15 a.m., and the next is Tuesday at 5 p.m. Both meetings will be held at the elementary school auxiliary gym.