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Beverly Hills Weekly
Beverly Hills, California
March 30, 2000     Beverly Hills Weekly
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March 30, 2000

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opinionlB com00n0000ntary HE RJN I% The public opinion forum where Beverly Hills dukes out the issues SHOULD BHUSD EXPAND THE LANGUAGE ARTS? IIIII and assessments. PRO BHUSD Excerpt from the District's K-8 Instructional Program Proposed for 2000-2002. Over the past few months the Elementary principals, the Director of Special Pupil Services, the Director of Personnel, the Superintendent and the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services have reviewed and examined the K-8 instructional program. As we begin to examine the delivery system in our K- 8 program, we must consider the issues of standards In order to enable students to be successful, changes need to occur. You can't get there by keeping the same system and trying harder. The goal is to provide more instructional minutes, improve student learning and achievement and to provide better services. In.tructionl Minutes The new Reading/Language Arts Framework calls for increasing the instruc- tional minutes in Reading/Language Arts to the following: Kindergarten 2 hoU/s daily Grades 1-3 2 hours daily protected from interruptions Grades 4-8 2 hours daily protected from interruptions To meet the instructional minutes requirements of the above schedule total pupil contact for the classroom teacher will be 1340 minutes per week. This teaclmr/pupil contact time is in accordance with the contractual agreement. Classroom teacher contact time will not include Art, Music, PE and Library. Changes: Eliminate Nutrition period (12 mins.) Incorporate a five-minute homeroom period as part of first period Passing time five minutes Rationale for eliminating nutrition: Fewer opportunities for discipline issues Reduce tardies which impacts instructional program Reduce need for additional staff supervision Better use of custodial services Lunch has been scheduled for an earlier time (I ! :45-12:25 lunch) _Pmgosed Program Adiustment K-5 Program 2000-2001 A preliminary review of projected enrollment indicates the following changes could be made: Eliminate one Kindergarten class at Horace Mann Eliminate three second grade classes; one each: Beverly Vista, El Rodeo, Hawthorne 6-8 Program - 2000-2001 Remove the Strings program in Grades 6, 7 & 8 Remove Home Economics instruction in Grades 7 & 8 (reassign Home Economics Instructional assignment to High School assignment) Computer Elective class to include keyboarding 6-8 Program - 2001-2002 To achieve the goal of increasing the instructional minutes in reading language arts to 2 hours daily as recommended by the state framework, the following are recommended: Increase English Instruction in Grades 6,7, & 8 to 10 periods per week. Remove required foreign language instruction (Spanish and French) in Grades 7 & 8. Develop and provide a high school level ! class for 7th and 8th grade stu- dents as an elective option to meet the U.C. requirement. CON Lily Lewis It has been proposed that the School Board comply with State recommendations to expand instructional minutes for "Language Arts" by (!) increasing English language teaching time; and (2) eliminating compulsory middle school foreign language instruc- tion. The irony of this proposal was not lost on count- less community members who attended a recent Board meeting to speak out against it. Why increase time in English class when early, compulsory foreign language instruction imparts "language skills" as effectively, if not more so, than an expanded English curriculum? To think that our children will thrive in a modem, global economy on English alone is shortsighted and backward-looking. We should be preparing our chil- dren to learn the language, history, and culture of countries whose histories are inextricably linked with our own. Jefferson and Franklin cited "liherte, frater- nite, egalite" in drafting the American Constitution, and the American revolt against the British inspired the French Revolution years later. Spanish colonial history has created a Western Hemisphere in which Spanish is the single most pervasive language. As attested to by Latin pop star successes, Spanish culture is an ever-increasing component of American culture -- and our culture is the richer for it. It can't be that reading Cervantes and Moliere is any less edifying than reading Shakespeare or Hawthorne. These are the hard, cold facts. Children who study foreign languages perform better on college entrance examinations. Their vocabulary skills, aided by recognition of Latin word roots, are enhanced. Their knowledge of foreign lan- guage grammar, including verb con jugatn, tense, and sentence structure, rein- forces English grammar skills. Mastery of a foreign language even translates into improved mathematics achievement. Children who do not study foreign language in middle school will not qualify to take AP French or Spanish. Newsweek Magazine recently named Beverly High one of the nation's top 100 high schools. They used one criterion in mak- ing this determination: the number of students taking AP tests as a factor of total AP classes offered. While I question the wisdom of this analysis, college admis- sion boards will no doubt continue to judge schools in this way. A district that prides itself on its graduates" prestigious university admissions cannot afford to ignore that simple fact. I can't shake the belief that the Department of Education intended this recom- mendation to benefit school districts very different from ours. I'm thinking, in particular, of districts in which English is not the first language of the majority student population or is not spoken, heard, or read at home. If we want to improve our students' English skills, we should: (I) turn off our televisions and encourage our kids to read more; (2) continue to make good writ- ing and communication skills the foundation of success in all academic subjects, including history and science; and (3) preserve the teaching of foreign language in our middle schools not only to bolster grammar, vocabulary, and literature skills, but to open a gateway to knowledge of foreign cultures and histories that are oldei" and sometimes richer than our own. If you agree with me, please make your opinions known to our Board mem- bers in any language! Lily Lewis is a life-long resident of Beverly Hills with three children in the BHUSD. She is also a litigation attorney. If you have an idea for 'qhe Ring", call 310,688,6761 March 30 - April 5, 2000 5