A closer look at language education in the district and its future

Posted by Alicia Smith on 10/12/2023 3:40:00 PM

There was plenty of apple cider and hot chocolate to be shared during a crisp evening hosted by Superintendent Ron Gonzalez while he shared with parents and families a closer look at language education in the district. Man talks to crowd


Special guest included Elisa Alvararez, Associate Commissioner for the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages from the New York State Education Department. Ms. Alvarez joined the gathering via Zoom.


“My job is to protect the rights and laws of every English language learner,” Ms. Alvarez said.


Dr. Gonzalez said he is working with Ms. Alvarez to ensure non-native English-speaking students have the support they need as well as on how the district can expand its foreign language options. Additionally, he hopes to inspire more students to earn a Seal of Biliteracy when they graduate.


The seal, Dr. Gonzalez explained, is an added recognition students receive on their diploma which indicates the individual has achieved “a high level of understanding in another language.”


Last year, 14 percent of graduates earned a Seal of Biliteracy.


In the district students have an option to enroll in a Spanish bilingual program beginning in the primary school. Students can continue to study the language in the elementary school, although they transition to a daily Spanish instructional period during the day. From there, they have an option to enroll in a native speaking course at the high school, choosing between Spanish and French.


“Without being bilingual our students are going to struggle to be competitive,” Ms. Alvaraez said. “The world wants our students to speak another language besides English.”


Dr. Gonzalez said he hopes to eventually add another language, perhaps Italian, which had been an option for students in the past. The district dropped Italian instruction when interest among students waned. As for other languages, such as Mandarin Chinese, Dr. Gonzalez said that would be an exciting addition, however, it is difficult to find qualified teachers in this subject.


“It’s definitely part of our vision to expand language acquisition in our district,” Dr. Gonzalez said.


In the meantime, Ms. Alvarez told families they can find additional language acquisition materials to study on their own. She also encouraged those who are studying a language to include reading material in that language as well, as it is a great way for students to engage more in the language.