Dist. 203 Weighs Merits of Two Paths to Language Study

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Byline: Deborah Johnson Daily Herald Staff Writer

What kind of foreign language programs should Naperville Unit District 203 offer in its elementary schools?

That's the question a committee is trying to answer by surveying parents and teachers.

Curriculum Director Lenore Johnson said the committee is weighing the merits of two kinds of programs: those that are aimed at making children proficient in a language, and those that are "exploratory" - focused less on linguistics and more on culture and customs.

"What we're trying to find out is what most people want," Johnson said. "Our intent is to get people to tell us what kind of choices are appropriate."

The committee, comprised of school officials and district residents, has met for more than a year.

It conducted research, visited elementary schools where foreign language is offered, and consulted with experts.

After coming to the conclusion that it is best to get kids started in foreign language as early as possible because younger children pick it up faster, it put forth five options for a kindergarten through eighth-grade program. They involve:

- Bringing in an independent agency to teach foreign language before or after school to children who sign up.

Seven schools in the district already do this. The program would expand the offering to the district's other elementary schools;

- Giving students and their parents the choice between classes that focus on language proficiency and those that focus on culture and customs;

- Integrating foreign language instruction into existing classes like fine arts and social studies. …