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Within the span of 36 months, the Lake Oswego School District has changed block schedules, closed elementary schools, opened middle schools, appointed principals at each high school and searched for a new superintendent.

This is an unprecedented amount of change. While budgets have driven these decisions, what hasn’t changed is our district’s need to compete. Consider reactions to the U.S. News & World Report’s recent high school ranking that omitted Lakeridge High School. We are a community that strives to attract the best of Oregon’s multinational corporate transplants, and rankings play into that. But test scores are only one piece of data; curriculum is another.

From 2006-08, the district appointed the configuration committee and program committee. Among the program committee’s charges was to “consider how school configuration changes might alter the potential for more program offerings and what the associated trade-offs would be.”

After two years’ work the committee’s top recommendation: “Expand from 5- to 6-year language offerings where feasible and supported by enrollment.”

As we enter the 2013-14 forecasting season, our middle school-high school curriculum still only offers five years of Spanish or French (grades eight to 12), with no full-year world language electives in seventh grade, and no world language electives at all in sixth. Despite China’s dominance as Oregon’s top trade partner, Chinese isn’t offered in middle school, and some high school students aren’t willing to risk their GPAs by enrolling. Paradoxically, with the elimination of German and stagnation of further curriculum development, there are now fewer language options open to middle school students in 2013 than in 2008.

Colleges and universities offer their students pass/fail options to promote intellectual diversity and risk-taking. Now that we have grappled with block schedules, school closures and moving sixth-graders into middle school, it is time to address appropriate curriculum changes. By the 2014-15 academic year, align middle school world language offerings with high school. All district seventh-graders should be offered full-year electives in Spanish, French and Chinese.

In addition, all middle school students should be encouraged toward academic risk taking by offering world languages, and similar electives, with a pass/fail grade option if taken in the sixth- or seventh-grade year. Doing so extends credit for proficiency to the middle school, and can be noted on a high school transcript without being counted toward GPA.

Our students cannot afford to wait another five years to implement these curriculum changes. It will be up to the school board and new administration to follow through.

Carolyn J. Heymann, Lake Oswego, was a member of the Lake Oswego School District Program Committee from 2006 to 2008.

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