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Board strengthens second leg of three-legged stool

Sometimes small changes can have an outsized impact on the success of a child’s education. It can be an extra 20 minutes of reading assistance in the first, second or third grade that will allow a child to make up lost ground. It can be a special coach who helps a child with hand-eye coordination skills, giving the emerging athlete the confidence to continue playing and improving. Barman

I believe our Lake Oswego School District just made one of these profound small changes that will impact students in our schools for decades to come. The board just approved offering a full year of high school Spanish 1 for all incoming seventh-graders beginning this fall. This is the second leg of the language three-legged stool that the LOSD has revitalized these past few years. We previously approved a Spanish immersion elementary tract that has been widely popular. We nearly have twice as many applicants as spaces available.

The second leg is improving and strengthening our secondary language offering beginning in middle school. The change in allowing seventh-graders to take a full-year Spanish 1 class will help in several ways. Students will be able to now take Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 before they enter our high schools. Your incoming freshmen will be able to enroll in Spanish 3 as freshmen, Spanish 4 Honors as sophomores and AP Spanish as juniors. This will allow a senior to take an additional AP class that they would not otherwise be afforded.

All of our students on this tract will enhance their college applications by being able to list the high school classes they completed in junior high. I was surprised when our boys were applying to college that every college application asked them to list high school classes they took in junior high and also the grades they received. By being able to take Spanish 1 in seventh grade, we are advantaging all our students so they have stronger college applications. They will now have the possibility of taking a second language in high school. They could take Spanish 1 and 2 in junior high and Spanish 3 as freshmen, then as sophomores take French 1, as juniors French 2 and as seniors French 3.

The No. 1 reason I support this change is not for our talented and gifted students, but for our students who struggle with language acquisition. I know of more than a handful of high school students who really struggle to learn a foreign language. Some are excellent students who just struggle picking up a second language. This new policy will allow these students to enroll in Spanish 1 in seventh grade. If challenged they have the opportunity to try a new language in eighth grade or retake the class without damaging their high school transcript. Our district gives all students the option of not having a junior-high-class grade appear on their high school transcript. I’m very proud that we now have an avenue for all of our students, not just our most talented and gifted.

We still have work to do. We are going to turn our attention to the third leg next year by figuring out how we can add language for all kids in elementary school, not just the ones in the immersion tract. Stay tuned.

Bob Barman, Lake Oswego, is a member of the Lake Oswego School Board. His comments are his alone and do not represent the overall school board.

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