District 13 officials look ahead
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Board member Frank Chiachiere said he fears that the “drill and kill” mentality of preparing high school students for Regents exams has worked its way down to the elementary level, and he is concerned that teachers might be teaching to the tests.
Robb-Fund said that teachers do their best to find a balance, but noted that they do have to prepare students for both the format and length of the test.
In order to provide students with a well-rounded education, District 13 officials said, it important to maintain a strong music and art program. Dever school Principal Darren Gruen noted that a vast majority of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders participate in band, orchestra or chorus.
Much of Saturday morning’s discussion focused on 21st century skills, and one of those skills is the ability to speak more than one language.
Students typically do not begin foreign language instruction until junior high school, but District 13 officials and parents say they would welcome a program at the elementary level. The problem, Robb-Fund said, is money.
“We all know that interest is there,” she said. “If we want our kids to compete in a global society, we would love for them to speak more than one language.”
She said that, as an educator, she supports an elementary foreign language program, but can’t support it in an era of stagnant or declining resources for schools. The best idea, she said, would be for the PTA to offer after-school language clubs, or perhaps Saturday programs. But adding it to the regular curriculum, she concluded, isn’t realistic.
Board President Jeanne Greco Jacobs said that there needs to be a discussion of what languages to teach, and that the focus should be on languages that would most benefit students in the future, such as those of emerging economies, and not necessarily the languages that have been traditionally taught at the secondary level.
Robb-Fund said that every classroom in the district has at least four computers and a SmartBoard. There is also a computer lab in each school, as well as several mobile laptop carts.