By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Westborough school administrators think adding a world languages department coordinator will strengthen the program and help students transition in that subject as they move from middle to high school.
Speaking at the May 12 School Committee meeting, Assistant Superintendent Daniel Mayer noted the state had updated its standards for world languages and provided a curriculum framework. The new framework, he said, is more performance-based and less reliant on textbooks.
The emphasis is on more “authentic communication,” Mayer said.
While in the past the focus was on literacy and writing, now students will concentrate on actually using the language.
“Over the last few years, we’ve been moving in the right direction,” Mayer said, even in the absence of updated standards.
He said that students start studying languages in grade 7. What’s important is “having the building blocks” tightly linked as they make their way up to high school.
Mayer said when comparing their “benchmark” with other school districts, more than half already have a coordinator overseeing their world language programs.
He added that the district decided to add the position and drafted a job description. The person hired will teach one course each at the middle and high school. The rest of the time, they will help with professional development, mentoring new staff and overseeing the program’s curriculum.
“We feel confident this is a good move for the district,” Mayer said.
Superintendent Amber Bock said that the coordinator could help explore the possibility of starting world languages in grade 6. However, she said this change would not happen right away and could be more of a long-range, strategic option.
“We’re adding an opportunity to reach for stuff that we haven’t had time to strategically plan for [before],” Bock said.
School Committee Vice Chair Stephen Doret asked how a coordinator would be funded. Bock explained the position is covered by curriculum funds within the existing school budget.
“Who is doing this work now?” School Committee member Raghu Nandan asked.
Mayer said the role is being created because someone has to “fill in a gap.” Bock added that some of the work is currently done by short-term, project-based groups.
If eventually the language program moves into grade 6, the budget would be impacted, she said.
The district hopes to have a coordinator in place at the beginning of the next school year.