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Language curriculum being revamped

July 09, 2014 - Oxford Schools is revamping the elementary level Spanish and Chinese language curriculum, according to Superintendent of Curriculum Dr. James Schwarz.

Schwarz described the new curriculum as being more "in-sync with each other."

"So, the same topics are taught nearly the same time as each other from language to language in each grade level," he said. "From a K-5 perspective, the scope of sequence is more consistent."

To help with the flow and consistency between classrooms, the new curriculum is more systematic with a mixture of resources including textbook, workbooks and online components.

"Particularly with the Chinese curriculum there are many more online tutorial components that are involved there," Schwarz said. "Before a lot of the material was just left for the teacher to either create or find."

Also, embedded into the new curriculum is more speaking and listening as opposed to just reading and writing. According to Schwarz, the results from the STAMP (Standards-based Measurement of Proficiency) test given for the first time last year to elementary fifth-graders revealed "holes in the curriculum" as it related to listening and speaking.

"The STAMP test is kind of like what you would consider the World Language MEAP. It really covers the basics of reading, writing, listening and speaking, so it really delves into all four of those areas pretty strongly," he explained. "It really gives you feedback on particularly where students are strong and where they need assistance, so we're happy to be able to provide that."

The usage of the STAMP test has not only helped show where elementary students are proficient, it's helped at the middle school level as well.

"We're using that now as a basis to make adjustments with our curriculum and assessments," noted Schwarz.

One of the changes the district is making to the Chinese language curriculum in particular is the studying of traditional writing and getting away from the phonetic type spelling of Chinese, known as "Pinyin."

"Inserting more of the traditional Chinese character learning, earlier on in the curriculum has really brought in some ties leading into the middle school world language curriculums," explained Schwarz. "So, we're more closely aligned where the middle school picks up."

The language curriculums, like all the other curriculums, are in a "state of flux," Schwarz said. "Unlike days of old where you had a curriculum and it was a standard document for a number of years, now, we create curriculums, but we're always retooling it somehow. We're always fiddling with it (and) we're always seeing how we can make it better," he said. "I think this is a real positive move forward for us in terms of getting students to a real sound literacy level (in foreign language) by the time they get to high school."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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